The Obama administration believes it could technically use military force to kill an American on U.S. soil in an “extraordinary circumstance” but has “no intention of doing so,”
“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” Holder replied.
Holder’s March 4 letter was disclosed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who had asked whether the Justice Department believed President Barack Obama had the legal authority to order a targeted strike against an American citizen located within the United States.
“The Obama administration,” Holder said, rejected the use of military force where “well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.” But in theory, it’d be legal for the president to order such an attack under certain circumstances, Holder said.
Paul condemned the idea. “The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans,” he said in a statement.
Holder noted that Paul’s question was “entirely hypothetical [and] unlikely to occur,” but cited the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as the type of incidents that might provoke such a response.
“Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of his authority,” he concluded.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, an attorney and Judiciary Committee member, told The Washington Examiner that “the drone policy so far outlined by the administration is too vague.”
“That has the potential to swallow the rule,” Lee said after the drone program white paper was leaked. “If you’re going to regard somebody as presenting an imminent threat of an attack on the U.S. simply because you have concluded that they are an ‘operational leader’ or they are involved in planning an attack in one way or another, you find yourself giving way to much discretion to the government.”
Lee said that the White House should release the formal legal analysis underpinning the drone program. “We know that in some instances where the government has released its legal analysis, it gets it wrong,” he said.
The most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield. The Obama administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice.
Here’s the a 16-page “white paper” prepared by the Obama DOJ that purports to justify Obama’s power to target even Americans for assassination without due process (the memo is embedded in full below).
DOJ white paper