Release The Assassination Memos


I think my patience broke with the revelation that the Obama administration was more willing to give Butters some bullshit info on Benghazi than to give any ground on releasing the full, complete, original memos used to justify the assassination of Americans who have joined the Jihadist enemy. The cynicism was staggering. Those of us who supported Obama need to express our disgust and anger at this – especially those of us who have defended the drone program as, within key judicial and congressional constraints, sometimes the least worst option in keeping us safe.

This cannot be regarded as somehow a state secret. It divulges no plans; it just explains to American citizens the criteria by which their own president can kill them from the sky without any due process. If the torture memos could be released by this administration, as they were, so can these. And not just to some Congressional Committee – to all of us.

Here’s a question Rand Paul has asked of John Brennan and to which the administration has never given an answer:

Do you believe that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial?”

What excuse does Brennan have for not answering this? I’m with a recent stellar Greenwald post on this. Until he does, he should be kept from his nominated post at the CIA. This is a core rupture of the Constitution – as core as the rupture of executive torture. It redefines the relationship between the executive and the people he or she serves. It makes our president judge, jury and executioner of any American citizen anywhere in the world, including the US. We already know that the executive seized a US citizen without charges under Bush-Cheney and tortured him into a physical wreck of a broken soul. Torture is always illegal and evil; self-defense in a just war isn’t. But if the war is against your own citizens, then the very least that those citizens deserve is a full accounting of the rationale behind such a disturbing power-grab.

The president promised more transparency on this in his State of the Union. He has not delivered yet. Maybe he will – but I cannot say I’m optimistic with John Brennan potentially running the CIA. But what staggers me is the transition from candidate Obama to president. Many of us thought this one was different; he understood the new era of mass information and social media; he grasped the need to communicate directly to Americans in all sorts of unconventional ways; he pledged to end the abuses of executive power under Bush and he promised to be the most transparent administration in history.

And yet when it comes to how he decides whether to kill you sitting in your living room, he won’t let you know the legal basis for it, or allow a check from another branch of government that is not just a rubber stamp. It’s unacceptable. And this much I know: the CIA has long held presidents hostage and after they literally got away with war crimes, the current CIA appears to be unaccountable to anyone. War criminals who destroyed the evidence of their own crimes, like Jose Rodriguez, strut on the national stage as if they are inviolable, utterly above the law and beyond the public’s scrutiny. Because they are.

It’s time for the president to remind them who pays their salaries. We do. And when the deepest constitutional protections created by the Founding Fathers against the temptation of tyranny are cast casually and arrogantly aside with a “trust us” piece of bullshit, it’s time to get angrier.

(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama waves after speaking at an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building February 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. By Win McNamee/Getty Images)