Mmm… so peaceful…

In a stunning attempt to redefine the concept of “imminent,” a leaked white paper from the Department of Justice outlines circumstances where America can assassinate terrorists, Americans living abroad, pretty much anybody important enough that the President wants to have him killed.

Oh, you think I’m engaging in a bit of hyperbole? Read the 16-page white paper for yourself. You’ll think Brutus and Cassius wrote it before stabbing Caesar.

According to the paper, the U.S. can undertake “self-defense” assassinations without any evidence of an actual specific threat…

NBC News, which obtained the document, puts it like this:

But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

So if the Bush Doctrine justifies per-emptive wars, will the Obama Doctrine be used to justify pre-emptive killings without clear evidence?

Wait, it gets worse:

[T]he confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful: In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.

“Undue risk” is undefined.

So, if there’s a guy, an American living abroad, who appears to be in charge of an organization who likes to talk s**t about doing bad things, and it’s too dangerous to capture him and determine if this dude is an actual threat to anybody except the guy at his falafel cart he bitches to in the morning, we can rain death upon him from the sky, killing him (and possibly the unlucky food service worker standing next to him) because the word “imminent” no longer has any meaning.

Wow, somebody needs to give the guy who signed off on that a freaking Nobel Peace Prize.

This white paper, by the way, is called: “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force.”

At this point I’d like to channel Doctor Bones McCoy and say, “How can you get a permit to do a damned illegal thing?”

Professor Jonathan Turley calls the memo “a tour de force of an imperial presidency.” It’s really quite amazing, government doesn’t get any bigger than “I can kill without evidence.”

If John Yoo wrote this, I think there would be more outrage. Since this is coming out of Obama’s DOJ, some progressives are inclined to look the other way.

But not me Jack. This is gross. We, as a country, should be better than this. How can we expect anybody else to respect “international laws” when our own theory of self defense now extends to situations where we kill our own citizens based on no evidence that they will ever pose an imminent threat?

EXCLUSIVE: Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans [NBC News]
DOJ Memo: Obama Administration Claims Broader Authority To Kill Americans [Jonathan Turley]


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