Scott Simon ran a story today classified as ‘Commentary’ but which is closer to state propaganda — and bad propaganda at that.
As is well known, American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone attack in Yemen on 30 September 2011. He was alleged by the government to have been a “senior talent recruiter” for al-Qaeda, primarily by creating “radicalising” YouTube videos. The administration never charged or indicted him of him with any crime, much less tried him before an impartial tribunal, so his killing should offend the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. The Obama Administration doesn’t agree with that straightforward analysis, but was unwilling to reveal the legal basis for their assumption of the power to execute American citizens in secret with no charge, trial, or congressional or judicial oversight. Members of Congress begged the Administration for months following al-Awlaki’s killing for memos explaining the Administration’s position, and finally the Administration deigned earlier this month to yield a draft white paper dated fifteen months ago — not to Congress proper, mind you, but to two of its subcommittees.
That white paper has now been leaked publicly. While it is unclear whether it completely details the Administration’s thinking, the paper is sufficiently devastating that Democratic California Representative Barbara Lee said in an open letter to the Los Angeles Times that it “should shake the American people to the core.” But Obama’s a nice guy, right, so how bad can it really be?
It was my pleasure to travel through airport security earlier this week in order that I could board a plane. With an hour to go before it was due to take off, I was slightly apprehensive about the longish line snaking away from the nudie scanners. Luckily it all worked out, but I was quite surprised while I waited to encounter a sign advertising yet another seemingly arbitrary TSA rule:
The New York Times dropped a bombshell expose earlier this week when it reported on many details of a ‘Secret Kill List’ that the President heads up. The existence of such a list within the administration isn’t news: the Los Angeles Times reported more than two years ago about a CIA drone hit list when there was talk of putting US citizen Anwar al-Awalki on it. Of course, he was put on that list and was later executed by drone to much fanfare.
What is new information is the personal role that Obama himself takes in deciding who lives and who dies. According to Tuesday’s Times article, “Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret ‘nominations’ process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical.”