Appeals court orders Obama administration to disclose the legal theory behind program of assassination against Americans


#1

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#2

In general this sounds like a good thing, but I have to admit that...

However, the court found that because the administration had made
statements about the memo, assuring the public that the assassinations
were legal, it had waived its right to keep the memo a secret.

... is a little worrying, in so far as it could be seen by the administration as yet another reason adopt more opacity.


#3

The legal basis is simple: People who are killed by a hip, urbane president like Obama are bad guys, while people who are killed by an ignorant Texas shitkicker like Dubya are innocent victims. Plus, the former suffer much less pain, and know they are dying in a good cause.


#4

I think the takeaway here is that American presidents always become monsters.


#5

You clearly haven't watched Fox News, or you would know it's the other way round. Bush killed terrorists; Obama kills patriots.


#6

The best thing about the way the American system was put together is that it's based on the premise that those who seek high office will either be corrupted, dehumanized, or both, and it self corrects (or at least it used to).

Systems which rely upon the assumption of virtuous, incorruptible leaders and administrators tend to crash a lot faster, and a lot harder.


#7

I found the memo.


#8

Could someone explain to me who writes and then decides on those memos or "advices"? It looks like someone working for/in the executive writes some legal memo that's then used as law for said executive. I don't think separation of powers is supposed to work like this.


#9

What I don't understand is why the court would give even a moment's respect to the notion that a legal justification even could, much less does, have 'national security' need for secrecy.

If the existence of a program is public knowledge, and the assertion that it is legal is public knowledge, of what possible harm could the justification for that assertion be?

Is the Al Qaeda sleeper cell in the basement of the capitol building going to conduct a surgical strike against the USC in order to exise a crucial passage and scuttle the entire program? Is the argument even being hinted at that making it easier for congress to amend the laws presently justifying the program would be unacceptable?

I can see that the existence of actual government programs(whether specific actions or broad categories of action) might be a 'national security' thing (although far less often in reality than that excuse is invoked); but applying the notion to legal justifications just seems like a category error, something that could not ever not be absurd even to consider.

I, of course, approve of a decision that the 'national security' justification is inadequate; but it boggles my mind that it would even be considered any more relevant than just a series of nonsense syllables.


#10

President asks lawyers in the DoJ, or the WH staff lawyers, to look at the law and see if it allows whatever it is the President wants to do. the lawyers write up a document that explains why they think the law allows (or not) the action in question. laws are rarely black and white. there are usually loopholes, ambiguities and areas that are open to interpretation. so the document explains why they think the law can be interpreted in the way they want.


#11

What I want to know is why nobody ever goes to jail for these murders? You gotta notice: any government office is the safest job in the country, irregardless!


#12

Normally that would be the Office of Legal Counsel. If there is a question of interpretation of such law as Congress has produced (and, for any nontrivial body of law, there probably is), the OLC is the 'lawyer' in 'ask your lawyer' if you happen to be president.

In theory, it's no more a violation of separation of powers than having an accountant to do your taxes is giving you power over the internal revenue service. It's a DoJ office, and it theoretically just interprets the law as Congress sees fit to write it.

In...practice... it has exercised a fair amount of dubious creativity (notable alumni include the illustrious John Yoo) in the service of getting the client what he wants.


#13

Not so much for the peons (who, as we all know, managed to orchestrate the entire US torture and rendition program from the lofty rank of approximately Private first class...); but my understanding of bullshit beltway consensus reality is that exposing people who matter to consequences would be 'politicizing' the issue, and deeply ungentlemanly.


#14

Well this is progress. Reagan was able to conduct a secret war with death squads in Central America, and he randomly shelled civilian villages in Lebanon with a battleship for Christ's sake.

Of course the pendulum will swing back the instant a Republican gets elected to the White House. I expect the GOPer base and candidates to go silent on their theory that the president has essentially no power. And it won't matter anyway because we'll instantly be at war with someone so GOP POTUS can wrap himself in the flag and become our favorite superhero, Wartime President.


#15

Well, there's not really a problem then, as most terrorists seem to be patriots.


#16

We elect them to represent us...


#17

We elect them to represent us, and then they don't.


#18

While there may be some truth to this, I think complaining about past injustices and speculating on future ones defocuses people from actually opposing the injustices that are taking place now, in real-time, where their opposition has some (very slight) chance of effecting change.


#19

In aggregate, we are monsters. No other explanation, really....


#20

A lot of people maintain a pretty constant level of outrage regardless of what's happening. I have a friend like this who is still perpetually clinging to the ceiling like a frightened cat even though his life is 98% better than it used to be. Counselors have to deal with parents who just can't accept that their kids are doing better and respond to a "C" on an algebra test with the same panic that used to be reserved for a suicide attempt.

And if nothing much is happening, the outrage machine on the right winds itself up like a turbine engine about to explode. The next time we blanket some neighborhood full of civilians with cluster bombs and white phosphorus, they will settle back like they are sinking into a warm bath. I can already smell the freedom