I have been very harsh in my condemnations of the Obama administration’s claim to have the right to murder people just on his say so, even US citizens, as was the case with Anwar al Awlaki, his son and nephew, and who knows how many others.
Reader Joseph draws my attention to this article by Jack Goldsmith, who is “a Harvard Law professor and a member of the Hoover Task Force on National Security and Law. He served in the Bush administration as assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel.” Goldsmith was one of the more reasonable people in the Bush administration, not one of the crazies, so his words should be taken seriously. He says that “Awlaki’s killing and others like it have solid legal support and are embedded in an unprecedentedly robust system of legal and political accountability that includes courts but also includes other institutions and actors as well.”
His case seems to depend on the right of the president to kill enemy ‘enemy soldiers’ and that the president was given the right by Congress to use all necessary force against those responsible for 9/11. He also claims that the decisions are made after careful thought by various agencies within the government.
I do not find this argument convincing since it is not clear that Awlaki meets the criterion of being an enemy soldier, no evidence was provided that he was behind the events of 9/11, that the kinds of speech he was engaged in have been previously ruled to be protected, and all those items are likely irrelevant anyway since Congress does not have the right to overrule the constitution. Goldsmith’s argument seems to be a typical insider ‘trust us, we know what we are doing’ one. The point is that we should not trust them on such vital issues as life and death and they have a duty to be as transparent as possible.
But I think it is worthwhile to read his arguments. I have forwarded it to Glenn Greenwald since he is in a better position to respond to the legal and constitutional issues than I am.