White House Pounded on Right-to-Kill-Americans Policy
February 6, 2013 • 9:28AM

The Obama juggernaut is being broken. Consider the following chain of events. On Monday, 11 Senators, eight of them Democrats, issued a letter demanding that the White House release secret memos justifying its policy of killing Americans in the name of fighting terrorism. Shortly thereafter, on Monday night, NBC published the White House memo, unclassified but hitherto secret, justifying its kill policy as, essentially, "because we say so." That memo hit like a bombshell.

So, Tuesday morning, the White House announced that President Obama would be giving a press conference in three hours, on new plans for ending the threat of sequestration. The President spoke, had nothing new to propose on the subject, and then ran out, saying he knew there would be "a whole bunch of other questions," but that's why he'd hired Jay Carney as his Press Secretary. Not only did he not take questions, but he was visibly "off-his-game," so destabilized that when a camera started buzzing during his short statement, NerObama lost his concentration and couldn't continue until it stopped, whining, "Come on guys," and complaining "They're breaking my flow all the time."

Carney was not happy to be left holding the bag. He followed Obama out for five minutes, saying upon his return, "I was hoping to skip the briefing today, but apparently I'm here to take your questions." And the questions came. The first set the theme which was to dominate the entire press briefing which followed: the Administration abrogating to itself the right to kill Americans, as it chooses. There were some other questions which allowed the twisting, nervous Carney to catch his breathe, but the subject relentlessly returned until the bitter end. EIR's correspondent Bill Jones, concerned that Carney was going to get off the hook, twice called out to Carney from a "back bench" seat: Are you going to release secret memos demanded by the 11 Senators? Carney ignored him, but later called on another one of the regulars, who asked that very question. At that point, some of journalists turned around to Jones knowingly, with one reporter giving him a thumbs up. Another journalist raised the specter of "a court review" of the assertion of no due process. The upcoming Brennan confirmation hearing on Thursday hung in the air.

Carney may have squirmed, but he made very clear that the administration has no intention of yielding. What secret memos? He would admit of none, dismissively stating he would not speak of "the alleged existence of any particular memo or action." What lack of transparency? He had to chutzpah to assert that the administration had been very transparent: just read the unclassified memo which had finally been leaked by the press! He repeated, over and over, like a trained dog, the mantra that the guidelines for making the decisions to kill have been explained by four top officials (John Brennan, Eric Holder, Harold Koh, and Jah Johnson) — and in the just-leaked memo. He did admit that the leaked memo had not been intended to be released publicly, and said it had been prepared for members of the Senate who have a jurisdiction on these issues last year.

A senior U.S. intelligence source curtly told EIR, "The White House thought it was leak proof — and suddenly there was a leak. The document is authentic and it will spark a real debate."

Clearly, the Senators were not satisfied with the administration's false claims of "transparency," and neither were members of the press (and those they work for). The series of questions raised today, listed below, all of which went unanswered in substance, make clear that this stunning question of an American President who claims the right to kill his citizens on his own say-so, is now before the American public, and will not go away. And it is Obama, personally, who is the target. Asked by Chris Matthews on "Hardball" on Tuesday night, who makes the call to make a hit: the Attorney General? the head of the CIA? the Army?, NBC's Isikoff, to whom the memo was leaked answered firmly: "It is Barack Obama himself.... He is the high-level informed official who is saying, 'go get this guy.' "

QUESTION: How can the government determine that an American citizen is an imminent threat to the U.S. or U.S. interests without having any kind of specific evidence that, that person is planning an immediate — an attack in the immediate future?

QUESTION: But how can the government decide that there's an imminent threat if there's no evidence that an attack is happening in the immediate future?

QUESTION: Should the American people be comfortable with the administration's definition of imminent if it also means that there is no specific evidence to back that up?

QUESTION: Did he sign off on this memo and any classified documents to back it up?

QUESTION: Just to follow on drones, so — so is there a checklist, then, that will more narrowly define what imminent threat is? I mean, is — is there a checklist that will be followed...

QUESTION: So the White House doesn't believe that this is vague in any way?

QUESTION: The president obviously strongly opposed the enhanced interrogation techniques, so-called, from the Bush administration. He ended them. How is dropping — how does dropping a bomb on American citizen without any judicial review, any trial, not raise the very human rights questions or more human rights questions than something like waterboarding?

QUESTION: But let's be clear. This is giving a legal justification for killing American citizens without any trial whatsoever, without any evidence.

QUESTION: What do you say to the ACLU that calls this a "profoundly disturbing document" that gives them broad power without checks, without balance?

QUESTION: What about — one more — what about the drone strike that killed the 16-year-old son of Awlaki? Does he meet that definition of a senior operational leader, as outlined in the white paper?

QUESTION: What about — what about some kind of review? I mean, you're taking away a U.S. citizen's due process. And nobody is questioning particularly this president's good intentions, but you're establishing a precedent which will last beyond this administration. You're pointing to various legal decisions that back it up, but doesn't it deserve a broader debate and a broader court hearing?

QUESTION: Shouldn't this be considered beyond the executive branch, is what I'm asking?

QUESTION: Jay, thanks. A group of bipartisan senators, 11 of them, wrote a letter to the president asking him to release all of the Justice Department memos relating to the subject of suspected Al Qaida leaders who might be a U.S. citizen, as well. Will President Obama release those memos?

CARNEY: I just have nothing for you on, you know, alleged memos regarding potentially classified matters.

QUESTION: Can you address the broader question of transparency? The president has obviously talked a lot about the importance of transparency. And here you have a document being leaked, senators calling for more information. Is this transparency?

QUESTION: Does the president believe that there are any areas that should be off-limits in the confirmation hearing [for John Brennan—ed.], such as authorized killings of citizens, rendition?

QUESTION: And then one other thing on the transparency question involving the white paper and the memo. Seeing as how you've cited repeatedly today the extent to which administration officials have gone out and talked about the principles and now you have a 15-page white paper that, you know, kind of lays out the legal argument, what is the administration's kind of argument against releasing some form of the actual memos, perhaps in — if nothing else, in redacted form, that — that since you already have now released, both in written and verbal form, much of the arguments that undergird them?

QUESTION: Does the president believe that there are any areas that should be off-limits in the confirmation hearing, such as authorized killings of citizens, rendition?