The government memorandum obtained by NBC that justifies the use of predatory drones against American citizens overseas presents a real quandary for civil libertarians.
Since September 11, 2001, in the name of national security, we have seen the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney justify the use of “enhanced interrogation” and torture to gain information from suspects believe to be allied with Al Qaeda, and these suspects imprisoned in some cases now for a decade without any legal representation. Civil libertarians have condemned this violation as accomplishing little, except to besmirch the American image, and creating future generations out to attack America in revenge for such harsh treatment.
But now the administration of Barack Obama, led by John Brennan, who has been Chief Counter Terrorism adviser to the President, and is the nominee to be head of the Central Intelligence Agency.,has been engaged in the use of predatory drones to kill Americans overseas believed to be working with Al Qaeda, including Anwar Al Awlaki in Yemen, alleged to be involved in plots against the United States, and his son, killed in Yemen in a drone strike a couple of weeks after his father was killed in September 2011.
Critics would say that Awlaki should have been apprehended, brought to trial, and evidence presented publicly of his involvement in conspiracies, and that basic American values under the Bill of Rights were denied, and that his son was killed because of guilt by association, an even more egregious abuse of civil liberties.
The condemnation of Bush and Cheney has not been matched by condemnation of Obama, which makes it seem like pure politics.
This is, of course, not the first time Presidents have been engaged in violations of civil liberties, but with politics often determining the response.
Other Presidents who became involved in civil liberties violations include Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War; Woodrow Wilson in World War I; Franklin D. Roosevelt in World War II; and probably every President since in the Cold War period; and Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama in the Age of Terrorism.
It is a complex issue, as certainly, the national security is at stake in wartime, and we could define what we are in now as an age of war, even though most Americans do not think of it that way, since there is no draft, as in other war periods until 1973.
One could also say that there could be trust of Barack Obama for some, while no such trust existed for George W. Bush. But the danger of such trust is that once policy is justified, how does one have the ability to retract that trust and implied right to be involved in such civil liberties abuses, for future Presidents, who we may not trust?
Therefore, this policy of using drones against American citizens is a very disturbing and troubling issue, which will expand the ability of the government to be judge, jury, and executioner of its own citizens overseas, and who knows, maybe one day in American territory itself!
Sadly, it turns out that Osama Bin Laden has triumphed in undermining America’s Constitution and Bill or Rights by what he wrought on September 11, 2001, and all Americans are the losers in this tragedy!