Jeff Gamso had the right idea this past Sunday. Reading about the memo and what may, or may not, be contained within is the equivalent of one of those friend of a friend stories that Jan Harold Brunvand collected in his quest for urban legends.
The memo, written last year, followed months of extensive interagency deliberations and offers a glimpse into the legal debate that led to one of the most significant decisions made by President Obama — to move ahead with the killing of an American citizen without a trial.
The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis. The memo, however, was narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr. Awlaki’s case and did not establish a broad new legal doctrine to permit the targeted killing of any Americans believed to pose a terrorist threat.
The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge or discuss its role in the drone strike that killed Mr. Awlaki last month and that technically remains a covert operation. The government has also resisted growing calls that it provide a detailed public explanation of why officials deemed it lawful to kill an American citizen, setting a precedent that scholars, rights activists and others say has raised concerns about the rule of law and civil liberties.
President Obama wasted no opportunity to claim credit for the killing of Mr. Awlaki (al-Zawahri in the original article) when he thought it might get him support for his upcoming re-election bid. But, once the criticism began rolling in, President Obama and his minions circled their wagons. And now we have this secret memo (that supposedly exists) written for the express purpose of justifying state-sponsored murder.
The legal analysis, in essence, concluded that Mr. Awlaki could be legally killed, if it was not feasible to capture him, because intelligence agencies said he was taking part in the war between the United States and Al Qaeda and posed a significant threat to Americans, as well as because Yemeni authorities were unable or unwilling to stop him.See, that's all you need to know. Our intelligence agencies said so - therefore it must be the truth. Because he said some bad things and because some people did some bad things we must kill him. We must ignore the Constitution in order to protect ourselves.
Or some line of garbage like that. We live in a society in which a great number of folks don't believe anything the government tells them. President Obama could tell everyone today is Wednesday and there will be a segment of the population convinced he is lying. Yet these same folks have no problem believing the government after it orders the killing of an American citizen.
But, if I were the president, maybe I'd rather deal with the muted backlash after ordering a hit on an American citizen rather than questions about how poorly the economy is performing.