In John Brennan’s Senate committee hearing, he was questioned by Senator Angus King, an Independent from Maine. Senator King raised concern over the fact that drone strikes on American citizens are performed without regard to the 5th Amendment, which guarantees that Americans will not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. He stated, “We’re depriving American citizens of their life when we target them with a drone attack.” He suggested some kind of check such as a FISA-like court that would at least provide some semblance of due process for the American that the executive branch decides to kill.
In response, Brennan said that the 5th Amendment only applies to people who have already committed crimes (or who were suspected of committing crimes), but Obama’s drone strike policy is different, because it’s dealing with potential, future crimes:
“Senator, I think it’s certainly worthy of discussion. Our judicial tradition is that a court of law is used to determine one’s guilt or innocence for past actions. Which is very different from the decisions that are made on the battlefield as well as actions that are taken against terrorists because none of those actions are to determine past guilt for those actions that they took. The decisions that are made are to take actions so that we prevent a future action, so we protect American lives. That is an inherently executive branch function to determine, and the Commander-in-Chief and the chief executive have the responsibility to protect the welfare, the wellbeing of American citizens. …The actions that we take on the counterterrorism front again are to take actions against individuals where we believe the intelligence base is so strong, and the nature of the threat is so grave and serious as well as imminent that we have no recourse except to take this action that may involve a lethal strike.”
Jay Carney called Obama’s drone strike policy “legal, safe and wise.” And Brennan basically echoed Eric Holder’s opinion that drone strikes are performed when “capture isn’t feasible.” They want us to be OK with their determining when we become imminent threats to them. They won’t have to disclose what the criteria are for “imminent threat.” They won’t even have to go before a secret court prior to issuing a drone strike on one of us. They’ll claim they have no time, because the threat that we supposedly pose to them is imminent. They will say that they have enough evidence, but they won’t be required to show anyone. They will be accountable to no one else. And we’re supposed to be OK with this setup?
In their effort to crack down on terrorists, they are literally terrorizing American citizens by creating an environment where anyone can be at risk of being taken out by a drone strike on the basis that he was an “imminent threat.” There will be no need for evidence or probable cause or warrants. Those are outdated and time-consuming measures. Besides, those rules don’t apply, because we’re in war, remember? A “war on terror.” And they’ve defined you and me as terrorists. They should rename it a “war on freedom,” because that’s what it’s been about from the beginning.