Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Asked and Answered

The targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki (al Qaeda leader and American citizen) in Yemen as part of President Obama's war on al Qaeda sparked huge controversy for some leftists and libertarians. As is often the case, the President's Office of Legal Counsel wrote a memo outlining the justifications for such an action. There has been a heated battle waged by critics of the administration to release that memo and it looks like that might happen shortly.

For those who assume that this will be some sort of "bombshell," I'd simply remind them that they are about to be seriously disappointed. That's because for over 2 years now the Obama administration has been forthcoming in laying out their legal rationale.

It all started back in March 2012 when Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech detailing the executive authority provided to the President by the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force to target members of al Qaeda - even if they are American citizens.  Those same arguments were articulated in a Justice Department White Paper that was leaked to the press in February 2013. Finally, President Obama made the same argument in his speech on counterterrorism strategy in May 2013.

Critics of this administration's policy may not like or approve of the legal case that has been made for these actions. But the idea that those arguments have been kept secret in the Office of Legal Counsel memo are simply absurd. As a matter of fact, a circuit court judge who ruled in favor of the release of the memo said exactly that.
“Whatever protection the legal analysis might once have had has been lost by virtue of public statements of public officials at the highest levels and official disclosure of the DOJ White Paper,” Judge Jon Newman wrote in the Second Circuit’s opinion...
Since Senator Rand Paul is one who has again joined liberals in a demand that the memo be released, I can't help but remember when he staged a filibuster on the Senate floor because he decided that this letter from AG Holder wasn't enough to stop his grandstanding on this issue. Holder then sent a second letter that perhaps was more intelligible to the intellectual capacities of his audience. Addressing the question of whether or not the President has the authority to to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on U.S. soil, he wrote:
The answer to that is no.
Clear enough for ya?

In that sense, the focus of these critics on the need for this memo to be released actually reminds me of the teapublicans focus on Benghazi. Just because you don't like the answers you got doesn't mean the question hasn't been addressed. As a matter of fact, on both issues, I'd say its been Asked and Answered. Time to move on.

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