Attorney General Holder: Prez Can Assassinate Americans On U.S. Soil

THE SINKHOLE OF LIBERTYImage by William Banzai

Because America Is a Battlefield In The Eyes of the Government

Attorney general Eric Holder wrote the following to Senator Rand Paul yesterday:

On February 20, 2013, you wrote to John Brennan requesting additional information concerning the Administration’s views about whether “the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial.”

As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts.

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of his authority.

There’s more to the following statement than appears at first blush:

As a policy matter moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.

Specifically, Holder did not say “we are legally constrained by the Constitution from depriving people of life, liberty or property without due process of law, and from using military force on U.S. soil”.  Instead, he said that the Obama administration was so far abstaining from using a power it already has as a current “policy” decision.

John Glaser notes:

The concluding legal opinion represents a radical betrayal of constitutional limits imposed on the state for depriving citizens of life, liberty and property. Officially now, Obama’s kingly authority to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner and deprive Americans of their life without due process of law applies not only to Americans abroad but to citizens that are inside the United States.

“The US Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans,” Sen. Paul said in a statement.

Holder, along with the Obama administration, is making it seem as if the President’s use of lethal force, as in the drone war, would only be used in circumstances like another impending 9/11 attack or something. Only when an attack is imminent.

But that categorical limitation on the President’s authority to kill depends upon their definition of “imminence,” which we learned from a leaked Justice Department white paper last month, is extremely broad.

The memo refers to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than what has traditionally been required, like actual intelligence of an ongoing plot against the US.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states, contradicting conventional international law.

Instead, so long as an “informed, high-level” US official claims the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” that pose a threat and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities,” then the President can order his assassination. The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

Holder also insists that in the case of such “extraordinary circumstances,” like another impending 9/11, he ”would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the president of the scope of his authority.”

Boy, do I feel comforted.

This is not entirely surprising.  As we noted in December 2011, a top constitutional expert confirmed that Obama was claiming the authority to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil.   We reported that month:

For more than a year and a half, the Obama administration has said it could target American citizens for assassination without any trial or due process.

But now, as shown by the debates surrounding indefinite detention, the government is saying that America itself is a battlefield.

AP notes today:

U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.


The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.

Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

The courts in habeas cases, such as those involving whether a detainee should be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, make the determination of who can be considered an enemy combatant.

We pointed out a year ago, the director of the FBI said he’d have to “check” to see if the president had the authority to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil. We reported last October that form Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo – the guy who wrote the memo justifying torture, even of children, which was used to justify torture of innocent people, including children – said that the president has the power to assassinate Americans on U.S. soil in times of war.

And Mother Jones notes:

In a Google+ Hangout last month, President Obama refused to say directly if he had the authority to use lethal force against US citizens. As Mother Jones reported at the time, the reason the president was being so coy is that the answer was likely yes. Now we know that’s exactly what was happening.

It is not very reassuring that the same unaccountable agency which decides who should be killed by drones also spies on all Americans.


You might assume – in a vacuum – that this might be okay (even though it trashes the Constitution, the separation of military and police actions, and the division between internal and external affairs).

But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food. And see this.

And it is problematic in a period in which FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”, and even former Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – admitst hat he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

And it is counter-productive in an age when the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increase the risk of terrorism.

And it is insane in a time of perpetual war. See this, this, this and this.

And when the “War on Terror” in the Middle East and North Africa which is being used to justify the attack on Americans was planned long before 9/11.

And when Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And 9/11 was entirely foreseeable, but wasn’t stopped.   Indeed, no one in Washington even wants to hear how 9/11 happened, even though that is necessary to stop future terrorist attacks.  And the military has bombed a bunch of oil-rich countries when it could have instead taken out Bin Laden years ago.

As I noted in [an analogous context]:

The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

  • If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain you indefinitely until the war is over
  • But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security

See how that works?

And – given that U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants – it is unlikely that the government would ever admit that an American citizen it assassinated was an innocent civilian who has nothing at all to do with terrorism.

Read this if you have any doubt as to how much liberty Americans have lost.

Senator Paul told MSNBC:

The response by Holder could lead to a situation where “an Arab-American in Dearborn (Mich.) is walking down the street emailing with a friend in the Mideast and all of a sudden we drop a drone” on him. He said it was “really shocking” that President Barack Obama, a former constitutional law professor, would leave the door open to such a possibility.

True … but you don’t have to be Arab-American to get in trouble.

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  • nveric

    Maintaining personal standards of conduct prohibits my elaboration on this article. However, I will state, again, these opinions held by members of the federal government are in themselves much beyond disturbing. To hold such thoughts and make them known to the general public, these persons, of the federal government of the United States, are irrelevant. Their claims of authority are null and void, and must be arrested for trespassing and held for deportation without incident or hearing.

    Such thoughts by members, of the federal government of the United States, typify the general degeneracy of modern America, where many citizens abstain from higher reasoning or are otherwise absent of that ability.

    This is a crisis of understanding this system of government in these united States. 50 states or countries have asked to be a part of a Republic to increase their well-being, safety, and security. These reasons are why decent governments are created by those people within the confines of their declared boarders. While valid questions remain concerning the “ownership” of the areas contained within the USA, sadly I must skip that discussion for now.

    This current and ongoing crisis will not be diminished by threatening, and treasonous, language from any member of the executive department of the USA. Anyone holding to and agreeing with such treasonous language is an enemy of the USA. Violence against these people is not encouraged, nor will I engage in such actions, however, I reserve all rights.

    The crisis will end when it ends when these treasonous words by our federal government are silenced for ever. Their words are acts of war against the People.

  • Honest Harry’s Used Cars

    Prevent another 9-11?

    Wait a second. The last I heard, the government did 9-11.

    Give these people credit where credit is due. They are all really great liars.

  • Ross Austin

    Maybe all these houses mysteriously blowing exploding around the Country have been drone strikes already.

  • nveric

    “…if you have any doubt as to how much liberty Americans have lost.”

    As the theoretical erosion continues, as stated, the theoretical preservation likewise remains.

    Inherent and unalienable rights remain which nullify these claims by the Executive Department of the USA. However, unless one declares their will to resist these illegal theoretical transgressions, and likewise declare them as such, they will have defeated you.

    I consider these acts and claims as aggression against my person, and actual threats against inherent and unalienable rights I possess from my birthright; they are acts of war against myself for even being suggested by any government. Since the federal government exceeded its restraining order already, these claims by them are additional violations.

    Joking about the crisis does little, but rather encourages one’s own demise.

    • Terrorists inthe White House

      The fact that no one seems to either be aware of or wanting to discuss is that the national United States government does actually have the legal authority to do whatever it wants, as long as the president/congress says it can. Here’s the sleight of hand in a nutshell: There are TWO United States. There’s the Union of 50 states, and then there is the Territorial United States.

      Note how Holder referenced the “territory of the United States”. Ever heard that defined? Probably not. In 1945, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hooven and Allison Co. v Evatt, 324 U.S. 652—which was the final time the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the “official definitions” of the term “United States”—differentiated between to distinctly different “United States”.

      Is this constitutional? Sure it is, technically. If you doubt that, go look at the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 17, and Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2. The Territorial (aka National or District) United States can “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever…” This Territorial U.S. is defined, however, as Washington D.C., all forts, magazines, arsenals, dock yards, federal buildings, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, America Samoa, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. They can pass laws that APPEAR to be unconstitutional, but that are lawful for the specifically defined Territorial U.S. Since no one seems to know the difference between the two, or maintains silence about this, the government brown shirts carry out what they think are lawful orders throughout the several (50) states.

      Unfortunately, our ignorance doesn’t benefit us, as we are all deemed responsible for knowing the laws.

      The Territorial U.S. has sovereignty over it’s specific areas of land and buildings, so I would recommend staying out of “federal buildings”. The united States of America is comprised of the 50 sovereign states, which is where nearly every American resides.

      Also, beware stating that you are a “U.S. citizen”, as defined by the 14th Amendment. This is stating (incorrectly for nearly everyone) that you live in the aforementioned Territorial U.S., and are therefore subject to its laws—even if they are unconstitutional.

      • nveric

        Thank you for the insight.

        Likewise, the People can end this country if they act in a majority fashion.

        These technical issues are hindered by the legal system and a lack of effective citizen oversight, and when coupled with questionable actions by the federal government, even the Supreme Court is not an un-interested party.

        The meaning of the 9th and 10th amendments seems now to be what isn’t yet un-lawful, rather than being all else not given (loaned) to the federal government.

        With the federal government re-writing their restraining order, the Constitution, by misusing the necessary and proper clause, and others, to include most anything they want turned into law, then I say their actions are violations and have ended the legitimacy of that government.

        As to citizenship, and the rest, the legalese efforts to “legitimize” anything wanted by the federal government, is the pinnacle of creating government on the fly, which is dictatorship and not a republican form of government. That these attitudes are held by the elected, and concerns so few citizens, makes for a long day of despondency.

        While ignoring these technical issues is easy and I doubt I will be harmed by dictatorial laws, the principles of our creation, founding, and the future generations to come, compel and demand a call to action in destroying these developments or forcing their incorporation into the Constitution.

        The federal government, while a somewhat reflection of the People, nonetheless have inherently violated their charter / restraining order and must be held to a trial of confirmation. Voting never confirms or offers consent to any government we have.

        Life is too important for shoddy government, such as the U.S. federal.

  • Big M

    Why doesn’t somebody tell both Osama BlackBush and Holder to go FUCK THEMSELVES?

  • amerikagulag

    Proving beyond cavil that the REAL TERRORISTS are in Washington DC and TelAviv.

  • robertsgt40

    “like another impending 9/11”? Sounds vaguely like the PNAC statement “like another Pearl Harbour” just before the first “911”. Hmmm