Rosa Brooks on Obama’s Squishy Kill Doctrine

Blog Post by: Thanassis Cambanis , on February 6, 2013

It’s horrifying to read the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing Americans and others abroad, with no oversight, no due process, no respect for the essential values of American constitutional liberties. The worst excesses of 9/11 have been formalized, normalized and sanitized. In the early years of the GWOT, we could hope that W and Cheney embodied a mad, spasmodic national reaction to threat, which would subside as years passed. Instead, we have this: a level-headed pragmatic Democrat, more than a decade after the attacks on New York and Washington, approving a vague process by which he, or one of his employees, can single-handedly mete out capital punishment anywhere in the world, with no prior restraint, no review, and no consequence.

Rosa Brooks has a chilling analysis of the Justice Department memo at Foreign Policy (registration required). Here’s her summary from the end of her piece, which is worth reading in its entirety:

The bottom line: This Justice Department memo tells us that our government believes itself legally justified in secretly killing any person (citizen or not), at any time, anywhere, based on a concept of imminence that includes distant and speculative threats and also appears to include even relatively trivial threats, rather than only grave or existential threats. The definition of “enemy” is squishy, and kill decisions can be made by unidentified officials who need not reveal their information, its sources, or the criteria used in their decisions. Sovereignty poses no barriers to U.S. strikes, and no one outside the U.S. executive branch can review any killings before or after they take place. Oh, yes — and the administration officially won’t even acknowledge the existence of the targeted killing program.

Cross-posted at

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