Dianne Feinstein Agrees with Obama: Public Can’t Know Targeted Killing Legal Justification

At the end of a useful Steve Coll piece on the Constitutional danger of the Administration’s unilateral decisions to kill American citizens, he argues that Congress has the ability to force the Administration to release the process by which it executes Americans with no due process publicly.

None of Obama’s legal advisers has testified similarly about what secret system and classified legal memos may exist for judging, in the case of an American citizen targeted overseas, whether and why a capture attempt may be feasible. Congress has the power to force such statements onto the public record. It must try; it is obvious by now that the Obama Administration will not volunteer them. Is “kill or capture” a policy, or are the words just a screen for politically convenient targeted killings?

As I laid out the other day, Congress has tried to ask nicely for the memos on over 10 occasions, only to be blown off by the Administration.

That’s why Dianne Feinstein’s thus far successful effort to undercut John Cornyn’s effort to mandate release of the memos is so dangerous. John Cornyn’s amendment would mandate release to six oversight committees (those overseeing Intelligence, Judiciary, and Armed Services) within a month. DiFi’s bill would require release of all intelligence related memos (which is good), but only to the Intelligence Committees, and with loopholes  that would permit the Administration to withhold a slew of their legal authorities. And any release could be delayed 6 months beyond the passage of the bill (so, if Mitt were to win, beyond the end of the Obama Administration).

There is widespread bipartisan support for releasing a real explanation of this to the public, now. Cornyn’s amendment would be an important half measure, requiring release of the Awlaki kill memo at least to the members of Congress purportedly ensuring government activities remain constitutional. And yet DiFi’s efforts undercut even that half measure.

Update: My original title, which I’ve resigned to the dustbin of over-long novels, stunk. Thankfully, Kade Ellis gave me a better one.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

5 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    Just in case somebody associated with our auspicious Congress reads this post to “test the waters out there”, please permit me to say: You spineless, irresponsible and obsequious cowards (aka Congresspersons), step up just once on behalf of the Constitution and the people of this country and do your damn jobs! It is NOT presumptively OK to allow the President unilaterally to designate US citizens for assassination notwithstanding the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution (and a host of other principles of law and, dare I say it, “morality”), and it is EVEN MORE NOT OK to fail even to obtain an actual, public statement of purported justification for such a heinous act. DiFi and you other synchophantic morons, get a grip and do your damn jobs!

    Back to your regularly scheduled programming. Better still, go find and read a copy of Magna Carta.

  2. EH says:

    The Obama’s Administration definition of transparency is becoming more and more clear: you’ll know what you aren’t getting.

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