7 Pages to Drone Kill an American Citizen

7 pages.

That’s all that current 1st Circuit Court Judge and then acting OLC head David Barron needed — in February 2010 — to dispense with niceties like the Constitution and Rule of Law before he okayed the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki.

Lucky for Barron — and President Obama — International Law scholar Kevin Jon Heller, never having seen that 7 page memo, raised some things Barron hadn’t considered. Which led Barron to write a still totally laughable but nevertheless less ridiculous 41-page memo 5 months later, which Barron’s friends insist is not-so-bad if you want to rationalize drone killing an American with no due process.

I wonder how they’ll defend Barron’s much more circumspect drone killing justification (especially since DOJ has redacted it beyond any legibility)?

I’ll have more to say about this latter — I suspect that it shows that DOJ actually tried on 3 different theories for drone-killing Awlaki.

But for the moment, know that if you ever come before Judge Barron, he believes he legitimize drone killing you in 7 pages or less.

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.

13 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    No, no, no. I’m sure Judge Barron would probably need more than 7 pages to justify drone killing me or others. But it was different for al-Alwaki, who was a Bad Guy. That’s not so hard to justify. I’m just sure glad I’m not a Bad Guy, though, that’s for sure.

  2. TomVet says:

    Do all these government types go to a special school to learn how to so completely misconstrue the English language?
    .
    When I read these documents I always refer to my copy of the Constitution to try to find the parts they manage to locate in there. The copy I use claims to be “proofed word for word against the original Constitution housed in the Archives in Washington, D.C.” For the life of me I can never find the same stuff that they come up with.
    This, from page 6:

    “the process due in any given instance is determined by weighing ‘the private interest that will be affected by the official action,’ against the Government’s asserted interest, ‘including the function involved’ and the burdens the Government would face in providing greater process.”

    The Fifth amendment has no clause that says “unless it’s too hard” or “unless we say so” or any other ifs, ands or buts.
    .
    And I especially like his closing; “Please let us know if we can be of further assistance”- i.e. “we can always make up more gobbledegook if this aint enough!”

    • wallace says:

      quote”Do all these government types go to a special school to learn how to so completely misconstrue the English language?”unquote

      No, they don’t have to. All USG doc’s are vetted by the Office of Obfuscation and Doublespeak(OOD) before they become ..ahem..”official”. In the case of torture and murder legalizing memo’s, they are given extreme scrutiny by the Director’s personally chosen staff of experts in polygraph, lying, cryptology, crossword puzzles, illusions and the shell game.

  3. Ben Franklin says:

    “For’these reasons, and on these understandings, we do not believe the Constitution prohibits the proposed lethal actionf~ . ~- · -=· . ·- · · does not violate the assassination ban in Executive Order 12333.i”

    What reasons? BTW, if you’re gonna misspell his name, at least do it in a consistent manner. I think the rubber-stamped approval may be the excuse for haste in as in the spelling matter made some waste in the rush to legal judgement.

  4. galljdaj says:

    Lifetime employment, and virtual immunity supplied by the criminals in charge is the best cover your own ass for violating the ‘Oath of Office’! the lil bush and lil obama gangs secret ‘policy of office’.

  5. Peterr says:

    Either Barron is 11.5 times more concise than John Yoo, or Yoo is 11.5 times more diligent in his scholarship than Barron, considering that it took Yoo 81 pages to justify torture, while Barron only needed 7 to justify drone killings. Stunning.

    Kind of makes me wonder about his judicial opinions.

    • Peterr says:

      Or . . . after Yoo’s wonderful scholarship justifying torture, justifying drone killings by Barron was (to borrow a phrase from George Tenet) a slam dunk.

  6. Pete says:

    Don’t look at it as an waste of 7 or 41 or 48 pages of paper interesting though it/they may be. Put an alternate header/footer on it and float it as a Constitutional Amendment.

    That’s sarcasm if anyone can’t tell.

  7. orionATL says:

    what is impressive about highly educated minions like david barron and john yoo is how devoid of personal integrity and intellectual integrity both educated elite are.

    the person of integrity, when asked to write a memo justifying killing a citizen without a trial, would write a paper describing in detail the multiple constitutional law, international law, and commen law that FORBIDS the u.s. government from deliberative killing of a citizen without trial. likewise with regard to torture.

    david barron (a harvard law school graduate, naturally) lacked that integrity. something in his personality and training led him to be a legal lackey for obama and holder. semilarly with academic lawyer john yoo (yale law).

    the upper regions of all three branches of governent are infested with these “best and brightest” moral ciphers. the graduates of these law schools need to be banned from all aspects of american government for a period of at least 20 years so our system may purge itself of these highly destructive squishable minions.

  8. Ronald Thomas West says:

    It’s shouldn’t be as much about the extra-judicial drone murders as much as it should be about a judicial system that has been hijacked by the practice of ‘color of law’ or authorities presenting illegal acts as legitimate exercise of the rule of law.

    But that’s what we see happening with not only David Barron elevated to the bench, but also Jay Bybee and Valerie Caproni… with Diane Feinstein voting to confirm Barron & Caproni.

    http://ronaldthomaswest.com/2014/08/03/we-tortured-some-folks/

    What more evidence of criminal incest covering its butt is necessary? Here’s the precedent; John Roberts nominated to the Supreme Court .. once removed from Dick Cheney. Cheney’s Vice Presidential counsel was Shannen Coffin, who was also a cheerleader for his bosom buddy Roberts nomination and confirmation.

    At the end of the day, whether Cheney or Obama called to account in any court case, all the judges appointed via this kind of patrimony will be relied on to support either one, because of complicity in crime. So, were a Caproni or Barron having to recuse themselves for an Obama administration case, there will a Bybee or Roberts to rule the criminal act is legal in the one direction and vice versa in the case of a Cheney in the other direction-

    It’s called judicial engineering

    • wallace says:

      quote”It’s shouldn’t be as much about the extra-judicial drone murders as much as it should be about a judicial system that has been hijacked by the practice of ‘color of law’ or authorities presenting illegal acts as legitimate exercise of the rule of law.”unquote

      With all due respect Ron, I’m sure Abdulrahman al-Awlaki will appreciate the distinction. Personally, I don’t. The result is the same. People are murdered. And no one is held accountable. End of story.

      quote”At the end of the day, whether Cheney or Obama called to account in any court case, all the judges appointed via this kind of patrimony will be relied on to support either one, because of complicity in crime.”unquote

      Indeed. Just like every legal imperialism of the last 2000 yrs. That is, until a meaner legal imperialism steps up to the Nuremberg plate, and then proceeds to perpetrate war crimes itself. It’s just too bad the leaders participation in Tyrants Anonymous doesn’t cure them. :)

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