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NLG Philadelphia Statement on Extrajudicial Killings
For immediate release:
June 11, 2012
NLG Philly believes that the secretive assassination program by which the Obama Administration targets individuals for assassination, without judicial review and the presentation of evidence and a defense, fundamentally violates the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution which states in part that "No person shall be ... deprived of life ... without due process of law." Any killing committed by this system is murder, is a fundamental violation of the President's oath of office, and should be investigated by the Congress.
President Obama and his administration have created a secretive system listing people around the world, including American citizens, and targeting them for assassination.[i] [ii] [iii]
This process is not simply a plan in the works, but has been put into practice. Anwar Al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born radical cleric, was assassinated by Predator drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011.[iv] Though Awlaki preached jihad against the United States,[v] at no time has the President's administration offered evidence that Awlaki provided material support for Al-Qaeda, although that is their claim.[vi] [vii] To date, the administration insists that it will not offer any such evidence. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the extrajudicial killing program intentionally targets rescuers who try to pull bodies or survivors out of buildings that have been attacked, and mourners at funerals.[viii]
The Obama administration intends to kill again. Details have emerged that suggest that a small group of administration officials is in charge of deciding whom to kill. Obama can veto these decisions.[ix] The Obama administration claims that it has legal justification for its actions, but keeps the Office of Legal Counsel memos which supposedly explain the legality of these actions secret.[x]
In a March 5, 2012 speech by Attorney General Eric Holder,[xi] Mr. Holder argued that the "Due Process" required by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution does not require "Judicial Process." Instead, it is the Administration's position that the due process required by the Fifth Amendment can happen entirely within the Executive Branch. This view is truly radical and unfounded in either our history or our law.
The Administration attempts to justify its position by arguing that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda as prescribed in the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force[xii] ("AUMF"). However, as even Mr. Holder recognizes,[xiii] Al Qaeda does not behave like a conventional, state-based military force, where membership in the enemy force is evidenced by ID cards or uniforms. Therefore, the laws that might apply to targeted killing in a conventional war context are not fully applicable in the War on Terror.
It is clear that the Administration's preferred alternative is repugnant to and irreconcilable with our tradition of the rule of law. The administration's actions constitute systematic murder and violate the Fifth Amendment right that all persons have to not be killed by the American Government without due process of law. The hallmarks of due process have long included the opportunity to have the fate of the accused decided by a neutral arbiter, for the accused to have an opportunity to hear the evidence against them and provide a defense. The Obama Administration's method of deciding whom to kill features none of the hallmarks of due process. Despite Mr. Holder's egregiously self-serving wishes, due process is judicial process.
In addition to our call for the Congress to investigate these killings, we call upon the Justice Department to immediately stop defending the process in Court as it did against Awlaki’s father in his attempt to save his son’s life. Furthermore, we call on the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions[xiv] to make a complete investigation and report on this program.
A President who will not be restrained by the Constitution is tyrannical and a fundamental threat to our republic.
Now in its 75th year, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States and is dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system. Through its members — lawyers, students, jailhouse lawyers, and legal workers — the Guild works locally in Philadelphia and the Philadelphia metropolitan area as an effective political and social force in the service of the people.
[i] http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/05/us-cia-killlist-idUSTRE79475C2... (accessed 3/19/12)
[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/world/middleeast/secret-us-memo-made-l... (accessed 3/19/12)
[iii] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/world/middleeast/07yemen.html?hp (accessed 3/19/12)
[iv] http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/a/anwar_al... (accessed 3/19/12)
[v] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/20/opinion/20johnsen.html (accessed 3/19/12)
[vi] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6JAV1cOC9A (accessed 3/19/12)
[vii] In filings regarding Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the Administration indicated that Awlaki guided the accused in his attempt to explode a plane over the United States. It is unclear from these filings whether Awlaki provided the type of support that would constitute criminal activity. https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/291666/abdulmuta... and https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/291667/abdulmuta... (accessed 3/19/12). In either case, the Administration has never felt the need to present its evidence for these alleged crimes in any court, or subject them to public scrutiny.
[viii] http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/02/04/obama-terror-drones-cia-... (accessed 3/19/12)
[ix] See FN i.
[x] See FN ii.
[xi] http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ag/speeches/2012/ag-speech-1203051.html (accessed 3/19/12)
[xii] Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541)(2001)
[xiii] "[Al Qaeda leaders] ... do not behave like a traditional military – wearing uniforms, carrying arms openly, or massing forces in preparation for an attack...." See FN xi.
[xiv] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx (accessed 3/19/12)
For more information, please see a recent article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-q...