With America using drone attacks in Pakistan, still secret prisons and late night detentions in Afghanistan and bombings and instability in Iraq, it is clear that the nation has her hands full and the president has not found a way to uproot the U.S. from military undertakings initiated by the Bush administration.

It is troubling that many Bush era policies have continued under the current president–especially secret prisons in Afghanistan and charges that prisoners in these ghost facilities are suffering some of the same mistreatment that emerged from the infamous pictures from Abu Ghraib, the notorious prison in Iraq. Prisoners there were subjected to threats, humiliation, beatings, threats with dogs and other abuses that we would call torture.

To hear that President Obama has approved measures that would allow for the killing of U.S. citizens is disheartening and highly troubling. The information came out Feb. 3 as Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told a House committee that U.S. citizens abroad could be killed by government agencies, if these Americans out of the country are taking part in terrorist operations and “action that threatens Americans.”


He assured lawmakers that the Defense Dept. and relevant agencies had a well mapped out policy and legalities that would be executed before the trigger was pulled on anyone. The talk, of course, is tied to the young Nigerian accused Christmas Day trying to bomb a commercial airliner bound for Detroit. Government sources now insist Anwar al-Awlaki, described as a U.S.-born, radical Islamic cleric by the administration, was in touch with the young man and an Army major charged with the shooting and killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., last November.

Mr. Aulaqi has been called a member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who is associated with the main Al-Qaeda group, according to government sources.

“I just don’t want Americans who are watching this to think that we are careless about endangering–in fact, we’re not careless about endangering American lives as we try to carry out the policies to protect most of the country,” said Mr. Blair.

Despite his reassurances and the paper protections, the revelations are disturbing and again show how the U.S. continues to meander along a dangerous path that assaults civil liberties and constitutional protections. The government has the right to protect citizens from danger and no one has the right to unjustly take innocent human life–even for political purposes. Still this policy puts the government in the position of being judge, jury, executioner and investigator. In other words the policy allows for targeting of individuals for death and violates constitutional protections citizens are supposed to enjoy that guarantee fair trials and the opportunity to face their accuser. Where are the independent checks and balances and where is the respect for law?

If a bomb drops on someone or if a sniper kills someone, there is no trial and checking after the fact means nothing if someone is wrongly killed. Right wingers have even been demanding that the accused enjoy virtually no rights and be brought before kangaroo courts and dealt with–swiftly and finally. This policy means no trial at all.

Many are troubled by this policy and where the government seems to be headed and with good reason. Years ago, the execution of foreign leaders was supposed to be brought back under control after news of U.S. death plots against leaders like Fidel Castro in Cuba, Patrice Lumumba in Congo, Salvador Allende in Chile and others throughout what was called the Third World.

“We take direct action against terrorists in the intelligence community. If we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that,” Mr. Blair told congressional lawmakers in response to a question.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is among those who object to the policy. He accordingly fired off a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder following news reports that Americans have been included on targeted assassination lists maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). In the letter, Mr. Kucinich asks for “the legal basis for revoking the constitutional rights of any American citizens.”

“Due process of law is a fundamental principle in our Constitutional structure. Even the most superficial reading of Article XIV makes it clear that extrajudicial killings of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government or its agents are by definition outside the law,” wrote Mr. Kucinich.

“The government has the right and the obligation to protect the citizens of this country. However, I reject the notion that we can accomplish this goal only by violating international law and trampling on the Constitution. Protecting the constitutional rights of some citizens should not require revoking the constitutional rights of other citizens,” he added.

We applaud Rep. Kucinich and others who have spoke out against this policy and ask the Obama administration to repeal it.

Innocent civilians are already dying in attacks in so-called terrorist leaders and cells as determined by the U.S. government and military leaders. Taking the life of any human being is a heavy matter and never to be undertaken lightly. If the U.S. wishes to truly lead the world, she must adhere to moral standards and legal structures that she so willingly and stringently wishes to impose on others.