Sunday, February 05, 2006

[politics] Why are we even asking this question?

From Newsweek: "Can the President Order a Killing on U.S. Soil?". If the answer isn't "Hell, no!", then we've devolved even further than I feared... From the article:
Current and former government officials said they could think of several scenarios in which a president might consider ordering the killing of a terror suspect inside the United States. One former official noted that before Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, top administration officials weighed shooting down the aircraft if it got too close to Washington, D.C. What if the president had strong evidence that a Qaeda suspect was holed up with a dirty bomb and was about to attack? University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein says the post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Al Qaeda empowered the president to kill 9/11 perpetrators, or people who assisted their plot, whether they were overseas or inside the United States. On the other hand, Sunstein says, the president would be on less solid legal ground were he to order the killing of a terror suspect in the United States who was not actively preparing an attack.
What is meant by 'actively preparing an attack'? See, there's a huge difference between shooting down an airplane that is on an attack vector and not responding to the planes that've been sent to escort it down and assassinating someone who is organizing an attack. Okay, so you've got a suspect 'holed up with a dirty bomb' - are they about to detonate it? Are they assembling it? Are they plotting how to deliver it on target? Is the bomb live or armed? Are the conspirators armed? Honestly, I don't see any circumstances under which a 'clean shoot' of a terrorist would be questioned. Are they about to detonate a bomb? Then I have no problem with a cop delivering a double-tap to them. But what about deploying a sniper or other assassin in order to take out someone who we know is planning an operation but who isn't an immediate threat? We wouldn't call it a clean shoot if a cop did it under those circumstances - do we cede the President that much leeway? It seems to me that, as with the ongoing illegal eavesdropping, we already have mechanisms in place to deal with these threats. Are we so afraid of the boogeymen of terrorism that we're willing to relenquish this much authority to the President (and by extension, the Federal Government)? If the answer is 'yes' (as I fear it is), then we're truly fucked.

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