Kotarski: Should the U.S. president have the right to kill American citizens when conducting counterterrorism operations?

By: /
February 8, 2013

The obvious joke is that, as Canadians, we should not care, since all the latest news shows is that American civilians are now in the same boat as the rest of us who can be droned out of the sky whenever an American bureaucrat decides that the euphemistically named "disposition matrix" (Obama's kill list) calls for it.

More seriously though, no, the U.S. President (or a member of the executive in any other country) should not have the right to kill their own citizens without due process. As a number of legal experts have pointed out, the latest revelations relating to President Obama's Department of Justice White Paper on targeted killings (another euphemism, this time for assassination) make a mockery of the constitutionally guaranteed right to due process, enough for the ACLU to note that its definition of the concept of imminent threat “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”

International laws of war already clearly state when someone is a combatant that can be shot and killed and when they are not. So, under those clearly defined circumstances, U.S. forces (and others) can still kill their own citizens legally. The problem is, the United States has been trying to work around the laws of war for over a decade now, something that seems to be picking up pace under the Obama administration. And the U.S. constitution? Figures such as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis developed the concept of the "living constitution" where lawyers and jurists reinterpret constitutional dictums to better fit with the times. Obama's latest moves show that while the U.S. Constitution may be living, its due process clauses are dying, probably crossed off in the disposition matrix some time ago.