The people being targeted in the Obama administration’s drone war are “suspects” who deserve due process, renowned linguist and political radical Noam Chomsky said during a talk at Google this month.
There’s a debate in the United States, Chomsky said, about the legitimacy of President Obama unilaterally targeting American citizens, like Anwar al-Awlaki, for assassination by drone. And “there’s some talk about collateral damage – you know, what about the people that are just standing around that get killed? Well, yeah, that’s bad. But what about the people you’re aiming at? They’re suspects.”
“The core concept developed in the Magna Carta was what we call ‘presumption of innocence,'” Chomsky explained. “What it stated is that a free man cannot be subjected to state punishment without due process, without trial by a jury of peers.”
“The drone campaign eliminates presumption of innocence,” Chomsky argued. “The way it works is, Obama and his advisers get together Tuesday morning and decide who they’re going to kill that day – the concept ‘guilty’ means, ‘Obama decided to murder you.'”
The fundamental question, according to Chomsky is: “Why should the state have the right to determine unilaterally who is a terrorist? Do they have that right? No, they don’t. Do they have the right to murder people who they put on the terrorist list? No, they don’t.”
Chomsky also mentioned the suit he and several others are involved in that challenges the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes provisions that “extend the principle of indefinite detention of suspects…and it is written in such a way that it could include American citizens, [although] it’s not explicit.”
Chomsky said he thinks the case is actually “way too narrow,” since it focuses only on the question of whether this principle of indefinite detention for suspects extends to U.S. citizens.
“There should never be such a thing as indefinite detention. It’s criminal. And the idea of supporting enemies is so meaningless that such a concept shouldn’t exist in law.”
You can view this section of the talk below:
Anthony Gregory wrote a wonderful book on this subject called The Power of Habeas Corpus in America: From the King’s Prerogative to the War on Terror. David S. D’Amato wrote an excellent review for the Future of Freedom Foundation here.