Does Obama’s Kingly Power to Kill US Citizens Extend to Domestic Suspects?

The leaked Justice Department memo detailing the Obama administration’s legal rationale for killing US citizens without charge or trial or judicial review or any publicly available evidence of their guilt has raised a lot of questions.

One of them, which doesn’t get fleshed out in the memo, is whether this kingly authority to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner and deprive Americans of their life without due process of law applies only to Americans abroad or also to citizens that are inside the United States. The memo does say that one prerequisite to putting an American on the kill list is if their capture is “not feasible.” Presumably that wouldn’t happen in the US, but since it isn’t specified in the memo, nobody has really been able to give an informed opinion on this. And even if the authority is not currently used in this way, unless there is an explicit prohibition in the current legal rendering, it could conceivably be used this way in the future.

Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations cites a really terrifying exchange with FBI Director Robert Mueller from about a year ago:

REPRESENTATIVE TOM GRAVES: So I guess from a historical perspective, does the federal government have the ability to kill a U.S. citizen on United States soil, or just overseas?

FBI DIRECTOR ROBERT MUELLER: I am going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice.

The FBI’s mission is “to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.” Mueller has held his position since the week before 9/11 and has been intimately involved in virtually every significant counterterrorism decision of the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. If the director of the FBI does not know—or is unwilling to testify under oath—where the U.S. government has the authority to kill its citizens, then who does? It is worth noting that Holder argued that there are no limits to the “geographic scope of our ability to use force.”

Read the whole post, which contains other relevant nuggets like the fact that “President Obama authorized the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen several months before its legal justification existed.”

28 thoughts on “Does Obama’s Kingly Power to Kill US Citizens Extend to Domestic Suspects?”

    1. At least I haven't seen any drones doing it by missile. Saying we need to get rid of guns while providing tanks and APV's to the local cops and arming goon (SWAT) squads and letting them loose on the Mayor of Berwyn Heights and other citizens hints that drones aren't required yet. And cops recently tackled then kicked a man to death on suspicion that he might be a drug dealer and got away with it as part of the War on Drugs so good old fashion policing is all they need right now. That and public persecuters that support the police state for political gain.

  1. I'm not concerned because, as far as I know, Obama hasn't had anybody killed in Boston yet and besides, what I don’t know is doesn’t matter. Anyways, Obama would not kill an American unless he or she deserved it (tongue lodged in cheek).

  2. First they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  3. Please sign the petition to repeal SBX211. Government bribing
    judges. Please sign petition to stop bribes to judges. SBX211

    1. given for illegal merger of large banks in 1965 (we can see the effects of that now)
    2. given for unconstitutional use of torture
    3. given to telecom company for illegal wire taps. (Fisa bill that led to the patriot act)
    4. given to Judges for taking bribes. (SBX211)

    Ted Kennedy back in 1965 in regards to the illegal merger of six large banks.
    Quote: ""The very idea of “retroactive immunity” for lawbreaking corporations is so radical, so repugnant to the most basic principles of the “rule of law,”"

  4. Short answer – not yet. Given the absence of a 9/11 style excuse, it will be deferred until the next Emperor is enthroned

  5. Would it be legal for a CIA agent to strap on a suicide vest and go into a crowded market and blow everyone up if the objective was an American who was on the kill list?

    A better question is: Just what the hell CAN'T the Executive Branch do these days (in their own mind, of course)?

  6. I believe Obama is already using his NDAA "authority". There have been several very suspicious "suicides" involving his critics in the past few months.

  7. Is there anything in the constitution against secret laws and secret interpretations of laws. Because there really needs to be, not that anyone pays any attention to the constitutions. But it's just that basic. Secret law should equal not a law at all and certainly nothing that should be enforced against anyone. While we have this leak adding additional information we don't actually know Obama's legal interpretation of how the kill list is interpreted. Yea I know, the real interpretation is The Absolute Dictator King can do whatever he pleases. But a pretense at anything less lawless would be nice.

  8. This is where our Country is headed-domestic targeting of Americans, someday, maybe sooner than you think.

  9. Richard DW,

    You wrote:

    "domestic targeting of Americans, someday, maybe sooner than you think."

    What makes you seem to think someday is not today? Obama's recent pronouncements simply provide a fig-leaf cover and excuse policies this administration likely has and will pursue whether or not they're eventually discovered by a public and media unwilling to question the nation's Pharaoh. He knows his actions will be exposed eventually and he's well prepared with ready made pablum for his brown shirts to thoughtlessly repeat and disseminate to a public intensely attentive with itching ears and uneducated minds long since soft and unused to critical thinking. His apparent disregard for American lives as observed among other actions by the Fast and Furious scam, Benghazi incident and support for infanticide may well be what a majority of human debris occupying what used to be a republic actually wants. An MSNBC poll indicated 78% support for targeted killing of Americans with only 22% against. If that's not suicidally stupid I don't know what is.

  10. Drones attacks are mainly a type of of terrorism itself. This should be stop because it is one of the human killing. Get best writing services online for your class work online and solving assignments.

  11. Citizens should be protected, that's true. Bot this doesn't give right to just kill people, justice should be done but only in legal way.
    I write for my blog at the assignment help service Assignment Mountain and they've wrote couple dissertation for students who were studying human rights.

  12. I'm not concerned because, as far as I know, Obama hasn't had anybody killed in Boston yet and besides, what I don’t know is doesn’t matter. Anyways, Obama would not kill an American unless he or she deserved it (tongue lodged in cheek).

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