WASHINGTON, D.C., February 6, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – One of the country’s leading legal experts and political commentators says that pro-life activists may have a personal reason to be concerned about a new Justice Department white paper outlining some of the criteria the Obama administration uses to select Americans it can assassinate without a trial — because the administration has repeatedly labeled the pro-life movement as one of the primary sources of domestic terrorism. Some are asking specifically whether the policy could one day apply to the pro-life movement, gun enthusiasts, preppers, or small government conservatives.
“There are other memos out there — you’ve seen them, I’ve seen them — that suggest extreme religious views, people who are pro-life, some of those people could be considered to be domestic terrorists. Their names could be on watch lists. They could be monitored by the government,” said Fox News journalist Shannon Bream Tuesday in the wake of the document's release. She asked Judge Andrew Napolitano, “How far can this be taken?”
“This is all very dangerous stuff,” said Judge Napolitano, a constitutional scholar and author who taught at Seton Hall Law School for years before becoming FNC's legal expert.
Since 2011, when a drone strike in Yemen killed two U.S. citizens active with al-Qaeda, Congressional leaders and concerned citizens have asked what conditions the president believes justifies killing Americans without trial, by a drone or any other method.
Under guidelines in a new document obtained by NBC News, theoretically any individual who holds beliefs a “high-level” government official deems threatening could be added to a hypothetical kill list.
Reporter Michael Isikoff obtained a 16-page white paper from the Justice Department outlining some, though not all, of the Obama administration's conditions.
The DOJ white paper sets three criteria before the president could have an American assassinated: “(1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) the operation is conducted in a manner consistent with the four fundamental principles of the laws of war governing the use of force”—i.e., “necessity, distinction, proportionality, and humanity.”
However, these criteria are not as rigorous as they sound. For instance, the government's definition of “imminent” threat “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
Capture would be deemed “infeasible” if it could not be “physically effectuated during the relevant window of opportunity” or if it posed “undue risk to U.S. personnel.”
To be deemed an “imminent threat,” a citizen must only have “recently been involved in activities posing an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States, and there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.”
Numerous government studies released during the Obama administration list the pro-life viewpoint, as well as other conservative views, as indications of potential domestic terrorists.
A recent government report, authored by Dr. Arie Perliger of West Point's Center for Combating Terrorism, claimed, “The Christian fundamentalist violent far right emerged from…the anti-abortion/pro-life paradigm.”
An April 2009 DHS report entitled “Rightwing [sic.] Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” identified “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration” and opposition to same-sex “marriage,” as “the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.”
“The memorandum said people who are pro-life, people who believe in the right to keep and bear arms, returning veterans, people who think the government is too big and the IRS is too powerful, could be characterized as domestic terrorists,” Judge Napolitano said, offering an assessment that could be applied to many similar government reports. “Well, that group of people could characterize two-thirds of our country.”
“This one is carrying things to an extreme most Americans wouldn't recognize,” he said. “A fair interpretation of this 16-page document…is that the president of 'a high-ranking U.S. government official'…can kill anyone he wants – no matter what the laws say, no matter what the Constitution says, no matter what this president himself has said.”
The U.S. Constitution endows U.S. citizens with greater legal protections. “Unless you are actually pulling a trigger or are in moments of pulling that trigger or dropping a bomb, the government has an obligation to do its best to arrest you and charge you with a crime and prosecute you before it can indiscriminately kill you,” he added.
Napolitano is not the only one concerned. A bipartisan group of 11 U.S. Senators sent President Obama a letter demanding that he reveal “any and all legal opinions that lay out the executive branch's official understanding of the president's authority to deliberately kill American citizens” – something the president is bound by law to do.
If he stonewalls, they threaten a “confrontation that could affect the Senate's consideration of nominees for national security positions.”
The first casualty would be John Brennan, the president's nominee for CIA director and one of the men who crafted the policy. Brennan refused to answer similar questions contained in a letter he received three weeks ago.
Officials say the DOJ white paper contains some, but not all, of the administration's legal opinions about when it could kill an American citizen, or how an American is designated an imminent threat.
“Americans should definitely be concerned about these developments,” Patrick Krey, president of Catholic Attorneys for Life and Liberty (CALL), told LifeSiteNews.com. “Public officials in France recently discussed investigating citizens who hold views contrary to liberal social policy as exhibiting a dangerous 'religious pathology.' It will only be a matter of time before similar investigations get underway in this nation.”
“As each day passes,” Krey told LifeSiteNews, “it becomes more and more likely that those who express traditional Christian values will become targets of an emerging police state.”
The pro-life movement had a similar debate about whether the government could permanently detain pro-life “terrorists” under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA). “The law is only as good as those who are sworn to uphold it,” wrote Dana Cody of Life Legal Defense Foundation, one of those who believed at present NDAA was not a concern. “And we will keep watching.”
The Obama administration insists it has done nothing wrong in detaining, or killing, those who threaten the United States, regardless of citizenship.
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On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama administration's use of drone attacks against Americans “is consistent with federal and international law.”
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, “These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.”
Some on the other side of the aisle agree.
Bush administration UN Ambassador John Bolton, who is associated with the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, said the “Constitution I think is very clear” that the president's powers “are not judicially reviewable” and should be deployed by the executive branch alone, “as the Framers [of the Constitution] intended.”
But others disagree strongly with Holder and Bolton – and the leadership of both political parties.
“The problem is that to accept this position, you have to put complete trust in the competence, wisdom, and ethics of the president, his underlings, and their successors,” wrote Jacob Sullum of Reason magazine. “You have to believe they are properly defining and inerrantly identifying people who pose an imminent (or quasi-imminent) threat to national security and eliminating that threat through the only feasible means, which involves blowing people up from a distance.”
“If mere mortals deserved that kind of faith, we would not need a Fifth Amendment, or the rest of the Constitution,” he concluded.