Sunday, February 10, 2013

Drone Strikes: Worse than the Bush days?

Is President Obama a kinder, gentler, more tan Neoconservative?

I had planned an article about gays in sports (specifically pro football) but I had a different inspiration today.

The drone program has been a controversial part of the War on Terror (or is it ‘Terra’) since it was first disclosed during the Bush administration and today we learn that President Obama has kept details of the program from the Congressional Intelligence Committees.

Just a little civics lesson. There are three branches of the federal government. The executive headed by the president, the legislative which is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate and the judiciary which is composed of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts.All branches are considered co-equal under the Constitution. The legislative branch passes laws and the Executive branch enforces those laws with the budget passed by the legislative branch therefore the Executive branch submits to oversight by Congress.

There are so many tangential issues with the use of drones but I want to focus on the legal and Constitutional issues surrounding this program which many have supported because it was seen as more humane since the drones were able to target suspected terrorists with fewer innocent civilians killed. President Obama has not only continued this program which began during the Bush administration but expanded it exponentially after he took office in January 2009.

This battle between the Executive and the Legislative branches has existed since the beginning of this country but reached a turning point during the Nixon administration and the Watergate hearings during which some believed shifted power toward the Legislative branch.

There is one common thing (or should I say person) in common between the Nixon administration and the drone program and that’s Dick Cheney.

After Nixon resigned Dick Cheney became Gerald Ford’s chief of staff and believe that the laws that Congress enacted to prevent the Executive branch from a repeat of Watergate were too harsh and restrictive especially the especially the War Powers Act, which some consider a questionable assertion of congressional power.

Then Vice President Cheney got his chance to not only challenge what he felt were restrictive and unnecessary oversight by the Legislative branch on the Executive branch after 9/11 but the Bush White House maximized that advantage by threatening anyone who disagreed with their Executive power grab with the label of either traitor or unpatriotic.

Fast forward eleven and a half years later and there’s a second term Democrat in the White House who is vigorously defending that power expansion.

On February 6, 2013, the issue of using drones to kill Americans in foreign countries became a hot issue again because it was revived the day before the confirmation hearings President’s Obama’s nominee to become CIA director John Brennan who has been a strong advocate of the drone program.

During the hearing Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (Democrat-California) stated that staff members of the Intelligence Committee which include lawyers were not allowed to review the White House’s legal justification for the drone program; therefore they could not give Senators a legal opinion.

On Friday, February, 8, 2013 the House Judiciary Committee issued a bipartisan request for the classified documentations which was in reference to a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memo from 2010 that justified the 2011 CIA drone strike on American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who joined al Qaeda in Yemen:

The House Judiciary Committee's jurisdiction in this area is clear: we are the congressional committee with responsibility over civil liberties, the Constitution, and criminal law enforcement, as well as oversight of the Justice Department

Also on Friday The Senate Judiciary Committee made a similar request:

The deliberate killing of a United States citizen pursuant to a targeted operation authorized or aided by our Government raises significant constitutional and legal concerns that fall squarely within the jurisdiction of the Committee.

Indeed, the analysis in the Department's White Paper centers on core constitutional questions about the scope and application of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, as well as the possible violation of federal criminal statutes

This week, President Barack Obama authorized the Justice Department to share legal opinions with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

I know a lot Obamabots are going to hate me but I speak the truth whenever and however I see it.

When most civil libertarians were warning us about losing our freedoms when the Bush White House pushed the Patriot Act shortly after 9/11 they could not be heard above conservatives whining that anyone who opposed anything that Bush proposed was a traitor and liberals calling Bush a murderer because some thought that he allowed 9/11 to occur so the neocons’ dreams of permanent war could be fulfilled.

I will admit that I voted for President Obama because he was the lesser of the two evils and the wife of his opponent publicly stated that she feared for husband’s mental stability if he became president.

Will progressives sit back in hypocritical silence because a Democratic White House is performing these extra-Constitutional acts or will we be consistent and criticize President Obama and ask for an in-depth legal analysis which may require review by the Supreme Court?