A federal judge last month has ruled that President Obama’s administration need not disclose its legal justification for the drone attacks and other lethal methods it has used to murder American citizens overseas.
The judge said she had no choice: “I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules — a veritable Catch-22,” she wrote. “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
So it’s a secret and it will remain a secret because the United States Constitution has been over-ridden – contradicted-- by “a thicket of laws and precedents” that allow the executive branch of the American government to ignore it with impunity.
The Constitution is supposed to be the supreme law of the land but in the interests of expediency the judicial branch of our government has allowed the foundation of our nation to erode to the point of virtual nullity. That foundation is crumbling. The entire structure is in danger of collapse.
There is nothing in the Constitution allowing the government to make laws bypassing the mandates of the Constitution. There is no Constitutional authority for secret justification of the killing of Americans without due process. National security is not a justification for ignoring the Bill of Rights.
Admittedly, there are a number of good reasons why the government might desire to keep sensitive information a secret and there are numerous classified government secrets which the Constitution permits. But the government should not be keeping secrets which result in a denial of an individual’s Constitutional rights.
The Nazi’s, for example, routinely kept their murderous activities a secret. They didn’t have to contend with a pain in the ass Bill of Rights allowing German citizens due process. If our government is allowed to keep these kinds of secrets, then there is really nothing to prevent it in the future from keeping domestic murder programs of American citizens secret. All they have to argue is that it’s a matter of national security and that’s it; end of story.
Anwar al-Awalaki’s Constitutional rights as an American citizen were violated when he was summarily assassinated by a CIA drone without affording him any due process rights. He had not been charged with any crime. He was not a fugitive. He was merely suspected of some involvement in terrorism. His 16-yer-old son was not even a suspect yet he was also murdered without any due process.
Two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a 2011 Freedom of Information Act request seeking any documents in which Department of Justice lawyers had discussed legal justification for the killings.
The requests were denied on the grounds that releasing any details about the program, or even acknowledging that documents on the subject existed, could harm national security.
But even if that were true, and we have to take the government’s word for it, there is still no exception in the Constitution allowing secret assassination programs against American citizens.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon found that she had no authority to order the documents disclosed. On top of that, part of her opinion was filed under seal, unable to be seen even by lawyers for the newspaper and the ACLU.
It may be read only by people with security clearance.
So we aren’t even entitled to know why the documents may not be disclosed much less the contents of the documents. The United States Constitution has been facially violated; individual Constitutional rights have been violated; and not even the judicial branch of the government will tell us why.
It’s a secret.