Al Franken concerned about Obama's authority to kill Americans deemed to be terrorists

franken obama.jpeg
The senators threaten that if they might hold up Obama's national security appointments if they don't get more information.
Al Franken is among a group of senators who wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to clarify the legal rationale underpinning the administration's authority to kill Americans deemed to be terrorists.

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Yesterday, NBC News unearthed a "Department of Justice White Paper" that sheds a big of light on the policy. "Here the Department of Justice concludes only that where the following three conditions are met, a U.S. operation using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa'ida or an associated force would be lawful: (1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses and 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 would be conducted in a maner consistent with applicable law of war principles," the paper says.

But the leaked memo isn't enough for Franken and a bipartisan group of 10 other senators who signed a letter asking Obama for the "secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations."

"It is vitally important... for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority, so that Congress and the public can decide whether this authority has been properly defined, and whether the President's power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards," the letter says.

Here's the whole thing:

Letter to President Obama on Legal Opinions by

MinnPost's report on the letter provides a couple additional interesting tidbits:
Obama used the controversial [policy] to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and al-Qaeda sympathizer, in a Yemen airstrike [i.e., a drone strike] in 2011...

The senators' letter originated from Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden. Its signers range the ideological spectrum, from conservatives like Mike Lee, R-Utah, to high-ranking Democrats Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) The letter comes days before the Senate Intelligence Committee holds confirmation hearings for John Brennan, Obama's nominee to lead the CIA.
The senators' letter comes just a few weeks after Rep. Keith Ellison urged Congress to push the Obama administration for more transparency about the "unilateral kill lists" used to identify the "senior operational leaders of al-Qa'ida or an associated force" marked for death.

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As someone who voted for him twice, and probably would again:  No wonder he wants my rifle.

Joseph Drizzle
Joseph Drizzle

Franken must be a closet racist. How dare he question our supreme overlord..

swmnguy topcommenter

Good for Sen. Franken.  It's appalling that only 11% of the US Senate has a problem with the President proclaiming the right to kill anyone, at any time, for secret reasons.  That is a repeal of the Magna Carta, by Executive decision. 

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@swmnguy Hyperbole isn't helping anything.  Obama didn't proclaim he has the right to kill anyone at anytime.  His decision is very reasoned and makes sense when facing a complex enemy.  Pretending what Obama is doing is somehow radical and different is crazy. In World War 2 we dropped nukes on civilian targets, I'm pretty sure we still had a democracy after that.  Please explain to me why what Obama is doing is so worse than dropping nukes on Japan?  How about what Bush did in Columbia?   The United States military fed intel to rival gangs of Pablo Escobar to bring him down.  Those rival gangs murdered women and children with the intel we supplied. The gang we helped is currently still in charge of Columbia's drug trade and still murders women and children everyday.   Is that worse than what Obama is doing?   How about Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs?  You ever read about Alpha 66?  The CIA killed lots of Americans without trial back then.  Did that bring repeal the Magna Carta?   How about the FBI targeting the Black Panthers?   Ever read about COINTELPRO?   You do realize that they used to just shoot Black Panthers.  Read about Fred Hampton sometime.  The FBI drugged him and then the Chicago police raided his apartment and shot him while he was unconscious from drugs given to him by an FBI informant.  Pretending Obama is some dictator is incorrect.

CinBlueland topcommenter

@swmnguy Agreed for once. The average lefty and "reporter" was going ballistic about detaining illegal combatants at GitMo. Obama just side stepped the issue left GitMo open and decided to vaporize at whim...

swmnguy topcommenter

@MicheleBachmann  I'm familiar with everything you cite, and more.  In fact, some of the things you cite affected my family personally, from when I was very young, and they have informed my current opinions.

They're all criminal.  I'm just not going to give Obama a pass because he's supposed to represent "my team."  He doesn't.  He's a very cautious, center-right politician squarely in the tradition of our Empire.  Obama is no dictator; he's the figurehead of imperium. I don't mind what rhetorical wrapper people put on it; wrong is wrong.

swmnguy topcommenter

@CinBlueland  By "Average Lefty" I assume you're referring to Democratic Party partisans.  On the spectrum of political thought, they're slightly to the right of center on most things, in practical terms.  Since there isn't an actual Left in the US, then I suppose the Democrats serve as the Left by default.  But the Democratic Party supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo, the drones, the PATRIOT Act, the ongoing Wall Street bailouts, the continued handover of the wealth of America to the finance industry; you name it.  Militaristic Fascism is what that agenda is, and it ain't Left.

But anyway, as you point out, the Democratic Party proves itself to be intellectually bankrupt by calmly accepting from Obama what they complained about (before meekly rubber-stamping) from Bush 43.

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@swmnguy Politics aren't simple like that.  Obama is trying to change America for the better by doing the most good he can.  I am aware of all of Obama's missteps but they are products of the system.  There is too much money in politics, there always has been.  Obama has the power and he is changing America for the better.  He is more FDR, Lincoln, or Lyndon Johnson than W. Bush.    Every great President has done terrible things, its the nature of the office.  When Obama leaves office more people will have healthcare, jobs, and opportunity than when he took office.  There will be less soldiers overseas and gay people will have more equality than they have ever had in America.  That makes Obama a hero, not a villain.  Obama is a new type of President.  He has shifted America to a left of center country.  He is the liberal Reagan in that he has shifted American politics back to a liberal trajectory.  He's done more for people and the world than Noam Chomsky and Glenn Greenwold ever will.  

swmnguy topcommenter

MB: I won't be the first person to call myself or my expectations realistic.  Some of my earliest ancestors to get booted out of Europe and wind up here were Low-German Mennonite types who found themselves in Philadelphia in the 1680's.

They were disgusted to find that the local Quaker leaders were making quite a lot of money in the slave trade.  Some of them were more collegial; they drafted and signed the famous (in some quarters) 1688 Germantown Quaker petition against slavery.  It was ignored by The Powers That Be, who considered slavery an ineradicable evil and just one of those things, you know; besides, they treated the slaves they handled better than the others, and if they didn't make that money, somebody else would.

My ancestors were less tolerant.  They made such a stink about it they even caused a riot, for which they were put in the stocks.  I believe there's a monument with their names on it in the Germantown section of Philly.

That didn't stop my ancestors.  They keep on being abolitionists, and even bought up land on both sides of the Ohio River where they could smuggle slaves across and hide them, while getting them into Canada.  For this they were arrested constantly, and roundly hated by all the Liberals of day who wished they would just work within the system.

They just didn't believe in a little bit of slavery.  The banning of the importation of slaves in 1808 didn't satisfy them at all.  That just proved to everybody how completely unreasonable my ancestors were.

Well, I'll admit my family hasn't gotten a lot more ruly over the past 200 years.

Liberals aren't going to be comfortable with the likes of me much of the time.  The only way conservatives can stand me is if we talk about baseball or woodworking.  Outright fascists would just kill me on sight, if they had any idea what was in my head. 

I'm mad at all the people you suggest I be mad at.  You bet I am.

I think I understand Obama pretty well.  I've actually met the guy, and he seems like an awfully nice fellow.  One of my younger brothers had a hilarious conversation with him in about 2000 about some artichoke dip and who had the funnier name (Barack won that one).

Obama is a politician.  I am not.  Politicians claim to believe in "The Art Of The Possible."  I understand that.  I believe it's my role to relentlessly pressure them to re-think the outside horizons of possibility.  Without that pressure, from those who are "unreasonable," politicians tend to leave the hard work undone; sign a bill that changes little, and go congratulate each other. 

The far right seems to understand this in America today.  They're actually out there pushing every day to restore feudalism.  It's more than a bit disheartening that there is no far left in the US, and the near left no longer understands that you have to push and work and get dirty and make people, even good people with the best intentions, damned uncomfortable in order to make them change the fundamental problems in society.  They're happy to send a petition, let the process work, and wait 20 years for health care that doesn't make them homeless if they get sick.  Bully for them, I suppose, but some of aren't willing or able to wait that long; and can't afford to pay off the insurance companies in the meantime.

My ancestors weren't interested in petitions or cosmetic rule changes, or letting the process run its course.  Neither am I.  If Obama does something I'd call evil if George W. Bush did it, I'll call it evil still.

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@swmnguy Obama isn't doing anything new with targeted killings.  Presidents before and after Obama have and will do worse.  The only real check on the President's power is the vote.  If President Bachmann gets elected she won't need the actions of Barack Obama to justify what she does.   That's why I always vote for the candidate who I most agree with, not the perfect candidate.  Basically all your complaints amount to nit picking.  Obama isn't going to fix everything.  What he has done is made America a better place to live for everyone.  You are mad at Obama for treating rich people differently than poor people?   Do you realize Abraham Lincoln let rich people out of the Civil War by paying a fee?  What a monster!   Obamacare isn't perfect but that isn't Obama's fault.  Congress wrote the bill.  How many bills have they passed fixing Social Security and Medicare?   In America you pass a bill and then spend the next 20 years fixing it.  That's how it works.  The goal of Obamacare is universal healthcare.  If it doesn't work then Congress better improve it.   If you are mad about corporations and rich people being in charge be mad at the political party where 100% of their members are bought and paid for.  (Republicans)  Be mad at the media which is owned by huge corporations only.   It's wrong to pretend not perfect Obama is the problem.  What did you expect from Obama, he'd be the first President to stand up to Wall Street while saving the economy while fighting 2 wars while getting no help from the Republicans?  He has done an amazing job with the cards he has been dealt. 

swmnguy topcommenter

MB: Sorry about the delay.  I got busy, and wanted to give a response to you the seriousness you deserve.

Actually, I'm no liberal.  The truth about me is a lot worse than that.

I would argue that it was wrong to kill bin Laden without trial, for Sherman to wage scorched-earth war, and drop the Bomb on Japan while they were suing for peace (to show Stalin who would be boss).

I'm not so sanguine about a legal premise for killing anyone anywhere in the world on national security grounds (which can remain secret, on grounds of national security).  Obama isn't going to be President forever, and that doctrine isn't going to go away.  I highly doubt your namesake will ever become President, but imagine she did, and how she might handle the legal justifications in the recently-published opinion.

I don't agree with "Cin;" For this moment, "Cin" agrees with me.  I suspect his reasoning is different from mine.  It usually is, as he himself states.

If Obama has passed universal healthcare for all Americans, that would be a very good thing, but it's news to me.  Health Insurance is a very far thing from Health Care, as many of us now and I fear all of us are about to find out.  Since he overtly opposes universal single-payer health care, the only way he could be moving us toward it is if the current plan allows the insurance industry to gorge itself fatally, forcing the collapse of the system and making universal single-payer inevitable.  I've predicted this in fact; my standing bet is that the next Republican President opens Medicare to everyone, as a pro-corporate "Job-saving" measure, to great acclaim.

As for your most specific question: Why did all the corporate money line up for Obama is he is indeed a corporate tool?  Because Romney was even more of a corporate tool.  The corporate sector in America is short-sighted and greedy.  I'd note that Wall Street supported Obama overwhelmingly in 2008; they supported him in the primaries over Hilary Clinton, who was the sitting Senator from New York, when Obama's ultimate nomination was far from certain, and they supported him over Sen. McCain in the General.  Not for nothing, either.  The nomination of Eric Holder, former white-collar financial criminal defense counsel, was a clear signal to Wall Street that they were going to get off scot-free and so they have.  Heck, we're even spending $85 billion per month to buy back worthless mortgage-backed securities at face value, with the money going back into Treasury Bonds, to forestall the draining of the derivatives swamp that still threatens to destroy our entire economy.

You and I agree on very many things, but not all.  I can't go this far with you on this one.  I won't insult you by suggesting we "agree to disagree."  I'm sure you and I will have the opportunity to agree and disagree on many things in the future, and I welcome the discussion.

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@swmnguyObama has passed universal healthcare for all Americans.  What he started will move us more and more towards universal single payer healthcare.  He has done more for gay people that any other President.   He saved the American Auto Industry. He is going to do something about all the guns in our society.  He has fixed the economy while pushing Wall Street reforms like The Consumer Protection board. He is going to do something about immigration.  He has received ZERO help from Republicans to do any of this even while he was fixing their stupid mess.    If what you say about him being "the figurehead of Imperium" is true why did Wall Street support Mitt Romney so much in 2012?  Why didn't the media, Wall Street, the healthcare industry, and defense companies all line up behind Obama?    The fact is Obama is a great President who has done more for this country than anyone since FDR.  I agree he is a centrist but he has actually gotten a lot done.  His calm reasonable manner has been a needed stark contrast to the idiocy of the GOP.   I know you are smart and I know you are liberal so convince me.  Explain why all the corporate money didn't line up for Obama if he is all those things you called him. 

MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@swmnguyWrong is not wrong.  Was it wrong we killed Bin Laden without a trial?   Is it wrong that Lincoln had Sherman seize private property and burn women and children out of their homes?  Is it wrong we dropped a nuke on Japan?  War is hell.  That's why I am anti-stupid war but some violence prevents more violence.  When you work with a group that murdered 3000 people I have little sympathy that a flying death robot might kill you.  There is lots of gray.   I'm sorry but Obama killing some asshole in Pakistan doesn't repeal the Magna Carta.  Every President has to do some fucked up things.  At least Obama is good at it.  He didn't kill a million Iraqis on a lie. Obama killed Bin Laden and a bunch of other assholes.  Obama goes out of his way to make the world a more peaceful place.  He isn't some idiot warmonger that puts our troops in constant danger like Bush.  Give the man a break.  He is only fixing 2 fucked up wars, a broken economy and the American healthcare system while getting zero help from the Republicans.  Look at who you agree with, a phony liar like Cin who blames Obama for Gitmo.   You know politics, I've read your posts before.  When you agree with a liar piece of shit like Cin you know you are being too hard on Obama.   Please tell me the solution to this problem.  

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