Drone policy indefensible 

We have probably talked and heard more about the Academy Award nominations and winners this month than whether it is right or makes sense for a nation supposedly dedicated to life and civil liberty to be killing its citizens for taking unpopular stances in foreign countries. What does that say about our devotion to life and liberty? What does it say about our ethics?

Shortly before John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to become the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, was to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee for his confirmation hearing earlier this month, the nation learned about a leaked Justice Department briefing paper that presented the case in favor of the U.S. policy on deploying unmanned drones against U.S. citizens in foreign nations. Two Americans considered sympathetic to Al Qaeda (Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan) were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a CIA-operated drone in September 2011. A few days after that drone attack, another drone killed al-Awlaki's teenaged son in Yemen. The public has never been told how many other Americans may have been targeted, killed, or wounded in such attacks.

According to the leaked Justice Department briefing paper that was prepared in 2011, the Obama administration claims the authority to kill Americans living abroad with drones without charging and proving that the targeted people have committed any crimes, let alone done anything else punishable by death under U.S. law.

The Obama administration believes that the power to kill Americans abroad using the drones cannot be challenged or reviewed by any U.S. court. Whether a U.S. citizen living abroad lives or dies turns on the whim of some undesignated and unnamed "high ranking official" who determines that the hapless victim is an "imminent" threat to U.S. interests.

According to the briefing paper, a threat can be "imminent" and qualify for drone targeting even if the "high ranking official" does not know and cannot tell when or even whether the drone target is going to do anything threatening. The target can be approved even without knowing what interest is "imminently" threatened.

None of the so-called "pro-life" advocates in the Arkansas legislature who have been so gung-ho about the sanctity of every fetus have even proposed a non-binding resolution about the premeditated killing of U.S. citizens by our own government. That speaks volumes about their so-called "pro-life" ethics.

A person doesn't pose a lethal threat merely because he or she is disagreeable. But the Obama administration apparently believes that any American who sympathizes with Al Qaeda deserves to be summarily murdered.

Let's be clear. The drone policy isn't about making war. It is murder using an aerial vehicle remotely controlled by a CIA operator in no danger of being harmed by the targeted person. This is murder with impunity and immunity, terrorism by another name, courtesy of President Barack Obama, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, in our name.

Judge Wendell L. Griffen is a circuit court judge and pastor of New Millennium Church. Max Brantley is on vacation.

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