by Andrew Kaczynski
A Justice Department memo that surfaced this week providing legal justification for the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes against American citizens suspected of plotting terrorist attacks stands in stark contrast with the platform Barack Obama ran on in 2008 — and the civil liberties he championed as a young, liberal state senator in Illinois.
The memo, which was first reported by NBC News, argues that the U.S. government can legally use drone strikes to kill American citizens without due process if they are determined to be high-ranking al-Qaeda officials who show “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”
“I can just say that this president takes his responsibilities very seriously, and first and foremost, that’s his responsibility, to protect the United States and American citizens,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday, defending the drone policy. “These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise. The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al-Qaeda terrorist, to ensure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life.”
But for a politician who made his name in the state Senate by fiercely advocating reforms to the justice system — including mandatory recordings of all police interrogations and confessions in capital murder cases — and later decried the Patriot Act as an assault to civil liberties, Obama’s defense of such drone attacks represents a remarkable departure from principles he championed not long ago.