Judge Napolitano on Obama's Drone Strike Policy: 'This Is the Power Claimed by Kings and Tyrants'
A new Justice Department memo reveals that the president can order targeted killings of U.S. citizens abroad. The reported memo argues it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens overseas if it believes they are senior Al Qaeda leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans – even if there is no intelligence pointing to an active plot against America.
The confidential memo lays out why the Obama administration believes these attacks are constitutional. Under Obama, the U.S. drone program has ramped up dramatically, becoming one of the most important tools in the counterterrorism campaign. Most of the strikes take place in Pakistan, near the Afghan border, but a 2011 drone strike in Yemen went even further by killing two Americans – Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan.
Yesterday, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said
the policy, which is consistent with the Bush administration, is legal because of the constitutional powers given to the president in a time of war.
Judge Andrew Napolitano, however, has a different take, saying on Fox Business Network earlier today that the Justice Department has "resisted in every forum" attempts to gain access to the legal opinions that the drone policy is based on. He said the government has persuaded judges that releasing the information could threaten national security.
"Suddenly it shows up in an NBC newsroom earlier this week! It could only have come from a governmental source. So they really have made fools of the federal judges who've spent hours and days and weeks struggling over the laws involved here," said Napolitano, who called the document itself "breathtaking and chilling" because of the power it grants the government.
"It says 'any informed high-level U.S. government official can strip an American of his or her constitutional protections and order the killing of that American if the person is overseas, if it's difficult to arrest that person," said Napolitano, explaining that the memo does not clearly define what "imminent danger" to the United States means.
"This is the power claimed by kings and tyrants. This is about as un-American a power as one could imagine," he said.
Watch the full discussion: