The President as unilateral executioner

The New York Times has reported that the President himself decides which people, including American citizens, should be targeted for execution via drone (and other) forms of attack. The claim that Americans can be killed at the order of a sitting President, with no due process proceedings or court review, is so dangerous to civil liberties that it should be obvious that it is not constitutional.

Today, an editorial in the Times warns of this danger:

Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle.

How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?

It is too easy to say that this is a natural power of a commander in chief. The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused, as those who lived through the George W. Bush administration will remember.

Please go to this petition opposing such unilateral power on the official White House website and sign it.  If 25,000 signatures are filed, the White House must respond.

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