February 5, 2006


Exclusive: Can the President Order a Killing on U.S. Soil? (Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, 2/13/06)

In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United States. Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's Office of Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing, said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed do this, at least in certain circumstances.
The same could be said of me, of course, in certain circumstances. In that light, it is amusing to read Newsweek's collection of blog commentary. It is apparently shocking news to the left that the United States is a nation state, that it sometimes goes to war, that the President is Commander-in-Chief and that war sometimes involves killing people.

Posted by David Cohen at February 5, 2006 2:28 PM

I guess Lincoln should have been prosecuted as a war criminal.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 5, 2006 3:01 PM

Doesn't anyone remember 9/11 at all? There were orders to shoot airliners full of passengers.

Given that upwards of 40% of the country seems to support idiocy like this Newsweek piece, you have to wonder what part of that 40% are merely ignorant and which part is actively malevolent.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at February 5, 2006 3:05 PM

And what about all those Indian Wars the US Army engaged in during the rest of the 19th Century?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 5, 2006 3:06 PM

Apparently, some people believe if you actually put a name to a terrorist, that humanizes them to the point that you have to question whether or not they can be killed on U.S. soil, as opposed to the no-name four who were piloting Flight 93 back towards Washington D.C. on 9/11.

What's amazing is anyone would push this point and think the average American is either too stupid or has too little recollection of that day to remember the shoot-to-kill order issued after the two attacks. What will be really amazing is if the Democrats are actually dumb enough to bring this up at the Senate hearings on Monday and think it's going to gain them any votes come November.

Posted by: John at February 5, 2006 3:26 PM


How dare you! Don't you know that NO Indians were ever killed by white settlers in America??? Just like there was no Holocaust. This invented tale was meant to invoke sympathy on behalf of Native Americans, don't you know.

Posted by: obc at February 5, 2006 3:29 PM

Can anyone mention Ruby Ridge or Waco??

Posted by: dick at February 5, 2006 4:01 PM

The number one guest at the White House between January 1993 and the fall of 2000 was a known terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds (and later, even more), no?

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 5, 2006 5:35 PM

The Newsweek article, most of the linked "blog commentary" and, alas, certain of the above comments, which, for civility's sake,I shall forbear to single out, are so vacuuous as to defy criticism.

Ah well, like the old fire horse, the old Judge Advocate strains to follow the clang of the bells of a discussion of war powers.

Of course deadly force may be used to apprehend or arrest an enemy agent. Does anyone, anywhere think this is not so? Likewise enemy agents may be held, tried by military commission, and dealt with under the war power.

These are two very distinct situations, actually unrelated. The first issue is what may be done to stop an un-captured, unsurredered enemy. It is war--next question.

The other issue, completely distinct from the first, is what may be done with the captured enemy, now hors de combat. Again, the answer is clear. No one is suggesting that it is permissible to merely cut the throats of handcuffed prisoners, the way the enemy does.

Rather the captured enemy is to be dealt with under the law and customs of war, either as a Prisoner of War or a war criminal. Here the prisoner is entitled to an appropriate, and very limited degree of due process in the determination of his status, be it P.O.W., criminal, or bystander. We have not quite suspended the Writ, but we have gone so far as to set up procedures for dealing with suspected war criminals which are thought to satisfy the requirements of the law, and which have that effect.

All I can say is, read the cases, then follow the legislative and executive adjustment to the cases. Courts are not going to get in the way of the War on Terror.

More Bush Derangement Syndrome, trying to frighten people into thinking that "24 Hours" spook character is going to shoot them in their beds.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 5, 2006 6:14 PM

Need these clowns in the Senate be reminded that in a few hours a specific standing order will be in effect regarding the fly zone over Detroit.

And the pilot need not be an Al Qaeda suspect, just suspect and unresponsive.

If you can't take 'em in, then you take 'em out. Unless of course, the suspect is someone of prominence, then it's an unfortunate accident that we can read about 40 years hence in the Presidental Archive. :-)

Posted by: Dusty at February 5, 2006 6:24 PM

The question is stupid, but the answer is pretty stupid too.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 5, 2006 7:12 PM

Since the Democrats had no qualms about coming out against surveillance of Al Qaeda in this country, isn't it logical for them to come out against the killing of Al Qaeda in this country, which is surely an even stronger case?

And isn't it obvious that the Democrats would oppose the downing of Flight 93, if it were done by the Bush administration? And to the Indian Wars, if they were done by the Bush administration?

So, there is no inconsistency. They are consistently applying the "Bush administration exception" clause of the living Constitution.

Posted by: pj at February 6, 2006 3:07 AM

Enemy soldiers on your soil during war time? Can you kill them?

I'm not even going to dignify that with a response.

Posted by: Mikey at February 6, 2006 8:12 AM