Should the president have the authority to kill Americans without legal review?

The ACLU and relatives of three Americans killed in overseas drone attacks are suing members of the Obama administration. They allege that the victims were killed without due process. The administration, while not acknowledging a role in the deaths, has said that it has the right to carry out such attacks. Today’s Question: Should the president have the authority to kill Americans without legal review?

  • John

    What kind of question is this? It is unconstitutional for the president to attack American citizens without due process. So the obvious answer is NO.

    Even though this president taught constitutional law and took an oath to uphold it, he is obviously blatantly breaking the constitutional law.

  • Rich in Duluth


    As difficult as it may be, these people should be prosecuted, not murdered. Remember, extremists are certainly operating within U.S. borders. Would you like a missile hitting your neighbor’s home or car, even if he is plotting some terrible act? Would that be Constitutional?

    I’m a supporter of this President, because of his overall policies. But this is wrong.

  • Rich

    I see your point John. Along the same lines, it also be fair to say; President George W. Bush received an MBA for his studies in business and look how well his education and “business experience” worked out for the world economy.

  • Emery

    The US today has a monopoly on use of drones – will it think the same way when some other country also gets access to drones and stretches the bounds of what is acceptable?

  • Steve the scenic

    This column came close to asking a very interesting question: Does a Unmanned Aerial Surveillance (UAS) pilot in Nevada going home for dinner with his family. If that ‘pilot’ is a legal combatant, even when off duty having dinner with his family in suburban Washington or Las Vegas with his family, is he still a legitimate ‘target’ and would his family be considered acceptable ‘collateral damage’?

    If the target were an AQ leader, off duty, having dinner with his family would his family be considered ‘collateral damage’?

  • Peter

    No, of course not. And how depressing that this President has proven to be about as bad on national-security-related civil liberties as his immediate predecessor. You did not have to be a naive hopehead to expect far better from a former professor of constitutional law than we have gotten from President Obama. It is policies like this (along with Obama’s failure to push for a much larger and more shovel-ready stimulus, or a second one, when he had the chance) that drain most of the enthusiasm from my support this time around. At this point, he is little more than the lesser of two evils compared to Romney.

  • Ann

    The Attorney General and others have given the reasons that this can be necessary.Read the information on the Internet and any news source.

  • david

    Depends. If you are a republican and the president is a democratic then no. When the president was republican the other republicans took no issue with it. It is all just politics. The real question should be “why do we insist on meddling in the mideast in the first place “. When we answer that question honestly we can see the true errors of our ways and come up with some good methods to deal with them. Fighting terror with terror is just a vicious circle.

  • GregX

    I think the underlying premise is that these citizens were guiltless… which is not specifically true. US citizens are routinely killed by police, FBI, sherrifs, state-troopers and fellow citizens acting in specific situations of emergency, duress or probable cause without a jury or court or other intervening body at the moment of decision or action. It is not death dealt out with laughing derision – its death dealt out with anguished reasoning, concern for the public in general and heartfelt concern for the harm the action will have on specific others ( family, friends, community). You can cherry pick if you want … but pick all the cherries …

  • Steve the Cynic

    I can see both sides of this question. On the one hand, these killings look like extrajudicial executions, which would be unconstitutional. On the other hand, there’s an analogy to a cop killing someone pointing a gun into a crowd, whether or not the that person has actually pulled any triggers. Not being a constitutional scholar, I won’t presume to pontificate about that.

    On the other hand, there’s a more practical question: Is this the best way to deal with militant islamists, be they US citizens or not? About this I have my doubts. Might it not be better to sway world opinion against such miscreants by taking the moral high ground and refusing to sink to their level? The 9/11 attacks appalled the world, and the world rallied to our side. One of many mistakes we made after 9/11 was to overreact and launch an illegitimate war, which squandered that good opinion the world had of us. We wound up making more enemies than we killed and made our friends more tepid in their support. Each drone attack we carry out seems to have the same effect on a smaller scale, making more enemies than we kill. The key to national security in the 21st Century is to make more friends than enemies.

    And btw, the irony of the right wing applauding the ACLU, usually a whipping boy of conservatives, is delicious.

  • matt

    What a civilized world we live in when we have to add the modifiers “Americans” and “without legal review” to the question “Should the president have the authority to kill?” in order to make the question debatable. No, with or without the modifiers.

    If the nutjob in Aurora had shot a up a midnight screening of batman at a maximum security prison or in Iran it seems some folks would brand him a hero.

  • kim

    As the question is written, the answer pretty much HAS to be “No”, doesn’t it? There HAS to be some kind of process or the president could order anybody he/she wanted to killed. THAT certainly isn’t acceptable.

    We are dealing with a situation that the founders didn’t exactly for see. I think we need to take the time to sort out what’s right and what’s wrong before we head any further down that road. I’d like to suggest that there might be circumstances where a person’s behavior might make it appropriate that they LOSE their citizenship. If you take up arms against your country, seems to be you choose to join “the other side’, what ever that may be. I’m not sure I see a difference between going after someone with a drone or with an infantry division, from an ethical point of view. We are SUPPOSED to have a process to control THAT, if Congress had the guts to do it’s job and actually declare wars.

    Steve the scenic had an excellent point about who’s a combatant and who isn’t. What goes around comes around.

  • JasonB

    Sounds like a legal question, and I’ll leave that to the lawyers. But it’s unfortunate that sometimes the law is what we rely on to enforce morality.

    All war is obscene. People try to justify acts of war and related actions like drone attacks by saying that deadly force is sometimes necessary (easy to say when you’re not in the line of fire). Warfare should be in a constant state of scrutiny and justification. No war or deadly action gets a pass just because we believe it’s unavoidable.

  • georges

    “US citizens are routinely killed by police, FBI, sherrifs, state-troopers and fellow citizens….”

    Only when the criminal is murdering or attempting to murder, or threatening to murder, and does not comply with an order to stop.

    Not at all comparable to a president ordering U.S. citizens to be murdered at his request. Apples and oranges.

    No police officer, at any level or any Department, or the president, has any more rights to break the law, or to use force to stop felonious behavior, than regular citizens do.

  • jockamo

    “There HAS to be some kind of process or the president could order anybody he/she wanted to killed. THAT certainly isn’t acceptable.”

    Sure it is. Acceptable, that is. Not lawful or legal, but acceptable. The Redneck president, Billy Bob Boy Clinton, one month into his presidency, set the precedent for murdering U.S. Citizens when he and his henchwoman, Janet Reno, attacked and murdered approx 100 Citizens in their home. Men, women, and CHILDREN, all innocent, none trying to harm anybody.

    Clinton and Reno have never been charged with any of the more than 1,000 felonies they committed. Few people even had the backbone to be outraged. We, unfortunately, let our top employees get away with all kinds of things. Even murder.

  • Jim G

    My gut says no. There needs to be a process to determine the probable guilt of Americans leaving our territory and going rogue. If American citizens take up arms against our government and other citizens, they need know they will be held accountable for their treason. I don’t know what the process should be, but it should convince a unbiased judge of imminent danger.

  • Jamie

    ”murdering U.S. Citizens when he and his henchwoman, Janet Reno, attacked and murdered approx 100 Citizens in their home.”

    Do you mean David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX? That’s BULL. Koresh and his wacko right-wing extremist followers were totally responsible for those deaths, and for the deaths of several FBI or ATF agents. Koresh sexually abused girls and had an arsenal of over 200 weapons, including machine guns and grenades. He and his sick followers fired the first shots on the agents when they tried to serve a search warrant. Many days later, Koresh and his goons started several fires and shot many of their own people.

    Six surviving Davidians were charged and convicted of voluntary manslaughter and weapons charges. They appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. When Davidian families tried to sue the government, they lost that too, through several different courts, and the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal. The case was also reviewed at least a couple different times by Congressional committees who found the Davidians at fault. So there have been LOTS of reviews and critiques of the incident, and still the right-wing wacko extremist conspiracy theories abound because they want to be governed only by their god and their psychopathic leaders.

  • Matt

    No one should have the right to end a human life. I don’t think Gandhi, Christ or Buddha would advocate killing. If there is the possibility to detain dangerous people without harming them or others, we must take the necessary steps. Financially, it is less expensive to keep a criminal alive. Morally, it is the right thing to do. Vindictively, a life-time of slavery is worse than death.