Letter: A Necessary Check on Power
To the Editor:
This note corrects a misrepresentation in Jeffrey Hart’s March 13 letter to the Valley News (“A Different Kind of War”). In my earlier letter, I was not objecting to “extralegal” killing by American drones — although such assassinations may yet be declared illegal. I was objecting to “extra-judicial” assassinations whereby President Obama and his executive branch assume the combined roles of investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.
At least a semblance of constitutionality could be achieved by establishing a judicial procedure, independent of the executive branch, to weigh the merits of each case — including the imminent threat to our safety and security, the risks of what euphemistically is called “collateral damage,” and the possibility of capture and prosecution instead of assassination. An independent counsel would be appointed to represent the individual whose “targeted killing” is advocated by the executive branch.
If killing by presidential decree is deemed justified during the secret judicial proceeding and subsequently is carried out, the full record of the proceeding would immediately be released for public scrutiny. Undercover sources of information could be redacted from the public record. If kings and dictators should be denied the power to order the assassination of suspected enemies of the state, shouldn’t presidents be denied it as well?