Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kill a 16 Year-Old, Get a Promotion

by

If you think that as a United States citizen you’re entitled to a trial by jury before the government can decide to kill you–– you’re wrong. During his stint as a lawyer at the Department of Justice, David Barron was able to manipulate constitutional law so as to legally justify killing American citizens with drone strikes. If you’re wondering what the justification for that is, that’s just too bad – the legal memos are classified. Sounds a little suspicious, doesn’t it? What’s even more suspicious is that now the Obama Administration wants to appoint the lawyer who wrote that legal memos to become a high-ranking judge for life.

Disturbingly, this is not the first time that the president has rewarded a high-level lawyer for paving the legal way for drone strike assassinations. Jeh Johnson, former lawyer at the Department of Defense, penned the memos that give the “okay” to target non-US citizen foreign combatants with drones. His reward? He’s now the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. These Obama nominations are eerily reminiscent of the Bush-era appointment of torture memo author Jay Bybee to a lifetime position of a federal judge.

Barron, a Harvard law professor and former legal counsel at the Department of Justice, was recently nominated by President Obama to the lifetime position of a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals—just one step below the Supreme Court. While at the Department of Justice, Barron wrote at least 2 secret legal memos justifying the use of lethal drones to kill Americans suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.

Should someone who has done such immense damage to the rule of law and our moral sensibilities be awarded with a judgeship on the First Circuit Court?

The Attorney General has conceded that four Americans located outside the United States have been killed by drone strikes since 2011. One of those killed was Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was attacked while in a tribal region of Yemen in September 2011. Then Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, also an American citizen, was shamefully killed in a drone strike in rural Yemen two weeks later.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that Americans suspected of committing crimes deserve to have charges brought against them, to have a chance to surrender or be captured, and to be given a fair trial. If they cannot be captured and refuse to surrender, they could be tried in absentia. But Barron helped set a terrible precedent that American citizens have no right to a judicial process—something that human rights advocates around the world have been fighting for since the signing of the Magna Carta 800 years ago.

How can Barron be a judge if he does not understand the deeply valued laws of our land, laws that include habeas corpus and the right to a fair trial? As stated in the Bill of Rights: the Fourth Amendment guarantees that a person cannot be seized by the government unreasonably, and the Fifth Amendment guarantees that the government may not deprive a person of life without due process of law. A judge is supposed to uphold the Constitution, yet Barron has already torn it down.

In an op-ed supporting Barron’s nomination, law professors Charles Fried and Laurence Tribe argue that Barron didn’t order the strikes or design the legal framework for their authorization. Certainly he didn’t order the strikes, but his job as acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel was precisely to provide legal opinions to the President, opinions that became the legal foundation on which the strikes were based.

Some Senators said they would not proceed with Barron’s nomination until they got access to the memos he has written about drone strikes. “This nomination cannot go forward unless this body — every member of this body — is given access to any and all secret legal opinions this nominee wrote on this critical issue,” Grassley said. The White House responded by allowing all interested Senators to go to a secret chamber to read “all written legal advice issued by Mr. Barron regarding the potential use of lethal force against US citizens in counterterrorism operations.” This pretense of transparency is meaningless, though, because Senators won’t be able to publicly question and challenge Barron about the memos unless they are declassified.

That’s why some senators, including Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Rand Paul, are insisting that the memos be made public. That’s all well and good, since we—the public–certainly should have the right to read them. It makes no sense for legal memos to be considered secret national security documents. Even the courts have said as much, when a federal judge in April 2014 ordered the administration to release the legal analysis to the public (an order the administration has so far ignored).

But the Senators should go further and state that David Barron is simply not fit to sit on the bench to interpret our Constitution.

In the hopes of moving our nation back to one that respects, honors and upholds the rule of law, we are pushing the Senate—particularly Majority Leader Harry Reid—to kill Barron’s nomination. Senator Rand Paul is one of the few Senators challenging Barron’s nomination. “I can’t imagine appointing someone to the federal bench, one level below the Supreme Court, without fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens,” he wrote.

Unfortunately, now that the administration has placated Senators by giving them access to Barron’s memos, he will most likely be be confirmed. There is one good thing that could come out of this, though – the sparking of a much-needed national conversation about drone warfare and U.S. policy on the use of killer drones. Does the use of drone strikes that often hit innocent people and incite hatred towards Americans actually ensure our safety, or trigger greater danger? In the meantime, we should urge our Senators to push for the public release of these classified drone memos and should oppose the appointment of David Barron. We don’t need a judge on the bench who has already shown his disregard for the Constitution and for the rights of American citizens. Tell your Senator to vote “no” for drone lawyer David Barron.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of www.codepink.org and www.globalexchange.org, and author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human right organization Global Exchange. Follow her on twitter at @MedeaBenjamin.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]