Shorter DOJ Murder Justification

If a high-level federal bureaucrat wants you dead, you are dead.

That is all you really need to need know of the Department of Justice's white paper on extrajudicial killing. Because once the executive branch claims authority to choose—secretly, uniramerally* and without review—whom to kill and where, it doesn't matter what legal justification it claims gives it that authority, and it doesn't matter what rules it claims to place on its exercise of that authority, because nobody has the power to make it follow the rules, much less refrain from exercising the authority.

As we see in the white paper, the bureaucrats will do what they have to to rationalize murder, including applying doublespeak, so that "imminent" means "not imminent."

Once a bureaucrat (the white paper says "an informed, high-leyel official of the U.S. government," but who decides whether the official is informed? he does) has the power of life and death without outside review, nothing but his good will prevents that power being used in ways of which you would definitely not approve.

I appreciate lawyers' desire to know more about the DOJ rationale: it's the worst law-geek train wreck in history. "Trust in the good will of bureaucrats" is not one of the principles on which the Republic was founded.


*Yes, "uniramerally": consisting of or related to a single branch, as of government. From the Latin ramus, branch. Compare unicamerally, unilaterally.

3 responses to “Shorter DOJ Murder Justification”

  1. It is fascinating to watch President Obama’s use of executive power. Far from curtailing the broad presidential powers claimed by Pres. George W. Bush, he has VASTLY EXPANDED them. All of those who subscribe to the Hollywood-fostered stereotypes of Republicans as hawkish, decisive, anti-intellectual power-mongers vs. the dovish, hand-wringing, thoughtful but timid Democrats should sit up and take notice. Love him or hate him, President Obama is not shy about using executive power, even to extrajudicially kill Americans abroad. Hell, as Mark astutely points out, he’s even comfortable DELEGATING it!

    As someone who is invariably impressed by that kind of audacity, I can only say, with honest admiration for the man: He is one cold-blooded motherfucker.

  2. I find it fascinating how at the very moment that gun nuts are hypothesizing about a tyrannical future, we are getting concrete examples of, well, tyranny. So what are our armed comrades going to do about it? Will you start with peaceful means? Will you first engage the system that you are prepared to violently resist? Or is it just time to start shooting government agents? And what will that do, exactly?

    This is beyond horrible. But what to do? I’ll call my congresswoman, for sure. I’ll protest but don’t have the energy to organize one. I’ll talk to my friends. I will nonviolently resist if they come for me, and hope that people will care if they skip a step and just murder me. I’d love to drop everything and start suing the government, though I am leery of the master’s tools/master’s house problem. (But see, e.g., American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh.) By such means I do expect things to get better, eventually, but realize they may first get worse.

    But really, Mark, what to do? I really am asking.

    • You say “at the very moment,” as though rational people, some of whom you might derisively call “gun nuts,” have not been warning for decades of the real possibility of a tyrannical future.

      What do we do about it? Damned if I know. I haven’t given up on the system; I’ll probably run for office again.

      (I respect your nonviolent stance, but only so far. If you had a child, and wouldn’t use violence to stop them from coming for him, or if you would force others to take the nonviolent path (for example, by allowing the state, with its tyrannical potential, to use violence to disarm them) then your position is selfish and immoral.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.