Military tribunals and assassination
In a speech Monday at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, Attorney General Eric Holder painted a chilling picture of the future of the United States as envisioned by the Obama administration, in which military tribunals and extrajudicial assassinations are permanent, codified features of the American judicial landscape.
Holder’s speech included a sweeping assertion of quasi-dictatorial presidential powers, including the power of the president to secretly sign death warrants for any person, including US citizens, without any form of judicial review. Holder also defended the power of the president to order the abduction and imprisonment of any person, anywhere in the world, and to try that person before a military tribunal.
The speech was a response to pressure for the administration to provide a legal rationale for the killing last fall of three US citizens by American drone missile strikes in Yemen. On September 30 of last year, the Obama administration assassinated US citizen and alleged Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen after placing him on a secret “kill list.” (See: “The legal implications of the al-Awlaki assassination.”) Other US citizens killed by US missile strikes include Samir Khan and Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of Anwar Al-Awlaki.
The political and media establishment responded to Holder’s speech with complete indifference. Articles on the speech were relegated to the inside pages of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, and none of the network evening news programs commented on it. No politician or public figure, Republican or Democrat, emerged to denounce the speech, and no reporters asked about it Tuesday at Obama’s first press conference of the year.
This response confirms the absence of any commitment to core democratic rights within the American ruling class.