By Tyra Walker
Although CODEPINK acknowledges the motion towards some semblance of transparency with the release of the 2010 Memorandum outlining the Department of Justice’s legal reasoning for the assassination of US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, we conclude that the Memorandum falls short of delivering the need for accountability required for addressing unjust action which lethally targets American citizens abroad.
The Memorandum, which is authored by David Barron, former chief of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, echoes Attorney General Eric Holder’s troubling legal distinction between “due process” and “judicial process” for American citizens. This equivocation represents an abominable misconstruance of a centuries-old right that has, until now, been protected by the U.S. Constitution. With a legal Memorandum that asserts that “due process analysis need not blink at [the] realities [of combat]”, we stand in fear of the future fundamental rights which will undoubtedly be threatened by the whims of military advisors and government officials who are encouraged not to think twice about lethal decisions under the guise of “national security”.
The sheer publication of the Memorandum is not something that is lost on us. Despite the memo being heavily redacted, as ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer states, “…the publication of the [ ] memo [is] a significant milestone and certainly one of the most significant transparency-related developments since the administration’s release of the torture memos in 2009,” and that it “represents an overdue but nonetheless crucial step towards transparency.”
However, we also stand in solidarity with organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights, whose Senior Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei asserts that the memorandum reinforces that “the government’s drone killing program is built on gross distortions of law.”
ACLU Jameel Jaffer’s statement in response to the drone memo, too, accurately highlights the issues presented by the Memorandum’s unredacted content. He states, “Once [the] facts are assumed, the memo’s ultimate conclusion… follows inevitably. How could it not? No government would disclaim the authority to use force as a last resort against a serious threat that was truly imminent. But… what assurance do we have that the facts the memo accepts as true were actually true?” After further analysis, Jaffer ultimately concludes that “The entire memo rests atop a foundation whose solidity we can’t know.”
Until we are able reclaim the Constitutional protections of due process, stop justifications based on the deliberate misrepresentation of concepts like “imminent threat”, and demand, not simply transparency, but accountability for actions that violate the protections of the Constitution and of Human Rights, we will continue to live with bated breath for the next American citizen (or non-American citizen) to be unjustly targeted and killed.
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