Assassination courts?

Is this back to the Star Chamber approach to justice, with secret courts, no indictments, no witnesses, and no appeals, all in service to the monarch?

U.S. senators are now floating the idea of an assassination court as a way to rein in the ever-expanding drone program — a secretive operation that, as it is, sounds like thriller fiction, but isn’t.

The idea was bandied about during Thursday’s confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee John Brennan, who fueled the talk by saying he thinks the concept is “worthy of discussion.” The nominee, as a vocal supporter of the targeted-killing program, has come under scrutiny for what some lawmakers see as the administration’s unchecked power to kill, even if the target is an American citizen.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said as part of an effort to regulate the killing, she wants to review proposals to create something similar to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — which reviews requests for wiretaps against suspected foreign agents — for drone strikes.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is pushing the idea the hardest.

According to his vision, the drone court would be an avenue for U.S. officials to argue in secret before a judge why an American citizen should be targeted for death. He said it would be like “going to a court for a warrant” and proving probable cause.

Except in this case, the judge would be ruling not on a search warrant or a wiretap — but a missile strike from thousands of feet in the air, and thousands of miles away.

via US senators propose assassination court to screen drone targets | Fox News.

Yes, there is the problem of targeting terrorists, including those who are American citizens.  But with this precedent–and remember how the judicial system is all about precent–couldn’t this also be used against other citizens designated “enemies of the state”?  Isn’t this just the Star Chamber for the 21st century?  And isn’t that what our Constitutional processes were directly trying to address?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • tODD

    So I guess the follow-up question is: how can we secretly round up Feinstein, Brennan, et al., and “accidentally” drop them into some campsite in some Muslim backwater, several thousand feet under a drone? Ha ha ha. Because, see, the joke is, they’re citizens and, honestly, who cares about due process? Shoot ‘em all and let God sort it out.

  • Abby

    If it weren’t for the cost, the “Death Star” could fit in with the drone program:

    “As many of you know, the Obama administration promised that they would reply to any petition submitted on the white house website which exceeded 25,000 signatories. Well, a petition to have the USA build a Death Star by 2016 was filed and exceeded the total.”

    http://www.orthocuban.com/2013/01/no-death-star-for-you/

  • SKPeterson

    Todd @ 1 – Don’t you know it’s not against the law for Senators to break the law?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    If this isn’t a sign of a dictatorship, I don’t know what else is.

  • Kirk

    The American security state is a real bed of roses, isn’t it? I love how quickly we moved from warrant-less wire tapping and the interning of non-Americans without due process to dropping Hellfires on our own citizens. The slippery slope is slippery.

  • Steve Bauer

    Almost as bad as losing one’s tax-exempt status.

  • sg

    @5

    Comité de salut public

    It is almost enough to make you wish Bush were still president so that this would get more negative press, which of course fuels more protest against it and hopefully would influence public opinion. There is no way you can call a politician liberal who supports this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Since when do we need the approval of a judge to implement particular military action in the execution of a war? If our military needs to go to court to get a warrant for some particular military action, then aren’t we admitting that we’re not really at war?

    If we’re not at war, then there is no need for military action.
    If we are at war, then lets not have judges micromanage military strategy and tactics.

  • Kirk

    @8

    True, the convenience being that the party we’re at war with, in this case, is so amorphous, nebulous and ill defined that we can pretty much bomb whoever we like. I mean, murder is terrible, right? So, why not blow suspected murders to smithereens to prevent them from terrorizing everyone else. And what about accessories to terror? During the Al-Alwaki killings, we got another American that was working on a jihadi website. Sure, he’d never killed anyone, but he did help the terrorists. So that basically means we can kill anyone even remotely connected to terrorism, even if they’ve never actually perpetrated a terrorist act. Total war, right?

    And why limit this to overseas? If our enemies want to attack us on our own soil, we should kill them here, right? Why bother trying to arrest them or subject them to do process? Don’t want to interfere with strategy, after all.

  • Abby

    @8 “If we are at war, then lets not have judges micromanage military strategy and tactics.”

    We don’t like uncluttered. We LOVE micromanaging — certain people, that is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Well, I don’t know about being “remotely connected” to terrorism. You’ll have to define what you mean by that. I suspect that you’re presenting a strawman.

    If we’re at war, then active enemy combatants are fair game, no?
    If an enemy combatant happens to be a US citizen, well that’s his problem, not ours. We have other US citizens to protect.

    > if our enemies want to attack us on our own soil, we should kill them here, right?
    Yes, we should. Why wouldn’t we? When an active shooter in a mall gets killed by the cops, we don’t whine about a US citizen being denied due process do we?

    Are we at war or not?
    If not, then let’s knock it off with the drones and other military actions.
    If we are, then let the military effect it’s strategy and tactics without judicial micromanagement.
    If we are at war and wish not to be, then Congress can remedy that, too.


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