President Barack Obama's policy on targeting terrorist-affiliated American citizens for death is vague and ineffective, says John Yoo, who served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush.
A Justice Department white paper says the military can kill a citizen who is "continually planning attacks" for al-Qaida when an "informed, high-ranking" official decides that the target "poses an imminent threat" and capture is "infeasible," according to NBC News.
"We get the drift: Americans may have constitutional rights, but the realities of war and the right to national self-defense trump individual rights when the executive branch is picking targets," Yoo writes in The Wall Street Journal
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It's not that Yoo objects to going after the bad guys. "But instead of relying on the traditional authority to kill the enemy, the leaked memo reveals how a legal fog threatens to envelop U.S. soldiers and agents on the front lines," states Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
"The administration has replaced the clarity of the rules of war with the vague legal balancing tests that govern policemen on the beat."
The memo doesn't provide for a judicial review of strikes, Yoo notes. "All we have are scarcely believable accounts that Mr. Obama selects targets from CIA lists with the guidance of St. Thomas Aquinas's writings on what constitutes a just war."
Instead of capturing terrorists and thereby gaining valuable intelligence on al-Qaida, Obama has focused on drone attacks, Yoo writes. "He has thereby been able to dodge difficult questions over detention. But those deaths from the sky violate personal liberty far more than the waterboarding of three al-Qaida leaders ever did."
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