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Wednesday, October 05, 2011


A while ago I had a post about a movie, The Conspirator, which was about the trial of Mary Surratt, one of the people thought to have conspired to kill Abraham Lincoln. As one can imagine, there was a lot of public feeling against her for having killed such an important and beloved figure, but she still got a lawyer and a trial.

Maybe things were very different then than they are now, but I was thinking of the movie when I read a post at In All Things - Who Will Be Next? - and when I read constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald's post - The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality. Here's a bit of Glenn's post ....

[...] After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.) .... What’s most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What’s most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government’s new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President’s ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki — including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry’s execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists: criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed ....

UPDATE: What amazes me most whenever I write about this topic is recalling how terribly upset so many Democrats pretended to be when Bush claimed the power merely to detain or even just eavesdrop on American citizens without due process. Remember all that? Yet now, here’s Obama claiming the power not to detain or eavesdrop on citizens without due process, but to kill them; marvel at how the hardest-core White House loyalists now celebrate this and uncritically accept the same justifying rationale used by Bush/Cheney (this is war! the President says he was a Terrorist!) without even a moment of acknowledgment of the profound inconsistency or the deeply troubling implications of having a President — even Barack Obama — vested with the power to target U.S. citizens for murder with no due process .......

It's pretty depressing to think the government was more concerned with due process protections at the time of Lincoln's death than it is now. I don't really know much about the constitution or law or politics, but it seems to me that we can't decide something's right and then make exceptions to it when it's expedient to do so without becoming morally bankrupt.


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