Eluding Justice

Article excerpt

In March, Attorney General Eric Holder went to the law school at Northwestern to try to defend one of the worst policies of the Obama Administration: assassinating U.S. citizens.

First, he tried to define away the problem. "Some have called such operations 'assassinations.' They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced," said Holder. "Assassinations are unlawful killings." But the ones the Obama Administration has carried out and might carry out in the future are lawful, he said. Therefore, they can't be called assassinations. This isn't logic; this is tautology.

His case hinged on the claim that the targeted individual "poses an imminent threat." But then he went to some lengths to deny that the threat had to be imminent. "The evaluation of whether an individual presents an 'imminent threat' incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading offfuture disastrous attacks against the United States," he said.

Of course, the "window of opportunity to act" has nothing to do with how imminent the threat actually is--just whether the U.S. military or the CIA has a good shot at the person. The other two criteria he spelled out don't really deal with imminence, either, but with the potential severity of future attacks. Holder concluded his slippery reasoning this way: "The Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning--when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear."

So, actually, forget about imminence. The noise you heard after Holder read that last line was the hinge falling off his case. …