The Liberty Professor’s Startling Prediction

Just three days ago I posted my article about our national government’s war upon its own citizens–as long as those citizens are overseas and are judged to be a threat to national security. To see that article, click HERE.

If you’ve read it, you know that the piece was a critical review of a “white paper” presented by the Department of Justice as a defense of the federal government’s hunting and killing of American citizens overseas.  No indictment, no jury, no judge and no court are needed for such targeting.  As long as citizens are judged a threat by “informed, high-level” officials of the government, and as long as they are overseas and killed in a way that conforms to the international law of war, their constitutionally-guaranteed rights are null and void.

Not only can such citizens be terminated, they can be terminated in top-secret maneuvers that presumably may never be known to the public. In other words, their very own government can make them “disappear.” Though accomplished by highly technical methods, such actions are agonizingly similar to the government terrorism perpetrated over and over in unjust regimes like El Salvador in the 1980s. For critics of that government who suddenly vanished, the terrorized Salvadoran populace had a name: they were the desaparecidos, “the ones who disappeared.”  Wikipedia refers to the cruel phenomenon as “forced disappearance.”

Admittedly, I’ve taken some heat for my article. Some have read it as an ill-conceived defense of terrorists, which it certainly was not intended to be. The point is not and must not be about the accusations made against a particular person, no matter how heinous those accusations may be. The point is that our government, when dealing with its citizens, is constitutionally constrained in how it may respond. These constraints apply no matter how evil a citizen may be.

But more to the point, they apply because an accusation remains an accusation until it is proved in a court of law. The legal maxim is “innocent until proven guilty.” Remember that notion? It applies always and everywhere, not just when it’s convenient. Not just when the accusations are of a certain type. Not just when a citizen is in the United States.

One might argue, I believe justifiably, that the more atrocious a government accusation is against a citizen, the more carefully constitutional constraints must be followed.

If we fail to insist upon this then we all lose. Every one of us loses. The moment any government is allowed to hunt its own citizens lethally without free, fair, and independent courts acting as referees and comptrollers, that government is tyrannical and out of control. It can do anything it wishes against damned near anyone.

Most frightening of all: such a government’s murderous activity is predicated on nothing more than an accusation. An accusation is not the same as guilt.

At the end of my article on the matter (posted February 8th), I raised this disconcerting question: “If we combine these preparations for ‘our safety’ with the government’s insistence that it can kill us overseas for the nation’s survival, how long will it be before that same government decides it can kill us at home without due process–if it’s best for the country?”

We may already be tumbling toward that reality. Credible news reports are now emerging that “fugitive Christopher Dorner … has become the first known human target for airborne drones on US soil.” Dorner is accused of murder and may be headed for Mexico. In an ironic twist it appears that some in government think the border should be porous only for those trying to enter the US, not leave it.

Let me be clear about three urgent points.

First, I am not a supporter of violence. I do not condone any revenge killing perpetrated by Dorner. If he is a murderer then he is obviously dangerous and must be brought to justice. As a former member of the Navy, Dorner is reported to be an excellent marksman and he may even be able to fly a plane. Such skills would make a murderer even more lethal than usual. My point in this post is not to declare him innocent or to join with those who support him, such as the authors of certain Facebook pages seem to be doing.

Second, I am not necessarily against the use of an automated drone to locate and apprehend a dangerous fugitive any more than a piloted helicopter as currently used for legitimate law enforcement. My concern centers on a federal government that has constitutionally justified itself that in some cases a citizen can be assassinated (usually by drone) if considered a sufficient threat.

Finally, I am not predicting that this accused fugitive will be targeted unjustly. Nor am I proposing that plans for that are in the works. I’m simply suggesting one thing, and one thing only. Let me make it as clear as crystal. Once a government justifies the lethal targeting of any citizen without due process, how long will it be before it does it again … and again … and again? Are we close to that? I don’t know. But I’m nervous about it. We may be moving that direction.

On the other hand, as far as I know, drones in the US are not armed. At least not yet.

4 comments on “The Liberty Professor’s Startling Prediction

  1. Brown10210 says:

    i agree with you completely, i have heard many people say these people deserved to die, because they were terrorist. These people seem to miss the fact that they were American Citizens and despite their crime, should be tried as Americans in a court of law, not shot down based on assumptions.

  2. Keith Wagner says:

    I agree completely, Dr, Switzer. Your piece is brilliant and is a must read for the Obama Administration and Congress as they wade through the issue. Thank you.

  3. Matt Moore says:

    One thing that I think needs to be stressed about your previous blogpost: Even if you trust President Obama with a “kill list” how do we know his successor(s) will be as benevolent? How can we trust this power to future presidents?

    It’s not so much that you’re defending bad guys, but how do we know that one day any one of us could be labeled a “bad guy”?

  4. Tim says:

    “On the other hand, as far as I know, drones in the US are not armed. At least not yet.” Well, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? You don’t know, and won’t ever know. And since the legal precedent has been established (in their minds at least), it’s just a matter of time, really.

    Someone, somewhere, will be deemed a big enough threat – perhaps someone who might run for the Presidency in 4 years is deemed likely to win, and thus a big enough threat (per the existing Administration), that they wind up having medical problems and die of an early heart-attack. Nothing says drones are required.

    And if it’s legally justifiable to kill them, it’s certainly legal to spy on them and use whatever information you can against them (with the argument that you’re neutralizing their threat, so you don’t have to kill them).

    Sounds like the logic used in most Dictatorships – what was the name of the guy poisoned by a pellet shot from an umbrella over in Europe, by the Soviets (or was it Bulgarians)?

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