On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the legality of the federal government targeting American citizens for assassination by drone.
Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the committee, released the following statement before hearing testimony from a panel of expert witnesses.
On Feb. 4, 2013, a confidential Justice Department white paper outlining the legal justification for targeted killings of U.S. citizens overseas was leaked to NBC News. The leak of this white paper brought renewed attention to an issue largely ignored during President Obama’s tenure — is the targeted killing of alleged American terrorists appropriate and under what circumstances? The white paper also confirms a palpable shift in War on Terror policy by this President.
In 2007, Barack Obama, the then-junior Senator from Illinois laid out his position on the War on Terror.
“To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people…. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.”
The same president who opposes the detention of foreign terrorists, who opposes the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on foreign terrorists, and who attempted to bring foreign terrorists to trial in New York City is now personally approving the killing of Americans. Ironically, the detention facility in Guantanamo remains open and Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators are being tried before a military commission.
Following the release of the white paper, a bipartisan group of Committee members requested the opportunity to review the memos that form the basis for the white paper. Our request was denied. One of President Obama’s first acts as President was to release the Bush Justice Department’s enhanced interrogation techniques memos to the public. But he now refuses to provide his Justice Department’s targeted killing memos not just to the public but even to congressional overseers.
The white paper referred to by Chairman Goodlatte is a 16-page justification released by the Justice Department on the eve of the confirmation hearing for John Brennan, President Obama’s choice to replace David Petraeus as director of the CIA.
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