The unleaked Obama kill-list memos behind the leaked kill-list memo

This is a continuation of the pieces we wrote earlier regarding Barack Obama, his defense of the right of the president to order assassinations of American citizens, his secret kill-list (the list of people he’s planning or trying to kill), and his secret reasons for asserting he has that right.

Did you get all that? Obama thinks the president (or his assigned Executive Branch underlings) can order the deaths of American citizens without trial, and he refuses to tell even the congressional oversight committee why he thinks he has that right.

Recently an administration memo was leaked in which the Executive Branch discussed Obama’s kill-list and its justification. We covered that in detail here:

■ “We aren’t known for torturing people any more. In the Obama era, we’re known for killing them.”

■ Obama’s nonsensical terrorist ‘Kill List’ defense, explained by humorist Matt Filipowicz

Both links provide excellent background, especially the first.

For those who want to follow more closely the Obama kill-list story behind the story — the unreleased kill-list memos behind the single leaked kill-list memo — this piece of video is excellent provides an excellent explanation. It’s from al-Jazeera English and features Marcy Wheeler of — who’s been following along as closely as anyone in the country — along with Joshua Foust, a foreign policy analyst for PBS, and Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights.

The key is that the leaked memo is not the underlying information that the Senate oversight committee was seeking. It’s a white-paper summary of one or more memos issued by the OLC, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Council. The OLC is the Justice Dept’s internal lawyer; it’s the department that the rest of the Exec Branch goes to when they want to know if something they’re about to do — or have already done (!) — is legal.

In the matter of the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, his teen-aged son (yes, a minor), and at least one other American citizen — in separate incidents — the white-paper memo is just the tip of the iceberg, and in fact, may not even represent the main iceberg, the killing of al-Awlaki.

Listen first to the video; it’s remarkable clear and accessible. Then I’ll have a few comments, including a message to progressive activists who are wrestling with this information (click to jump to it). Wheeler’s segment starts at 3:08.

For those who like print, here’s Wheeler writing at Naked Capitalism (my emphasis and paragraphing):

As important as it is to see the white paper DOJ gave Congress to explain its purported legal rationale, it is just as important to make clear what this white paper is not.

First, is it not the actual legal memos used to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki and who knows who else. As Michael Isikoff notes in his story, the Senators whose job it is to oversee the Executive Branch — even the ones on the Senate Intelligence Committee that are supposed to be read into covert operations — are still demanding the memos, for at least the 12th time. The release of this white paper must not serve to take pressure off of the White House to release the actual memos.

Which brings me to an equally important point: memos. Plural. NBC suggests and the close tracking appears to support that this white paper is a version of the OLC memo written in June 2010 and reported on — the last time there was clamor to release the targeting killing authorization publicly — by Charlie Savage.

But as Colleen McMahon strongly hinted last month, that doesn’t mean that this white paper — and the OLC memo which it summarizes — describe the legal basis actually used to kill Anwar al-Awlaki. Indeed, Ron Wyden has been referring to memos, in the plural, for a full year (even before, if Isikoff’s report is correct, this white paper was first provided to the Committees in June 2012). And there is abundant reason to believe that the members of the Senate committees who got this white paper aren’t convinced it describes the rationale the Administration actually used.

There’s more at the link. Do note her discussion of Wyden not being clear about the source of Obama’s claimed authority — Can Obama kill at will because Congress passed the 2001 AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Terrorists), or because this authority is inherent in his Article 2 power?

In other words, as Wheeler points out, the limitations to the Presidential assassination power noted in the white paper may not be the limitations as understood within the Executive Branch — the power to kill may be much looser. Quoting the white paper:

As stated earlier, this paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation against a U.S. citizen lawful in other circumstances.


Are you comforted yet? Do you still have Obama stars in your eyes? This man is aggressively pursuing this power; he’s pursuing it in secret; he’s hiding his authorizing authority from Congress — militarily, he’s George Bush on steroids.

One final thought from me — this isn’t about just drones. It’s also about blowing a man’s head off in the street. It’s about assassination by any means on executive orders only — a kingly power, I remind you. I don’t call him the Prince for nothing.

Message to progressive activists

Those of you who worked so hard to defeat Duke Romney of Bain, congrats. You succeeded. Now you have to wheel your army about and take on the Prince. Because the Prince is taking you on. And he’ll never face another election in his life.

I’m speaking especially to progressive activists. Now is not the time for stars in your eyes. If you take your progressive principles seriously, you can’t go all tribal and star-struck. You can be loyal to the Prince regardless of his deeds, or you can take the Obama 2.0 integrity challenge and fight the army arrayed against you.

The predator class is still the predator class; and Obama still works for them. His choice is, and always was, the Rubinite way — the Friedman free-trade-from-the-left billionaire rape of the economy. Your choice is how you deal with that, now that he has the throne. I know — sucks — but there it is. We are the reality people, right?

[Update: Introduction added for clarity.]


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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22 Responses to “The unleaked Obama kill-list memos behind the leaked kill-list memo”

  1. BeccaM says:

    Thanks dear. And you’re right, the seeds have always been there, and at times we’ve been a horrible nation. The interment of Japanese-Americans comes to mind as one such example, as well as the treatment of Native American peoples.

    But these latest seeds…well, they take nurturing and careful cultivation to grow into the monster Triffids they’ve become.

  2. BeccaM says:

    Both him, and his predecessor in the Oval Office.

    The fact that it hasn’t happened for either of them and won’t happen (plus all the GOP will whinge about is the utter non-scandal of Benghazi) is proof that both the GOP and Dems are complicit.

  3. karmanot says:


  4. tsuki says:

    First, euphemisms begone. Murder is murder. Don’t be afraid of the word.

    Second, Obama needs to be investigated and impeached.

  5. karmanot says:

    ‘just too old’ thing doesn’t wash.’ Indeed, it is claimed that vampires live for centuries. I thing Ratzo looks a lot like Nestrafu.

  6. karmanot says:

    A Pope with a soul would be a good start. I’ve always seen Ratzo as the Cheney of Poplandia.

  7. karmanot says:

    Maybe it’s the money-laundering thing plus a soupçon of Nazi history and a dash of alterboys.

  8. karmanot says:

    Maybe one of his boys has gone broke and is putting on the squeeze.

  9. karmanot says:

    ‘‘I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiriual
    nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with

    prayer and suffering.” Suffering? As if the old bastard hasn’t caused
    enough already. Mr. Dante, get ready that bateau to hell!

  10. karmanot says:

    Stunning! As it now unfolds the disaster will be denied until the suffering is manifest. The elderly and poor will swept out to sea first. “This is what America has become.” The seeds have always been there.

  11. BeccaM says:

    I concur. The ‘just too old’ thing doesn’t wash. For the last six centuries, the usual practice has been simply for the Pope to withdraw more and more from public view, with power devolving to his inner circle of Cardinal deputies. Even if very sick and senile, they didn’t resign — they just stopped being anything but a figurehead.

    Well, I guess we’ll find out in time.

  12. Naja pallida says:

    It’s hard to say what would bring him to this point, the Vatican has always been surrounded by controversy and scandal brewing just under the surface, which they have been superb at suppressing… but I still find it very hard to believe that it’s just because he’s old. Unless maybe he just got diagnosed with something that is going to cause his health to deteriorate very quickly and obviously. Either way, good riddance. All I can do is hope that the next guy isn’t an easily manipulated psycho too. Having a moderately progressive Pope could do huge things for the world.

  13. BeccaM says:

    Could be, but it’s hard to imagine what at this point. Pope Ratzinger was personally involved in the criminal conspiracies to hide child-raping priests, and nothing happened.

    I’d say the one to keep an eye on is this man: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. He’s been Ratzinger’s top deputy and supposedly personally responsible for some of the really bizarre hard-line speeches Ratzinger’s given the last few years, including one in 2006 where the Pope said Islam was inherently violent. Bertone was also said to have prompted the lifting of the excommunication of a Holocaust-denying British bishop. I’d wager anything Bertone’s been involved in the recent speeches calling gay people (and our families) a threat to human civilization.

    Then of course, there been the steady drip-drip of Vati-leaks…

    I dunno though. Maybe it’s the money-laundering thing.

  14. Naja pallida says:

    I don’t buy the excuse they’re giving at all. Popes don’t retire because of health reasons, unless it is incapacitation. As a matter of course, they die in office. Resignation to me means there’s some large scandal that is about to come out, and he feels that it would just be better for him to step into obscurity before the shit hits the fan.

  15. BeccaM says:

    A sitting President was impeached for specious political reasons, and we, the American people, did nothing. Some of us cheered.

    An election was stolen and the next President installed by a blatantly partisan Supreme Court decision, contrary to the wishes of the voters, and we did nothing. Some of us cheered.

    That new President ran like a whipped cur when the worst terrorist attack on American soil happened and accepted none of the blame, and we did nothing. Some of us cheered when he used fire-fighters and rescue workers as political props in his next campaign.

    He then lied us into an unnecessary war in Iraq, which everybody knew he’d been itching to do since the late 1990s, leaving the previous war unfinished, the mastermind behind 9/11 let go. He also took us even further down the dark road started back in 9/11 with the illegal round-ups of innocent Muslim men all over America. His lawyers redefined torture and imprisonment without charges and said they were now legal. And we did nothing. Some of us cheered.

    Another election was stolen by rigged voting machines, with election results deviating widely from the professional non-partisan exit polls — a sign taken to be clear evidence of tampering — and we did nothing. Some of us cheered.

    The next President asserts he has the power to kill anyone, anywhere in the world, American citizen or not, for reasons he need reveal to no one. His administration further asserts that this power can be delegated to an unelected executive branch officer, that the evidence against the assassination target can be flimsy and circumstantial, and that if innocent bystanders are also killed, that’s okay. And we are doing nothing. Some of us are cheering.

    I used to say “This is not America.” I was wrong. This is what America has become.

  16. BeccaM says:

    I saw that and had the same reaction. Supposedly he’s the first Pope to do this in something like 600-plus years.

    Well, y’know, all those decades of being personally involved in covering up the systematic rape of children and adults, plus the latest RCC-sponsored slavery scandal, has to have been like a millstone around one’s neck…

  17. Drew2u says:

    I wonder how it’ll be covered from now on – just reporting what the pope does until a new one is chosen like some gossip-ridden reality show, or investigating the pope, the butler, and the church’s increasingly irrelevant stances on human rights and the cover-ups of church crimes.

    Hell, I’d be all for the “Vatican Secret Library” getting the google/wiki treatment and having all the documents digitally archived for the world to read. But men with dresses rarely let their secrets go.

  18. nicho says:

    The stumbling block is by whom it has been determined. That’s what courts are for. It’s not something for the president to decide between his golf game and his meeting with his overseers on Wall Street.

  19. gratuitous says:

    I wish for a country as described in the Constitution of the United States of America. And summary execution of a citizen because it has been determined that the decedent was really, really bad trust us, isn’t part of that document, old and quaint as it may be.
    The president doesn’t swear an oath to preserve, protect and defend the people of the United States. The president swears an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Without the Constitution, there is no United States.

  20. Drew2u says:

    These powers that Obama merits legitimate use sets the standard for his predecessor – Kill List Marco Rubio or Kill List Paul Ryan, anyone? How about Kill List Jeb Bush?

  21. UncleBucky says:

    Your so-called “Prince” will never face another election. True.

    But the problem is that taking this on and letting go of it (the meme has its own life cycle) could result in an unexpected or unwanted outcome. The “Duke” you write of has pretenders. Not good.

    Be careful what you wish for.

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