Is President Obama a Mass Murderer?

In light of the debate regarding the “legality” of the President killing alleged terrorists outside a zone of conflict/battlefield (I’m not interested in debating battlefield, it’s not) - I’m interested in what crimes the President is committing. Let’s assume these killings in Yemen, Abbottabad, ect. are not on battlefields, thus they are unlawful; what laws are being broken? What crimes should he, or anyone involved, be charged with?

Here’s a Notre Dame law professor’s and who the ACLU used as their legal expert in the recent Anwar al-Awlaki lawsuit, take on it (however, she only states it’s unlawful, not what crimes are being committed). CNN Article:

So what’s the crime (if it’s not an armed conflict, it’s not a war crime)? Murder? Conspiracy to Commit Murder? If not, why not? When people say “the killing is unlawful”, what does that mean specifically? How does the fact that the President is doing it change things? Or does it?

I’m not interested in a law of war debate, but rather a criminal law/human rights law violation or justification, if any. If there’s no justification, I don’t see how this isn’t murder, but I’m willing to be corrected.

I’m not a lawyer, and it’s been a while since I was in the armed forces, but I believe that any person acting in a treasonous manner is by definition an enemy combatant and free game.

You can’t separate the two.

The legal definition of war assumes that you have uniformed soldiers who line up on opposite sides of a field, and proceed to duke it out. Non-uniformed people who simply go and kill random innocents, or who conspire to do so are effectively just murderers, not soldiers. But this isn’t because they aren’t an armed force, waging a war, it’s because their modus operandi doesn’t match what was written when people went about codifying the legalities of warfare. They’re avoiding the battlefield, they’re avoiding presenting themselves as lawful soldiers, and they’re avoiding their enemy, despite the rules for how one goes about warmaking.

Overall, any question of what is or isn’t right is in a sort of limbo because there isn’t really any universal precedent. Countries like the UK, where terrorism has been a hobby for teens for the last century, not to mention the IRA, might have some sort of special legal basis for terrorists and how to deal with them, but the international world and the US don’t really. We’re just making it up as we go. Any mildly related law which can be applied can be met, by the Federal government, with the argument that they have their job to do and due to the way that terrorists operate, there simply isn’t any feasible way to do otherwise.

In general, the Supreme Court allows such a reasoning to pass – that if the government is duty bound to do something, and there’s only one way to do it, then other considerations go away. As example, I’m entitled to live my own life as I wish. But the government is required to protect the land, so if they need soldiers, they can pull me in and make me a soldier because protecting the land takes precedence over my right to choose my life.

Whether the World Court would follow the same line of reasoning, I can’t say.

In either case, you could make the argument that killing the enemy isn’t necessary. They could just arrest them. But then, you could make that argument for any war. But certainly you can make the argument that when it comes to terrorism, where exactly are you supposed to consider to be “the battlefield”? If the NSA was planning to hack into Russia’s computers and tell all their nukes to self destruct, Russia would consider itself to have full right to bomb the hell out of the NSA campus, despite that the NSA building is probably just a few buildings full of cubicles and computers – no different from Microsoft or Amazon – and despite that none of the workers are dressed in military uniforms. Modern warfare, where you bomb factories and use computer viruses, invalidates the whole idea of a battlefield. The new definition is that anything which can be called a war target is its own battlefield.


Here’s another excerpt from the OP link from the ND law Professor article:

So, if this killing was outside the zone of conflict (armed conflict), human rights law/criminal law prevail. I agree with that.

From wiki:

There is no crime. It is just that simple.

The article linked to is not a reasonable interpretation of the law, it is a description of someone’s political philosophy. Her entire catalog of writing is predicated on the notion that it is preferable to pursue terrorists though law enforcement because such mechanisms better protect human dignity.

While that may or may not be true – that’s a value judgment that is beyond the scope of the OP – that’s not what the law is. That’s what the author wants it to be.

The idea that the AUMF did not authorize what the plain text of it authorizes (to attack Al Qaeda and its supports anywhere to prevent future acts of international terrorism) is a proposition based on shouldas, couldas, and wannas. The law says what it means and it means what it says: the President is authorized to attack enemies, and that makes it all constitutionally legal. It follows, of course, that if the President does something that is constitutional, congressionally authorized, and carried out within the scope of those authorities, it cannot be illegal.

Mightn’t such be considered as franc-tireurs? People involved in the conflict who are not in uniform for the purposes of deceit? Those designated as such are subject to summary execution when captured and are not accorded POW status in general.

And certainly the Command and Control personnel of an enemy are subject to killing under the laws of war.

Look, there may be a case for treating terrorists, and those who organize them, as criminals and punishing them through the criminal justice system. But current policy and international law allows for their execution.

Only congress can declare war. That is why these military excursions are not wars. The rules of war, assuming there are such things, do not apply.
Obama declared an American citizen guilty ,without a trial. without presenting evidence. I don’t see how he can justify it. Of course there are political reasons. Being tough on terrorism helps election chances.

Are you people all nuts? We don’t go to check if the guys shooting at us might be US citizens before we shoot back. This guy is actively involved in attacks on the US. On the battlefield you don’t just shoot the guys pulling the trigger, you shoot the guy handing him the ammunition too. Whether or not he’s wearing a uniform is irrelevant. Otherwise the country could be taken over by a non-uniformed army since we would have no way to determine if the attackers were US citizens or not before they killed us.

Uhm, in this case we did. And he wasn’t shooting at us.

I would LOVE to see the cite from the Geneva Conventions that supports that statement.

As for the OP, Obama clearly was acting under the rule of law, per the 2001 AUMF. The question is whether the AUMF violates the constitution in cases like this where citizens are deprived of due process. We’ve got a thread discussing this in the Pit.

What about the spouses or neighbors of enemy combatants? The line gets blurrier the father away it gets from a war zone and we never really declare war anymore. Are we at war with Afghanistan since they held elections? Are we doing their bidding or are they allowing us to engage our enemies as we see fit? Did we have permission in Pakistan to kill OBL? What about Yemen and it’s current civil war?

We’ve always turned a blind eye to 3rd world ventures going back to the earliest years of the United States. From the shores of Tripoli to Theodore Roosevelt’s big-stick policy and the creation of nation for no other reason than to dig a ditch (albeit a rather large one).

If you declare war on your own country are you still a citizen? Seems to me you forfeited something in the process. Not sure I want a Predator raining hell down on my neighborhood if OBL is living next door or some other countries version of OBL. Seems kinda rude.

What ever happened to good ole assassinations without collateral damage? We send ninja’s in and the bad guy looses his subscription to National Geographic.

Whether or not he is a citizen, and whether or not we know is irrelevant. And you know I didn’t mean ‘shooting’ literally.

Actually, I didn’t. Mainly because your argument falls apart if he’s not shooting at us. It does matter very much if he’s a citizen or not, if he’s not literally shooting at us. Even Obama acknowledges that. This particular guy got special treatment, and not every US citizen out there, even if they are engaged in potentially dangerous, is eligible for this “special treatment”.

Yeah – all he was doing was taking a nice, leisurely drive with Al Qaeda’s chief bomb maker, maybe cruising the neighborhood looking for a new hideout, and then BLAMMO!

I mean, it’s like it isn’t even safe to hang around with terrorist explosives experts anymore.

This guy was a US citizen actively involved in recruiting and encouraging actual attacks on the US and was in direct contact with the people who ‘pulled the trigger’ in actual attacks. And that’s just the minimal public information available. Name another case like that where we didn’t attempt to kill the guy.

Are you disputing that we knew, in advance, that he was a US citizen or that he wasn’t, in fact, shooting at us? Both matter, and even Obama acknowledges that.

No one is going to dispute our right to kill him if he is engaged in a firefight with us.

He was engaged in a firefight with us.

If an American Al Qaeda agent and a foreign Al Qaeda agent are in a car in Yemen, are you suggesting that the US cannot attack the car until a court judges the evidence against the American?

Shoot, Al Qaeda operatives are suddenly going to have a lot of American friends.

No, he wasn’t.

I am suggesting that some level of due process is in order, if we are killing him when he is not actively engaged in a firefight with us. We’ve been planning the al-Awlaki killing for years. This is not some wartime decision that had to be made in the heat of battle.