The Department of Justice memo released by NBC News on Monday, which asserts the right of U.S. officials to kill American citizens without due process, “equates government accusations with guilt,” writes former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian.

“The core distortion of the War on Terror under both Bush and Obama is the Orwellian practice of equating government accusations of terrorism with proof of guilt,” Greenwald says. “One constantly hears US government defenders referring to ‘terrorists’ when what they actually mean is: those accused by the government of terrorism. This entire memo is grounded in this deceit.”

As is suggested by the memo’s wordy title, “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida or An Associated Force,” the Obama administration and its lawyers are attempting to convince the public that any American citizen it targets and kills should be assumed to have been a terrorist leader. This is a “deceit,” Greenwald says.

“[W]hen this memo refers to ‘a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qaida’, what it actually means is this: someone whom the President — in total secrecy and with no due process — has accused of being that. Indeed, the memo itself makes this clear, as it baldly states that presidential assassinations are justified when ‘an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the US.’

“This is the crucial point,” Greenwald continues. “The memo isn’t justifying the due-process-free execution of senior al-Qaida leaders who pose an imminent threat to the US. It is justifying the due-process-free execution of people secretly accused by the president and his underlings, with no due process, of being that. The distinction between (a) government accusations and (b) proof of guilt is central to every free society, by definition, yet this memo — and those who defend Obama’s assassination power — willfully ignore it.”

Read more of Greenwald’s criticism of the memo — reliance “on the core Bush/Cheney theory of a global battlefield,” “[e]xpanding the concept of ‘imminence’ beyond recognition,” and “converting Obama underlings into objective courts” — here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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