America’s killing fields – Part 2
Jack Cranston
Sovereign X

America’s killing fields – Part 2

Key Points

  • A 2021 Atlantic exposé shows the U.S. maintains a kill list of people it condemns to die in secret and by drones, including U.S. citizens never charged, tried, or convicted.
  • NBC News published a confidential U.S. Department of Justice memo detailing the drone protocol, stating that there was no requirement to have “clear evidence.”
  • Sovereign X believes the military industrial complex continues to grow in its influence of public policy, and it’s literally killing our hard-earned freedoms.

Jack Cranston, writing from New York __________________________________________________________________________________________

Editor’s Note: According to an exposé in The Atlantic earlier this year, the U.S. government “maintains a kill list of people whom it condemns to die in secret and kills with drones.” Yet drone killings, which include American citizens, mete out death to individuals who have never been charged, tried, or convicted. Sound familiar? This is part 2 of a three-part series from Jack Cranston’s archives which illuminated this practice in 2012.


Unfortunately, the United States’ actions have only escalated during the past decade. These killings began under President George W. Bush, exploded under President Barack Obama, and accelerated under President Trump. According to Rolling Stone, reports estimate that Trump upped the pace of drone attacks by about four to five times the Obama rate, which itself was 10 times the rate of Bush. In a stunning development, NBC News published details of a confidential U.S. Department of Justice memo detailing the protocol for dispatching drones to kill U.S. citizens. Beyond its revolting subject matter, the memo is frightening because the justification is so broad for targeting an American to be killed by a drone attack.  The memo presents the case that only one of two conditions must be met:  1) the target must be a “senior operational leader” of Al-Qa’ida or 2) an “associated force.”We can leave it up to the CIA or military intelligence to classify someone as a “senior operational leader,” but what exactly is an “associated force?” According to the memo, anyone who “present[s] an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States” qualifies for “a lawful killing in self-defense.” The assassination order “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” No requirement to have “clear evidence?” The Obama administration promotes the position that an American citizen can be assassinated if they were “recently” involved in threatening “activities.” What’s recent?  What’s the definition of threatening? What specific “interests” justify killing?” The definition of “associated force” is so broad that I could drive a super tanker through it. In the past, administration representatives such as John Brennan (White House Counterterrorism Adviser, current Director of the CIA, and progenitor of the drone assassination program) and Attorney General Eric Holder have misleadingly claimed that targeted killings are “consistent with the inherent right of (national) self-defense,” and can be justified when the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.” But the leaked memo, which goes by the ungainly title of “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force,” includes much broader definitions of self-defense and imminence. For example, the memo refers to a “broader concept of imminence” than any actual intelligence about a specific ongoing plot against the U.S. No need for “specific” or “actual” intelligence?  I’m beginning to doubt the intelligence of the people who dreamed-up this nightmare.  And Brennan has stated that the U.S. uses “a flexible understanding of ‘imminence’.”  Supertanker anyone? The memo goes on to state that a drone strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.”  But here’s the rub: we’re not in a state of war.  Only the U.S. Congress can issue a formal declaration of war.  It’s a common misconception that the U.S. is engaged in a formal war on terrorism.  That’s just a catchphrase first used by President Bush after the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. is not even conducting a Congressionally approved “military engagement.”  The last one of those was “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” informally referred to as the Iraq War. And the U.S. is not even participating in a military engagement authorized by the United Nations Security Council.  The only one of those in the post-9/11 world is the 2011 military intervention in Libya. The Obama administration refers to its actions by the sanitized title of “Overseas Contingency Operation.”  It claims that the authority for its extra-judicial killings of American citizens is a law known as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), now more than 11-years old.  The law was intended to authorize the President to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against anyone connected to the 9/11 attacks.  But it is now being used to cover the administration’s activities in what the White House press secretary has called a “new phase” of conflict with Al-Qa’ida. Obama, and Bush before him, claims the law as the legal basis of authority to kill “associated forces.”  But the original Congressional authorization was directed at those who planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks, or those who aided them, not any and all terrorists ad infinitum. And it’s not a formal declaration of war or a Congressionally-approved “military engagement.”  Once again, we have definitions wide enough for a supertanker.  Are all suspected terrorists and “associated forces” connected to Al-Qa’ida? And exactly what is “necessary and appropriate force?”  Does that mean war? The administration is hiding behind “war principles” to justify unconstitutional killing orders of Americans on American soil rather than have them classified as illegal assassinations.  Based on a series of executive orders, assassinations by the U.S. Government have been prohibited since the 1970s.  But the Obama administration claims that the prohibition doesn’t apply during wartime, even though war has not been formally declared. The circular logic makes me dizzy. In summary, you, as a U.S. citizen, could be targeted for assassination if you are considered to be an “associated force.”  No due process is involved.  The order to assassinate you does not require clear evidence.  It requires only that an administration official deems you to be an “imminent” threat, with the test of imminence being a “broader concept” or a “flexible understanding of imminence” rather than any actual intelligence regarding a specific plot against a vague concept of “interests.” And the administration claims that its unconstitutional killings are justified because of “wartime” conditions.  However, despite the fact that we are not formally at war, we are in a virtual and perpetual war that apparently will never end.  A war that works to the benefit of the administration so that it can expand its power owing to “emergency” conditions.  Thus, the exception to the assassination prohibition is permanently temporary. Get it? Remember when America was referred to as “the land of the free?” 




Jack Cranston is a partner of Sovereign X and resides in San Miguel de Allende.

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