“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
So said Richard Nixon in his interviews with David Frost. Nixon was talking about wiretaps and surreptitious entries to protect lives and safeguard national security in a violent and anarchic war decade.
The Nixon haters pronounced themselves morally sickened.
Fast forward to our new century. For, since 9/11, we have heard rather more extravagant claims by American presidents.
Under George W. Bush, it was presidential authority to waterboard, torture, rendition and hold enemy aliens in indefinite detention at Guantanamo.
Under Barack Obama, we don’t have a Nixon “enemies list” of folks who are not to be invited to White House dinners. Rather, we have a “kill list” — a menu from which our constitutional law professor president selects individuals to be executed abroad.
Not only in Afghanistan, but Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and who knows where else. And not just foreigners, but Americans, too.
When may Obama order an American killed?
According to a Justice Department “white paper,” any “informed high-level official” can decide a target is a ranking operative of al-Qaida who “poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” and if we cannot apprehend him, order him eradicated with a Hellfire missile.