Since September 2011, four Americans have been killed by U.S. government-sanctioned unmanned drone attacks without due process under the direction of the Obama administration, according to the New York Times. While this subject has been slightly muted in the media of late, it has risen to relevance again as of earlier this month when the Associated Press reported that the Obama administration had begun a debate over whether or not to put an unnamed U.S. citizen living in Pakistan onto a kill list to be executed by drones without a trial.
It is worth noting that the New York Times also provided the detail that Pakistan does not allow open U.S. military action on their soil. While there has been information provided on what this individual’s crimes were—only that the person “contributed in attacks on Americans”—this discussion of putting the unnamed U.S. citizen on a kill list raises many moral and political discussion points.
I will first detail the Obama administration’s policies and actions regarding drone strikes on U.S. citizens. I will then highlight the ways in which some believe that these strikes violate the constitutional fifth amendment, right to due process, and other issues that have been voiced regarding these issues.
Unmanned drone strikes were originally a more secretive military tactic carried out by the CIA, and all four of the American citizens killed by drones were dealt with in this manner. In May of 2013, President Obama delivered a speech covered by all major news providers during which he announced his administration’s intent to make drone strikes less secretive and move the operations from the CIA to the Pentagon in order to keep the American public in the know regarding these legally delicate and morally stirring operations.
In a statement from the Associated Press, who were the first to report on the ongoing debate, the decision of whether or not to kill the unnamed U.S. citizen was a subject of contention within the government since mid-last year, and while one might say that bureaucracy always moves slowly, the amount of time that this discussion has been going on behind closed doors indicates the severity of the precedent that will be set by this decision. I would argue that it will send a significant message not only to American citizens but to the entire international community.
The biggest issue of the entire debacle is the decision that has already been made that United States citizens can be killed without due process. While these drone strikes on U.S. citizens have only been reported taking place overseas thus far, there is no limit or regulation that outright states that this type of drone attack would be prohibited on U.S. soil.
I talked to a few more politically inclined students about the issue and their responses were very intriguing. Sophomore Carlos Amaya had this to say: “I don’t see how Obama’s administration is allowed to outright kill American citizens. Due process is a constitutional right, and this is a very scary situation for our country to be in. This is some Big Brother type [sic].”
History major Jackson Muse voiced similar concerns, adding, “I can see why they would choose to use the drone to strike in Pakistan as they can’t send in soldiers to arrest this person. At the same time, where does it end? I feel as though this could turn into one of those situations where you give someone an inch and they take a mile.”
Personally, I share the fears of these two Shepherd students. It is truly a troubling time for constitutional rights. If I were you, I would follow the developments in this debate as it could seriously affect the future of the freedoms you enjoy without a second thought every day.