President Bush at a recent White House press briefing
In the latest twist in the debate over presidential powers, a Justice
Department official suggested that in certain circumstances, the president might
have the power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the United
States. Steven Bradbury, acting head of the department's Office of
Legal Counsel, went to a closed-door Senate intelligence committee meeting last
week to defend President George W. Bush's surveillance program. During the briefing,
said administration and Capitol Hill officials (who declined to be identified
because the session was private), California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein
asked Bradbury questions about the extent of presidential powers to fight Al
Qaeda; could Bush, for instance, order the killing of a Qaeda suspect known
to be on U.S. soil? Bradbury replied that he believed Bush could indeed.
Current and former government officials said they could think of several
scenarios in which a president might consider ordering the killing of a terror
suspect inside the United States. One former official noted that before
Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, top administration officials weighed shooting
down the aircraft if it got too close to Washington, D.C. What if the president
had strong evidence that a Qaeda suspect was holed up with a dirty bomb and
was about to attack? University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein says
the post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force
against Al Qaeda empowered the president to kill 9/11 perpetrators, or people
who assisted their plot, whether they were overseas or inside the United States.
On the other hand, Sunstein says, the president would be on less solid legal
ground were he to order the killing of a terror suspect in the United States
who was not actively preparing an attack.
A Justice Department official, who asked not to be ID'd because of the sensitive
subject, said Bradbury's remarks were made during an "academic discussion"
of theoretical contingencies. In real life, the official said, the highest priority
of those hunting a terrorist on U.S. soil would be to capture that person alive
and interrogate him. At a public intel-committee hearing, Feinstein was told
by intel czar John Negroponte and FBI chief Robert Mueller that they were unaware
of any case in which a U.S. agency was authorized to kill a Qaeda-linked person
on U.S. soil. Tasia Scolinos, a Justice Department spokeswoman, told NEWSWEEK:
"Mr. Bradbury's meeting was an informal, off-the-record briefing about
the legal analysis behind the president's terrorist-surveillance program. He
was not presenting the legal views of the Justice Department on hypothetical
scenarios outside of the terrorist-surveillance program."
Go to Original Article >>>
The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Looking Glass News. Click the disclaimer link below for more information.