U.S. Says Americans Are MILITARY Targets in the War on Terror … And Says that Only the White House – and Not the Courts – Gets to Decide Who Is a Legitimate Target

As everyone realizes by now, Congress’ push for indefinite detention includes American citizens on American soil. As Huffington post notes:

The debate also has left many Americans scratching their heads as to whether Congress is actually attempting to authorize the indefinite detention of Americans by the military without charges. But proponents — led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — say that is exactly what the war on terror requires. They argued that the bill simply codifies precedents set by the Supreme Court and removes uncertainty, which they said would better protect the country.

Here is John McCain justifying sending Americans to Guantanamo:

And see this.

(As Emptywheel and Glenn Greenwald note, the White House has believed for many years that it possessed the power to indefinitely detain Americans. See this, this, this, and this.)

But that’s not all.

The government can also kill American citizens. For more than a year and a half, the Obama administration has said it could target American citizens for assassination without any trial or due process.

But now, as shown by the debates surrounding indefinite detention, the government is saying that America itself is a battlefield.

AP notes today:

U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with al-Qaida, top national security lawyers in the Obama administration said Thursday.


The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson … said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.

Johnson said only the executive branch, not the courts, is equipped to make military battlefield targeting decisions about who qualifies as an enemy.

The courts in habeas cases, such as those involving whether a detainee should be released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, make the determination of who can be considered an enemy combatant.

You might assume – in a vacuum – that this might be okay (even though it trashes the Constitution, the separation of military and police actions, and the division between internal and external affairs).

But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food. And see this.

And it is problematic in a period in which FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”, and even former Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – admitst hat he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

And it is counter-productive in an age when the government – instead of doing the things which could actually make us safer – are doing things which increase the risk of terrorism.

And it is insane in a time of perpetual war. See this, this, this and this.

And when the “War on Terror” in the Middle East and North Africa which is being used to justify the attack on Americans was planned long before 9/11.

And when Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser told the Senate in 2007 that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. And 9/11 was entirely foreseeable, but wasn’t stopped.   Indeed, no one in Washington even wants to hear how 9/11 happened, even though that is necessary to stop future terrorist attacks.  And the military has bombed a bunch of oil-rich countries when it could have instead taken out Bin Laden years ago.

As I noted in March:

The government’s indefinite detention policy – stripped of it’s spin – is literally insane, and based on circular reasoning. Stripped of p.r., this is the actual policy:

  • If you are an enemy combatant or a threat to national security, we will detain you indefinitely until the war is over
  • But trust us, we know you are an enemy combatant and a threat to national security

See how that works?

And – given that U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally kill innocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants – it is unlikely that the government would ever admit that an American citizen it assassinated was an innocent civilian who has nothing at all to do with terrorism.

Category: Politics, War/Defense

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

54 Responses to “American Citizens on U.S. Soil May be Indefinitely Detained, Sent to Guantanamo or Assassinated”

  1. it’s, too, funny, that you post this, after “How To Protect Your Online Reputation”..

    GL, w/either/both..

    more Importantly, “Halftime” is, almost, over~

  2. Transor Z says:

    My mind is still blown by the fact that the first mortgage lender to retaliate against Massachusetts for Coakley’s suit against the banks is Ally, which is 70% owned by the US gov’t

    That’s pretty a pretty messed up level of federal involvement.

    But this kind of stuff, coupled as Mark alludes to, with the ability to track folks in real time and remotely key log, voice record and take photos from smartphones… not to mention web tracking. Too scary.

  3. wunsacon says:

    With tens of thousands of hours of preparation to research and build its case, the US executive branch claimed Iraq had WMD. Can you say “epic fail”? If they can get *that* wrong, who-the-hell would trust the executive branch to accurately “identify” suspects? UFB.

  4. rfk says:

    thank you

  5. Jojo says:

    My name is John Rambo – come and get me…

  6. wunsacon says:

    >> With tens of thousands of hours of preparation to research and build its case,

    LOL. What a gross underestimate… Who knows how many staffers at the administration and at various agencies researched “Iraq WMD” over the course of years?

  7. DRoiXVI says:

    I guess the WH will just skip the “innocent until proven” part in their finding of ‘guilty’.

  8. carleric says:

    I asked my senator just what the government is afraid of….the question remains unanswered but I would hazard a guess that the answer is “the people”. Somehow, some way we have to get Graham, Levin McCain and their ilk out of office amd in jail. Its your country folks no matter what the Federal Government tries to tell you and they only serve at our willingness to accept servitude for ourselves.

    I recommend you write your senator althought I will admit that it will probably be thrown in the wastebasket. I know the real solution but dare I express it? I don’t like Guantanamo.

  9. ArtE says:

    The death of the Constitution at hands of politicians and military bureaucrats who all claim to be patriotic is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime. We are really descending into a fear based police state.

    Who would have believed that Alex Jones has been a rational and prescient voice of reason all these years?

  10. SOP says:

    Obama will veto the bill.
    Obama will win the election.
    Obama will pass the bill on the second attempt.

  11. philipat says:

    I thought this only happened in Police States? Um……………………………………………….Yes.

  12. csainvestor says:

    you think this is bad- take a look at SOPA and protect IP nonsense government is trying to impose upon all of us.

    PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

    check out the short video that explains it all- scroll down to the middle of page to see it.


  13. dougc says:

    Lincoln ignored habaes during the civil war and FDR ignored it during WWII. Now the difference is that a “war” is a never ending event, it cannot be won but we are assured we will lose unless we concede to living in a police state.
    It is hard for me to believe that a few terrorist are capable of taking over the US. The “war” also justifies more than doubling the defense department funding in 10 years and will be used to prevent needed reductions and reforms.
    The MIC has what it always wanted “America on a permanent wartime status”, there was a reason our founders didn’t want a standing army. Eisenhower warned us about the MIC and their goals

  14. Sechel says:

    And it’s occurring under the Democratic Obama administration, so the media and the left stay largely silent on it. If this took place under a George W White House the response would have been quite different.

    And this development is very dangerous, and trashes the Constitution along with our personal freedoms.

  15. JerseyCynic says:

    “America itself is a battlefield” – everywhere I go — it’s now copied and pasted on my brain. who coined this phrase?

    COMMAND F that one and see what you find

  16. farmera1 says:

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin 1775

    Always liked that quote. The Patriot Act and such, was largely pushed by those that distrust government, or so they say. But they are perfectly willing to give up freedom for the illusion of security.
    And no, you will never see a bureaucratic organization/government that gives up power once it has been
    obtained. Just isn’t in the cards.

  17. DeDude says:

    In the past 50 years terrorists have killed fewer people than cancer does in a month. How much money did we spend on the war on terror last year, and how much on the war on cancer? Terror is a minor part of a homocide problem that in itself doesn’t even make it to the top 10 of public health issues. Even if we didn’t trash our constitution in the process we have still given way to much attention to this issue (and attention is what the terrorists want, so its like we surrendered).

  18. mathman says:

    The terrorists are the 1%ers who are behind all this. We the sheeple just roll over and bleat but won’t go out in the street to defeat the beast! Occupy was a foretaste of the coming American spring and LONG HOT SUMMER i expect next year. Hopefully we’ll stop this whole sham election crap and start governing ourselves. As Carlin said – electing these rich Koch-suckers who don’t give a F#$% about us – ain’t cuttin’ it any more. No matter which Republican wins (including Obama) we lose.


  19. Neildsmith says:

    Since the politicians are bent on creating a military police state, when will Americans start to realize that the military itself will be as dangerous to our freedoms as Senator Graham, McCain, Lieberman, Levin etc?

    How can we tell our young men and women that a military career is honorable when our senators want to turn it into a tool of oppression?

  20. BusSchDean says:

    After having been in the classroom for many years I learned that fear is a much more powerful motivator than logic. I never thought I would see Levin bend to fear and then codify it as a tool of choice.

    It may be that this codifies recent Supreme Court rulings but, again, this is ass-backward logic. The government asked for permission in seeking these rulings. Its a choice not a law.

  21. mathman says:


    from http://www.correntewire.com/amerika_s_decaying_facade_of_democracy‘Amerika’s Decaying Facade of Democracy’
    Fascism RisingDepartment of What is WRONG with These People?Bill Van AukenColleen RowleyPaul Craig RobertsUS Senatewar on terror
    Sun, 12/04/2011 – 4:13am — libbyliberal
    Land of the free.

    It sounds nice, doesn’t it?

    Just don’t try to exercise said freedom. That can come with serious helpings of intimidation and punishment. Pepper spraying, clubbing, incarceration.

    Actually, thanks to our United States Senate this week — with a stunning bipartisan vote of 93 to 7 — you now can get efficiently and LEGALLY “disappeared” for exercising your HERETOFORE constitutional freedoms. Free speech. Assembly, etc.

    Meanwhile, the REAL terrorists continue to get plenty of mileage out of the faux-War on Terror. It comes in handy for removing the rights and securities of any citizenry, even ours.

    from http://jonathanturley.org/2011/12/02/42285/
    What is fascinating is the Senators insisted on passing the provision despite the fact that the Directors of the FBI and CIA, the secretary of defense, and the director of national intelligence have all opposed it on national security and legal grounds. Nevertheless, people like McCaskill who are running for reelection want to prove that they are tough on terrorism by stripping citizens to the right to basic due process rights. The fact that the Democratic and Republican Senators took this step without even holding a hearing is a testament to the state of civil liberties in the United States.

    It is unclear whether the President will have the integrity and courage to carry through on this pledge to veto this pernicious bill. For civil libertarians, we have reached our Alamo moment where the most basic principles of the rule of law are at stake. The Congress has long been indifferent if not hostile to civil liberties, but as discussed in an earlier column (and here), civil liberties has reached one of the lowest ebbs in both politics and policy in this country’s history. Such measures are now met with a gigantic and collective shrug from an indifferent populace.

    The national debate has become positively otherworldly for civil libertarians. As the Senate set about rolling back civil liberties, Administration lawyers — CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson — publicly explained to an audience this week that the decision whether to kill a U.S. citizens anywhere and anytime must be left solely to the discretion of the military and intelligence branches. President Obama has supported this view and claims the right to kill any citizen on his unilateral and unchecked executive authority. I discussed this horrific policy in a prior column (and here).

    How did we come to this place? Well, it took the joint efforts of both parties and a country that has been lured into a dangerous passivity by years of war rhetoric. We now appear to define ourselves by our lifestyle rather than our rights. Being American appears to be treated as conclusory and self-evident — untethered to our defining principles. So in comes to this. The loss of the most basic right of citizens met not by applause but, even worse, a collective yawn.

  22. philipat says:


    So long as “Cheesy Twirls” are still availbale in WalMart at low prices against a maxed out credit card, all is well.

    God bless America?

  23. Winston Munn says:

    This is what happens when the rule of law is abandoned.

  24. BusSchDean says:

    A relative told me she fears the increasing appearance of fluoride in various products is an intentional effort to dumb down the population. I told her that you don’t need fluoride. Why do so many people know the last five winners of Dancing with the Stars but not the name of their city council member (or school board, or state and federal representatives and senators)? Democracy does not work well for people who simply want to be taken care of. Our Founding Fathers didn’t have this problem.

  25. N says:

    Is there any doubt now who won the war on terror? Osama changed us forever. We are scared and we give up our liberties. Isn’t this what the terrorists want to accomplish? Well, they did it.

  26. rktbrkr says:

    I guess after being in a series of unconstitutional undeclared wars for the past 60 years it was easy to slip into a state of undeclared martial law for an undefined and undeclared “war against terror”.

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    new World Order Preamble:

    Those of us with nothing to hide submit to the Government’s need to maintain domestic and foreign order. Those who do not submit to the Government’s need to monitor our thoughts, words and deeds in real time will be considered enemies in the Long War Against Terror. We recognize the Government’s need to do whatever is necessary to keep us SAFE from all enemies both real and imagined and recognize that that concepts of individual Liberty and Justice are suspended until the Government determines we are SAFE.

  27. BusSchDean says:

    N — to put that on any one person would be way too simple. This didn’t happen over night or over the past few years. It also didn’t happen because of the efforts of one political party or another.

  28. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Once again, George Orwell is demonstrated to have been the most prescient social commentator of the 20th century. While Animal Farm may have been an allegory of Stalinism, the plot and cast of characters seem to be tracking our current situation quite closely. The pigs have taken over and the other animals either benefit from it, are silenced, or are too weak, stupid, or apathetic to do anything about it.

  29. Raleighwood says:

    I think the whole damn Nation is suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

  30. janchup says:

    Are we supposed to line up before we are shot?

  31. janchup says:

    Osama bin Laden is getting everything he ever wanted. He knew our latent psychosis way better than we did.

  32. AtlasRocked says:

    I give Obama credit for claiming he’ll veto it, but I’m hoping many Democrats finally realize their party is not the party of civil liberties. Neither of the big parties is such.

    Ron Paul is the only candidate that has a great history of individual civil rights.

  33. wunsacon says:

    “In Soviet America, Google searches you!”

    (Could’ve left this comment on the prior thread. But, it looks germane here, too.)

  34. Finster says:

    Obsta principiis!

    A Republic is a state in which laws rule and not people.

    Fear is a bad advisor, for citizens and investors all the same. Americans have permitted themselves to be taken hostage by their fear of terrorism and war, despite being the mightiest nation on earth. Their rulers and politicians have used that fear to take away substantial freedoms, which are inalianable and granted by the constitution.

  35. scapescu says:

    there is a politician there, named Ron Paul who’s been talking about all these problems for such a long time; he was and he is considered just a crazy and insignificant lunatic; by both, conservatives and liberals.

  36. rd says:

    It is a sad day when the United States is clearly trying to go down the path of Orwell’s 1984 “War is Peace” approach with official “Thought Police” able to lock you up indefnitely.

    The irony here is that we may be relying on the “Original Intenters” on the Supreme Court that the GOP have been insisting on to turn this type of legislation into the toilet paper it deserves to be. I single out this group of justices as some of the most unambiguous language ever written into constitutions or laws are the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. I believe that the original intent of the Founding Fathers and the future amenders were very clear in making these very broad protections that over-ride the potential for mental midgets in Congress.

  37. eliz says:

    Obviously, TPTB are frightened of “the small people.”

    This is what you get in a system that has virtually no restraints on the influence of the elected and governments in general, and a system where money determines who is a viable candidate for election, and in a system that is a winner-take-all rather that proportional representation.

    It is going to be a long, hard, cold decade.

    I expect I’ll be a political prisoner someday. Maybe they can assassinate me instead; that would be better.

  38. carleric says:

    When those Congressional f**ks give this power to the government, remember this quote from a German pastor during the Nazi regime:

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

  39. joshuafwhalen says:

    So, because I buy brown rice in bulk I’m a terrorist now? Geeeez, what next? Are they going to predator drone my house I have an #OWS blog?

  40. wally says:

    If that’s the America that John McCain fought for, he wasted his time.

  41. Sechel says:

    Ironic, that the candidate who is the biggest supporter of individual rights here is the guy labeled crazy by the media…Ron Paul

  42. Transor Z says:

    I hope the NRA seems a lot less crazy to some folks today.

  43. Jim Hancock says:

    Senate Oath of Office

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

    Could there be any greater irony? Is it possible to impeach 93 Senators??

  44. SOP says:

    Hey, my senators voted for this bill.


    2012, the Year to Take Out the Trash…

    (geez, I wonder why obama wanted the troops home by Xmass… Pigman, Pigman, ha-ha charade you are)

  45. willid3 says:

    wonder just how long such a law would stand. all it takes is one court case in the supreme court to know it down. of course that depends on the supremes actually doing what they are supposed to do.

  46. AtlasRocked says:

    Now the tough pill to swallow – If we re-adopt an individual rights mentality to prevent such egregious rights violations as this law allows, we’ll have to do away with the mentality that one citizen owes another a retirement paycheck and medical care.

    This bill and the federal welfare state are all based on a single idea: One citizen must sacrifice their rights, property and earning for the good of the whole.

    The entire concept behind the Great Document was to prevent this mentality from setting in.

    Don’t just elect Ron Paul, elect an entire House of representatives with a Federalist attitude. We have to either choose to be a nation of Constitutional laws and individual rights, which will constraint the elders’ plunder of the young, or we can be a nation of from-according-to-means, to-according-to-need, fiscal calamity, and limited liberties. There is no middle ground.

  47. yon’ QOTD..

    “Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you.”
    -Alex Haley

    additional, applicable(?), Quotage..

    War is the tool through which the remaining Constitutional restraints on government and rights of the people will be destroyed. War will be the gateway through which total statism in any of its forms (fascism, socialism, communism) will be imposed upon the United States. They will rally the people’s patriotism, and give the laws Orwellian sounding names like the “Patriot Acts”, and “Freedom Laws” and cries of “America First,” but these acts will be anti-patriotic, anti-freedom, and anti-American. At the core of all these activities will be one purpose –- to impose ever increasing control over the citizens, marching toward total statism. They will suspend due process and Constitutional restrictions proclaiming “extraordinary times” require extraordinary measures. At first they will only be used against a few select atrocious and most heinous individuals with unfamiliar appearance, customs and beliefs. Initially, it will simply be a matter of degree, but the precedent is now set. Extraordinary measures solely for extraordinary individuals, but slowly and then more rapidly the extraordinary will become the ordinary until such measures can apply to anyone. They will deride anyone who opposes these Orwellian acts as dangerously naïve, as pacifists, as isolationists, as unpatriotic, as sympathizing with “the enemy” whoever “the enemy” may be at the time, and as un-American. They will make war with vague, ever changing goals and objectives. They will make war on elusive, obscure enemies by proclaiming wars against “subversives” or “guerillas” or “militias” or “revolutionaries” or “aggressors” or “terrorists” or whatever ambiguous name they can imagine so that the “enemies” will always be elusive, never eliminated or fully defeated. There will always be more “enemies.” War will be perpetual, lasting years or even decades. War will be the final mechanism that destroys America from within; and the people will proudly cheer and defend and support the dismantling of their rights and destruction of their Constitutional Republic, all out of supposed “necessity” to support “the war.”
    – Unknown

  48. Transor Z says:

    If we re-adopt an individual rights mentality to prevent such egregious rights violations as this law allows, we’ll have to do away with the mentality that one citizen owes another a retirement paycheck and medical care.

    Non sequitur much?

  49. wunsacon says:

    >> I hope the NRA seems a lot less crazy to some folks today.

    Transor, the NRA is mostly counterproductive. Here’s how I see it:

    (a) Gun advocates tout the 2nd amendment as a “line of defense” against tyranny but most of their members make it the *ONLY* line of defense as they spend the rest of their time hating lawyers, the ACLU, and anyone else trying to stand up for any of the other civil rights. (4m NRA members. 0.5m ACLU members.) By the time we’re down to the last line of defense, we’ve given up too much!

    (b) What percentage of NRA members supported the invasion of Iraq? Support the bankers’ political representatives instead of politicians who might oppose them? Support big military spending? Support religion in government? Unless I’m mistaken about the demographics, these people contribute enough to the problems that might ultimately require use of the 2nd amendment. (Need fact-checking here, to check the demographics. I’m guessing on this par. You can take it out and the remainder stands on its own.)

    (c) The 2nd amendment is a 22nd century Maginot Line. The bankers and the MSM (especially Murdoch News but also CNN and other centrist, establishmentarian, plutocrat propaganda outlets) are robbing people in this country without anyone firing a shot. Indeed, they’re hating on the #OWS crowd. And, whereas private gun ownership might’ve served as a deterrent 15-250+ years ago, say “hello” to high-tech spying and drones. We’re on our way from Huxley to Orwell.

    (d) In view of the foregoing, the NRA seems in part like a marketing vehicle: to wrap a tradition of private firearms ownership in a ‘Merikan flag and sell expensive toys to mentally indolent, pliable masses.

    AtlasRocked, you skipped the warfare/empire aspects and immediately focused on the welfare/sharing aspects, which are separable and aren’t the problem.

  50. AtlasRocked says:

    @transor Z – check the candidates, check the parties.

    Which party is both demonstrably pro-individual rights, and anti-welfare state, and federalist?

    These 3 themes are common to libertarians and republicans. The republicans are a little weak on individual rights, but far better than the Democrats. Both are anti-middle class benefits, and pro-federalist.

    The party that is pro-welfare state, anti-federalist, is also anti-individual rights: the Democrats.

  51. smooth says:

    I agree that the US government is becoming more of a police state. I believe that the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that “enemy combatants” are protected by the Geneva Convention.

  52. Jim Hancock says:

    This is not an individual rights issue …quite the contrary. They are using basic corporate HR lay-off thinking …WIIFM …what’s in it for me. Divide and conquer …toss out those that are undesirable and scare the shit out of the rest so they go along. Individualism and oligarchy are not at all complimentary (unless you are an individual in the 0.1%).

  53. JerseyCynic says:

    Ron Paul would be a great benevolent dictator. Where do I vote?

  54. Giovanni says:

    Is Guantanamo the American Gulag? If so the terrorists and their MIC co-conspirators have won.