Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Imminence Doctrine, US Department of Justice and Extrajudicial Killing of US Citizens


For those of you who are stumped by the news that US Department of Justice has come up with the immence docrine to justify drone attacks against Al Qaeda and associated leaders with an American citizenship, I'll endeavor to explain the same briefly.

What the USDOJ memo purports to argue is simple:  If a US citizen is a leader of a terrorist group which posed an imminent threat to the US, he or she may be targetted. In doing so it is said to expand the definition of an imminent threat. Hogwash. Either a group is at war or it is not. If it is at war with the US, there is imminent threat to US' national security.  Therefore I disagree with those criticizing the USDOJ Memo.

Frankly I think the ACLU and other human rights organizations' outrage is outrageous. To suggest that any government is under any obligation to bring a person to trial when that person has declared a war against that government is preposterous.  Are we suggesting for example that since US did not recognize the Confederacy a foreign power, all the rebel soldiers ought to have been tried before being attacked in war?

A drone attack is an act of war not extrajudicial killing. A drone attack against an organization that has declared war on a country is therefore not covered by law. The problem  starts when such an act of war is carried out on foreign soil such as Yemen or Pakistan. There it may become a violation of international law.

I am therefore surprised that ACLU and others are making such a big deal about the USDOJ's memo. It is a perfectly sound and legal document.  I would rather ask for a memo on how US justifies drone attacks on Pakistan and Yemen.

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