This is an interesting proposition because it sets the example that the president is above the law and that he can target Americans and then order their death. It is one thing to kill a combatant on the battle field in the act of hostilities or a person who is in the act of breaking the law. However, to announce he is a target as was noted in the article and then order his execution be it directly or by remote control is another.
The other point that needs to be clear is where is the authorization and what is it based on. Why is it secret? We then have to ask ourselves two questions. The first is if a president can order it overseas then what is to prevent him or his representative from doing in the US. After all it is in the act and the question of geography is a moot point. The second question is: what happens if the president deems a group a threat and decides to go after them? At this point, it is only a question of numbers that separate the president from like acts of a Hitler, a Stalin or any one of a countless number of other such heads of state.
However, worst yet is the precedence of an example that is set where lesser heads of government and armed bureaucrats can justify like actions. And again we will have the rise of a modern version of vigilante justice and the concept of trial by jury and innocent till convicted by jury is a myth.
The Secret Memo That Explains Why Obama Can Kill Americans
Follow-up a couple of days later:
Secret panel can put Americans on “kill list’
It occurred to me that this is also a throw back to the days of old and the star chamber which was instituted to circumvent the ‘all too powerful’ and bring them to justice. However in the end it was corrupted to serve political expediency of the day. Here is a more formal description of the Star Chamber Star Chamber and then there was the 1983 movie Star Chamber (movie).
Here is the Wikipedia summary of the Star Chamber:
The Star Chamber (Latin: Camera stellata) was an English court of law that sat at the royal Palace of Westminster until 1641. It was made up of Privy Counsellors, as well as common-law judges and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters. The court was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes. Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, no right of appeal, no juries, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing. Over time it evolved into a political weapon, a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts.
It was mistakenly thought that in 1487 an act was passed which established a special “Court of Star Chamber” to deal with the nobles; however, the only legislation passed in that year in this context was to set up a tribunal to prevent the intimidation of juries and to stop retaining, the keeping of private armies by persons of rank. It seems to have gone out of use by 1509 and it had no connection with the later Court of Star Chamber whose primary purpose was to hear political libel and treason cases.
In modern usage, legal or administrative bodies with strict, arbitrary rulings and secretive proceedings are sometimes called, metaphorically or poetically, star chambers. This is a pejorative term and intended to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the proceedings. The inherent lack of objectivity of any politically motivated charges has led to substantial reforms in English law in most jurisdictions since that time.
Follow again, a couple of days later: Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen