This Is Real: A Secret Government Panel Decides Which U.S. Citizens to Kill

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Metaphor. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

It turns out that America does have death panels after all. They're not the kind that will kill your grandma, though. Unless your grandma is a suspected terrorist.

Reuters reports:


American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House's National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate ...

Several officials said that when Awlaki became the first American put on the target list, Obama was not required personally to approve the targeting of a person. But one official said Obama would be notified of the principals' decision. If he objected, the decision would be nullified, the official said.

We're pretty sure this is going to make Glenn Greenwald's head explode. Hold on. Yep:


So a panel operating out of the White House — that meets in total secrecy, with no known law or rules governing what it can do or how it operates — is empowered to place American citizens on a list to be killed by the CIA, which (by some process nobody knows) eventually makes its way to the President, who is the final Decider. It is difficult to describe the level of warped authoritarianism necessary to cause someone to lend their support to a twisted Star Chamber like that; I genuinely wonder whether the Good Democrats doing so actually first convince themselves that if this were the Bush White House’s hit list, or if it becomes Rick Perry’s, they would be supportive just the same. Seriously: if you’re willing to endorse having White House functionaries meet in secret — with no known guidelines, no oversight, no transparency — and compile lists of American citizens to be killed by the CIA without due process, what aren’t you willing to support?

Okay, sure, but if you don't want to be murdered by the government, just don't be a terrorist! It's that easy. Although, now that we think about it, how can we be sure that this secret panel is only doling out lethal punishment to American citizens who truly deserve it? It would be great if there was some kind of system in which evidence could be presented and debated before an objective group of people tasked with deciding whether or not it was compelling. Oh well.

Secret panel can put Americans on "kill list' [Reuters]
Execution by secret WH committee [Salon]