That Secret Death Panel

By now, dear readers, I dearly hope you have heard news of this report from Reuters about a secret panel of government officials and its power to compose, keep, and act upon a kill or capture list.  Mark Hosenball writes: “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.”  Apparently the recently assassinated al-Awlaki was the first American put on this list, and, related to this, “one of the reasons for making senior officials principally responsible for nominating Americans for the target list was to ‘protect’ the president.”

I am grateful that news about this panel and its alleged operations has come out now, before it solidifies into permanent standard procedure that we all just accept, with cognitive dissonance dripping out of our ears, as the price to pay for living in a free society in the time of terror.   If we continue down this road, if we give President Obama (and others) a pass because we think him less frightening overall than his soon-to-be-decided challenger, and if we don’t insist on some clear time-tested standards of liberty, transparency, and accountability, then we will someday lose even minimal control over this grand experiment we call the United States. 

Today a secret panel decides if an alleged terrorist merits an extra-judicial death sentence; tomorrow…who knows how this power will expand?  Government powers have a way of being applied beyond the scope for which they were originally established.  News of this panel isn’t time for “yeah, but” resignations; it’s time for speaking out and exercising what political power we possess.  (VN)