Dear American: It's An "Extraordinary Circumstance" And This Drone's Coming For You

Tyler Durden's picture

In response to Rand Paul's letter asking whether "the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial," we now have an answer. Attorney General Holder responds, in a word "Yes." Of course, it is caveated with 'extraordinary circumstances' and 'necessity' but as Mike Krieger so subtly summarizes: "the military can assassinate U.S. citizens on U.S. soil." As NBC reports, the letter from Holder surfaced just as the Senate Intelligence Committee was voting 12-3 to approve White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director. The vote came after the White House agreed to share additional classified memos on targeted drone strikes against U.S. citizens overseas. As Rand Paul commented, "this is more than frightening... it is an affront to the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans."

Full Holder Letter:

Dear Senator Paul,


On February 20, 2013, you write to John Brennan requesting additional information concerning the administration's views about whether "the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil, and without trial."


As members of this Administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and have no intention of doing so. As a policy matter, moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. We have a long history of using the criminal justice system to incapacitate individuals located in our country who pose a threat to the United States and its interests abroad. Hundreds of individual have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts.


The question you have posed is entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and we hope no president will ever have to confront. It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could  conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001.


Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of his authority.




Eric Holder,
Attorney General

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vortmax's picture

Executive decision, Bitchez!

Renewable Life's picture

Who's the fucking "decider" now bitchez????

I predict the honeymoon with lame duck Obama is about to be over with the left and progessives soon!!! If they don't realize the great bambozzling they got with this guy, they will realize it soon, when drones are flying over their union rallys and anti WTO/occupy rallys (riots) in the coming years! 

But before you idiot globalist republicans start smiling, every gun owner in America will be considered a "threat" to any government power and "stability" regardless of who occupies the white house in the future!!! 

ihedgemyhedges's picture

So what's the decision if the "imminent threat" is hiding in a subsidized housing project in Chicago??????? Ohhhhh, the conundrum.............

ZerOhead's picture

And let's not forget the collateral damage...

I suggest everyone begin to choose their neighbors wisely.

icanhasbailout's picture

It will only be extraordinary the first time.

GetZeeGold's picture



I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country - Nathan Hale


Shoot straight for once, you Army pukes - Red Dawn (1984)

markmotive's picture

Get a good lawyer.

Law school professor and former criminal defense attorney tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police.

BKbroiler's picture

This reminds me of a few months ago when ZH posted that israeli video of the drone attack on a city street.  Imagine sitting in traffic when the car next to you gets droned... that is one scary ass future.

TorchFire's picture

Where do our laws allow the attorney general of our country to officially “imagine” policy?

McMolotov's picture

Laws? Where we're going we don't need laws.

We already have imaginary markets, imaginary elections, imaginary inflation and unemployment numbers, imaginary prosperity, imaginary fucking freedom... Why ask about "laws" when the Honorable John Corzine has shown us we so obviously have an imaginary justice system, too?

Time to burn it all down. Washington D.C. has become a lawless cesspool that threatens each and every one of us. Nuke it from orbit; it's the only way to be sure.

crazyjsmith's picture

If Terrorists hate us for our freedoms...
What happens when our own Government ALSO hates us for our freedoms?

It seems the two have found a very common ground. Tell me how it's different?

The Navigator's picture

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

And in the coming Drone Wars, I wonder who will be our (new) friends.

Strange days and stranger days coming.

Prepare Yourself.

bigkahuna's picture

The way I see it, there are a whole shitload of "droneable" people just looking for a reason. These assholes in DC know better.

Pinto Currency's picture


Holder uses this letter to open the door to the authority to kill US citizens with drones.

He does not circumscribe or limit this authority - simply saying they can do so if law enforcement authorities cannot.

He and the next A.G. will argue case-by-case basis, meaning the AG and President have the authority as they determine.

mkhs's picture

I thought we already had several "gas explosions" that RT called drone strikes.

savagegoose's picture

the gov does hate your freedoms, it fears them.

crazyjsmith's picture

Easy Fix - if they take away our freedoms then the terrorists will like us AND so will our Gov't. Solved

Win-Win...oh shit, where's my gun?

Lost My Shorts's picture

But but ... note that Holder mentions "lethal force," not drones specifically.  There is nothing really special about drones in this regard; just another weapon.

It's well known that even local police (never mind the military) can kill citizens on American soil without trial in certain circumstances, most notably when they are shooting back at police, or "reaching for a gun".  "Oops, our bad ... he was just scratching his crotch, but it looked to the officer like he was reaching for a gun."  How many times have you heard that?  Police can also kill when someone is in the act of harming others.  Remember the famous (but now forgotten) face-eating zombie?  A police officer shot him on the spot, no indictment or trial, because he wouldn't stop eating the other guy's face.

If someone were flying a light plane loaded with explosives, of course they could hellfire him.  Even Rand Paul wouldn't complain.

What exactly is the question here?

BKbroiler's picture

What exactly is the question here?


The questions is one of scale and military involvement in civilian affairs.  Yes, a cop can shoot a face eating zombie, but he can't blow up his car from a thousand miles away.  When someone has to actually pull the trigger, they put more thought in to the decision.  Also, there is a law called posse comitatus which is supposed to keep soldiers and military weapons out of domestic criminal issues.  That's why it's a big deal.

McMolotov's picture

I'm certain at least half the people in Washington believe posse comitatus is some sort of sex act.

Lost My Shorts's picture

"My opponent opposes gay marriage, and yet he is a well known supporter of posse comitatus !!"

Maybe that is how the Dems can take back the house.

homme's picture

*Changes Zoosk, POF, eHarmony and profiles*

Thanks man.

El Oregonian's picture

Yes, and guess who is getting screwed.

Lost My Shorts's picture

But even ZH is full of posts about local police wanting drones.  Drones are not uniquely military.

You raise an interesting point -- what if a local police drone operator saw via his drone camera that a bath-salt zombie was eating someone alive.  Could he legally pop the zombie remotely?  Say his drone has no built-in loudspeaker to say "hey zombie, stop that" before firing.  Does that make all the constitutional difference?  You could actually forgive Holder for not knowing how to answer that question.

As for role of the military -- after 9-11, there was lots of talk about the Air Force maybe needing to shoot down a civilian airliner full of passengers if it was under the control of hijackers and heading for a target.  That was well before Obama and drones.  Back then it was GWB, the macho decider who parachutes in his flight suit onto the deck of warships just to keep in shape.  No one was complaining then.  Or did I miss something?  Even now they scramble F-somethings every time a commercial airliner looks overly suspicious, and who complains?

CompassionateFascist's picture

Right. And let's not ignore that cute 1/4-scale DHS Cessna drone that twisted happily in the breeze over Sandy Hook school a few minutes after the massacre of children. Didn't fire a shot. Didju miss something? Yes, when Genghis Bush did his aircraft carrier thing, the MSM - except Foxtards - had a shitfit. . 

Lost My Shorts's picture

I even gotta say further -- if you read Holder's statement, all he says is: the president might have the authority to use military force on American soil in case of a military or terrorist attack.  President Rand Paul would say the exact same thing.  Does anyone here deny that President Rand Paul would say the exact same thing?  "Sorry, I couldn't authorize fire on those terrorists because of posse comitatus.  It was Kansas, and I have no power to operate there.  Plus one of the guys, Mohammad bin Hatar-Fridoom, was a US citizen."  Not a chance President Rand Paul would say that.

It's maddening that Holder won't ever say "the president has no power to ...." but Washington insiders are alergic to that phrase.  Of course, what the government says and what it does might not match.  So Holder's statement is not some reason to cheer.  But it's also not at all remarkable, or novel.

lewy14's picture

OK to be perfectly tedious I'll give you a straight answer.

Your hypotheticals (and the letter from Holder) aren't embracing the totality of the drone memo leaked from (and by) the White House.

Zombie eating face off some dude -> imminent threat -> routine police work. (Seriously.) 

Who gets to decide what an imminent threat is? It's codified, there are rules, laws, statutes; you can read about them. (IANAL). They're controversial, and they should be; it's serious business. And yeah, they are applied unevenly and scandalously. But they exist.

Imagine an officer stating to the court I in my sole discretion as the decider in the situation concluded the threat was imminent, so I drone killed the sucka from 1000 miles away. If the facts in the case were that the dude who was shot was sitting in traffic at the time, the officer's conclusions that the dude represented a threat - perhaps months or years from now - or was in "operational control" of a terrorist group - would get laughed out of court. (Even in America 2013).

But these italicized powers are exactly what this American President arrogates to himself.

Status quo ante was that law enforcement would have to arrest scary terrorist US citizen dude on US soil. This American President claims to possess the discretion to assassinate him from a distance (with DoD assets and no due process. Other than some process they do. Which they won't tell you.) 

You have to aggregate the semantics of the White House memo with the Holder letter to Paul to get the full effect.

All ist klar?


Lost My Shorts's picture

That's not what Holder said.  He said the President might have the right to authorize lethal force in an attack like Pearl Harbor or 9-11.  Those examples were chosen to be clear examples of imminent threat.  They are nothing like some guy sitting in traffic.  (Unless the president were Kiefer Sutherland, and the guy in traffic were on his cell phone issuing orders to commandos who were about to blow up Disney World.  But that is not what you mean.)

You are right that Holder did not address the question of whether the President's action would be subject to judicial review the way an ordinary cop's action would.  You are right that presidents have a maddening tendency to refuse judicial review on the grounds that it's all top secret and would compromise security.  But Holder didn't address any of that.  He didn't claim prior immunity from judicial review.

You are also right that Holder did not explicitly disavow the right to kill someone on US soil who was only regarded as a distant (not imminent) threat.  But he also didn't claim it.

The Obama guys would rather have their teeth pulled than talk about drones, but I think the real reason is something no one here thinks about.  It's not just lust for authority or desire to torment liberty guys.  They have non-trivial concerns that their boss, Barry-O, might face threat of prosecution someday for actions in the drone war.  Anything they say could be noted by some zealous Spanish prosecutor and used to back criminal charges.  They could make everyone at home happy by stating clearly that the principles applied in Yemen do not apply on US soil (i.e. that what they do in Yemen woudl be illegal if done at home).  But does that land Obama in the Hague?  Or put him in the company of Roman Polanski, people who can't freely travel because of warrants out for their arrest?

aerojet's picture

Every dystopian sci-fi novel has some variation of a runaway power center murdering people using technology in some twisted manner.  It is often tiny explosives or toxins implanted in the body.  The hellfire from 15,000 feet method is second only to the "Real Genius" laser from space technique.  The state wants to be god, but it can never be that.

palmereldritch's picture

This kinda re-defines the President's "enemies list" and executive action for that matter...

q99x2's picture

Don't let a politician live close to you. First thing the FEDs will do is to get rid of the competition.

Anasteus's picture

"For example, the president could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001."

Does he mean the date when Pearl Harbor was bombed? It was a regular foreign military attack that has nothing to do with a potential threat induced by domestic American citizens. As regards 9/11, the existing air force defense system would be appropriate measure if properly managed and not obstructed.

Both arguments are a pretext.

aerojet's picture

They twist facts to suit their agenda, in this case creating dissonance by citing a military attack from a sovereign nation.  How exactly would drones have helped on 9/11 anyhow?   I can't think of a way.  It's  better to ask whether Flight 93 was brought down by a sidewinder or 20mm fire from an F-15.  It is also better to ask who supplied the anthrax.

Monedas's picture

The Polaks in Chitcago got it right years ago .... 10 story underground apartments .... hide your money under a bar of soap !

Kitler's picture

Q. What do you call a Predator/Hellfire missile strike on an Al Qaeda In America target that kills more than 50 innocent bystanders?

A. An obscene drone call.

Nobody For President's picture

You are one sick motherfucker.

I set up an email and sent this out to a whole bunch of my friends and associates, some of whom will disown me forever for it...


Larry Dallas's picture

Or if the aforementioned is in Detroit, we could call it a good start...

savagegoose's picture

A:  a conspiracy theory.

CH1's picture

WAIT - all the real Americans who defend the Constitution no matter what, will commence marching on the Whote House in 3... 2.... 1....  ummmmm


A Lunatic's picture

Were these guys real Americans?


The Bonus Army
CH1's picture

Were these guys real Americans?

Close enough. And they were, at least, active, not asleep.

Shell Game's picture

...and they were run out of town by mounted calvary and live rounds:


Asymmetric warfare never sleeps..

CH1's picture

and they were run out of town

So.... acting is foolish?  They should have acted differently?

What's yer point?

Shell Game's picture

So I need to connect the fucking dots for you all of a sudden?  Not all action is created equally with equal impact. So called 'marches' on D.C. will be symbolic and ignored at best, bloody and crushed at worst.  Face-to-face confrontation is not how this will be won.  


hint:  'Asymmetric warfare never sleeps..'

Manthong's picture



Oh give me a home,
Where a Predator drone
Can come down from the sky any day.
And when only a word
From Obama is heard
It will send a Hellfire my way.

Home, home USA
Where the drones fill the skies every day
Where your email and tweets
Turn you into dead meat
When suspected by the NSA

Rogue Trooper's picture

Dude, that was very funny, in an unsettling kind of way.

God help us all... and I'm not even remotely 'religious'.

StandardDeviant's picture

I do believe the Limerick King has some competition.