US Attorney General Gives the Go-Ahead on Domestic Drone Strikes: May Be Necessary Under “Extraordinary Circumstances”


When Congress authorized the deployment of some 30,000 drones over U.S. skies with the passage of the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act in 2012 many civil liberties groups, privacy advocates and Americans expressed their concerns about the possibility that these surveillance tools could be used within the borders of the United States much like they are on the battlefields of the middle east where scores of innocent civilians are killed almost every day as collateral damage in direct strikes against alleged terrorists.

Those fears are very quickly being realized not as possibilities, but actualities.

In response to questions recently voiced by Senator Rand Paul about drone strikes being used against American citizens on American soil without charge or trial, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a public statement indicating that the government has the right to use armed unmanned aerial vehicles should “extraordinary circumstances” arise.

Holder writes:

On February 20, 2013, you wrote 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, without a trial.”

As members of this administration have previously indicated, the US government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has 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 individuals have been arrested and convicted of terrorism-related offenses in our federal courts. 

The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one 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 like a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

Full Text (PDF)

The official position of the United States government is that a drone, or any military asset for that matter, can be deployed by the President of the United States or his surrogates without regard to the sixth amendment of the US Constitution, which requires that citizens be afforded the right of facing their accusers, to call witnesses and to be tried by a jury of their peers.

Senator Paul responded to the Attorney General’s comments and warned of the dangers of the new policy:

“The U.S. Attorney General’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening — it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

Last month President Obama responded to questions about domestic drone strikes:

First of all… there’s never been a drone used on an American citizen, on American soil.

We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counter-terrorism operations outside of the United States. The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside of the United States.

I am not somebody who believes that the President has the authority to do whatever he wants or whatever she wants, whenever they want,  just under the guise of  counter-terrorism.

There have to be checks and balances on it.

Based on Eric Holder’s memo, the President, and therefore agencies under his control, do believe that they have the authority to use lethal force against those identified as “terrorists.”

As the Attorney General noted in his letter to Senator Paul, there are hundreds of Americans that have been tried and convicted as terrorists, and thousands more that have been identified as terrorists by government officials.

U.S. attorney Anne Tompkins recently prosecuted Bernard Von Nothaus for minting silver coins he branded as “liberty dollars.” After Vot Nothaus was convicted, Tompkins referred to his actions as a unique form of domestic terrorism.

Local law enforcement officials attending DHS sponsored training events have widely reported that the definitions for “terrorist” activity are becoming very broad, as outlined by one police officer at James Rawles’ Survival Blog:

During the past several years, I have witnessed a dramatic shift in the focus of law enforcement training.  Law enforcement courses have moved away from a local community focus to a federally dominated model of complete social control. Most training I have attended over the past two years have been sponsored by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), namely the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

No matter what topic the training session concerns, every DHS sponsored course I have attended over the past few years never fails to branch off into warnings about potential domestic terrorists in the community.

So how does a person qualify as a potential domestic terrorist?  Based on the training I have attended, here are characteristics that qualify:

  • Expressions of libertarian philosophies (statements, bumper stickers)
  • Second Amendment-oriented views (NRA or gun club membership, holding a CCW permit)
  • Survivalist literature (fictional books such as “Patriots” and “One Second After” are mentioned by name)
  • Self-sufficiency (stockpiling food, ammo, hand tools, medical supplies)
  • Fear of economic collapse (buying gold and barter items)
  • Religious views concerning the book of Revelation (apocalypse, anti-Christ)
  • Expressed fears of Big Brother or big government
  • Homeschooling
  • Declarations of Constitutional rights and civil liberties
  • Belief in a New World Order conspiracy

Earlier this year a kindergarten student was suspended from school after officials reported that she made a terrorist threat utilizing a Hello Kitty bubble gun.

The Attorney General of the United States of America just gave the President the go-ahead on domestic drone strikes.

Under the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, no Constitutional protections need be afforded to American citizens, thus, anyone can be classified as a domestic terrorist at the President’s discretion.

If you mint a silver coin, stockpile food, refuse to turn in your high capacity magazine, voice beliefs that may be considered subversive to the government, or have a toy resembling a gun, you maybe labeled a terrorist.

As such, you can also be targeted for extermination.