No, this is no internet conspiracy theory from mouth-breathing conspiracy mongers. This actually exists.
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.
The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant preacher with alleged al Qaeda connections, to the target list. He was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.
The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.
I’m sure this is exactly the sort of thing the founders had in mind when they wrote the 5th amendment. Secret government kill panels that can order Americans dead.
Apparently the legal justification is two-fold. First, Congress’ designation of a “war on terror” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and second international law which allows a nation to defend itself. I’m not sure about the international law argument, but I’m pretty sure that after 9/11 Congress authorized war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don’t think the authorizations for those wars were intended to give the president broad latitude for assassinations outside of those conflicts, up to and including Americans.
Nor do I think the constitution’s requirement for “due process” is met by a secret government panel issuing secretive legal opinions about who can and cannot be killed.
After the very least, if our government is righteous in killing someone, shouldn’t they be transparent about their justification to do so?