Today’s Questions for the President

by Peter Kirsanow

During the 2012 election cycle you excoriated Republican presidential primary candidates who supported enhanced interrogation, stating, “Waterboarding is torture. It’s contrary to American traditions. It’s contrary to our ideals. It’s not who we are. That’s not how we operate.”

Yesterday, it was reported by NBC News that your Justice Department authored a memo justifying the extrajudicial “killing of American citizens if they are believed to be ‘senior operational leaders’ of al-Qaida or an associated force — even if there is no intelligence they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.” NBC News further reports that one of the Americans killed was a 16-year-old boy born in Denver, Colo., whose father was Anwar al-Awlaki. It’s unclear, however, whether the boy himself was a ”senior operational leader” of al-Qaeda or an associated force.

Perhaps the assassinations were entirely justified and protected American interests.

But if you maintain that waterboarding a senior operational leader of al-Qaeda — indeed, the the confessed mastermind of the plot that killed 3,000 Americans — is “not who we are,” how do you maintain that the assassination of a 16-year-old American — unlikely a senior operational leader – is who we are?

How is waterboarding known al-Qaeda leaders who admit to plotting future catastrophic terrorist attacks on the U.S. “contrary to our ideals,” but assassinating a 16-year-old American — who may or may not have an affiliation with al-Qaeda – not contrary to those same ideals?

Bonus Questions
Your secretary of defense and former CIA Director, Leon Panetta, recently acknowledged that enhanced interrogation produced some of the information leading to the killing of bin Laden, a signature achievement of your presidency that you and your surrogates touted throughout the 2012 presidential campaign. Other CIA officers also maintain enhanced interrogation provided critical information leading to the killing. Your Justice Department, however, subjected CIA officers involved in enhanced interrogation to criminal investigation for nearly three years, despite the fact that a prior investigation had been closed.

If you would subject to repeated legal jeopardy those who obtained information leading to one of your biggest campaign themes, will you subject those who decide which Americans to assassinate to legal jeopardy as well? If not, why not? Have you thanked any of the CIA officers who obtained the information that, at least in part, allowed you to repeatedly proclaim,”GM’s alive and bin Laden’s dead”?

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