Does the Drone Memo justify striking the Free State Project?

February 6th, 2013

The big news this week is a secret memo from the Justice Department titled, “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen.” It was leaked to NBC News, and details the legal justification the Obama Administration believes legitimizes drone strikes on American citizens. According to the 16 page “white paper” the State can now assassinate American citizens, without trial, without evidence, even without secret evidence, if an “informed, high level official of the US government” suspects them of being “senior operational leaders” of a terrorist organization or “an associated force.” This explicitly does not require any intelligence indicating they are engaged in a plot to attack America. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, go read Barry Donegan’s excellent coverage of it yesterday. No seriously. Go read it. I’ll wait.

When this story broke, most people’s first thought was of Imam Anwar al Awlaki and his 16 year old son, two American citizens assassinated in Yemen by the Obama Administration in two distinct drone strikes, but my first thought was the Free State Project.

The Free State Project is a movement of liberty-minded individuals moving to New Hampshire to consolidate their activism toward the creation of a free society. The plan is to collect 20,000 signatures at which point signers commit to moving within 5 years. The project currently boasts over 13,000 signers, but many people simply can’t wait that long. Over 1,000 people have already moved. Many Free Staters are content to work within the system and have run and been elected to public office. Others prefer strategies outside the system from civil disobedience to advocating secession.

Here’s what has me concerned. Recently New Hampshire State Representative Cynthia Chase said that, “Free Staters are the single biggest threat the state is facing today, but there is, legally, nothing we can do to prevent them from moving.” She went on to advocate intentionally legislating away the freedoms the Free Staters cherish in hopes that they will stop moving to New Hampshire, or even leave, but what if the leaked Drone Memo gives her the legal justification she’s looking for?

The Drone memo lays out three vague, easily-met conditions that allegedly justify the murder of Americans without a trial.

  1. The target must be an “imminent threat” in the broadest sense requiring no evidence or intelligence.
  2. Capture of the target must be “ unfeasible” meaning U.S. officials consider attempted capture an “undue risk.”
  3. The strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles” which are not defined.

The Drone Memo redefines “imminent” to mean its opposite. The ACLU calls it “vague,” “elastic,” and “easy to manipulate.” According to the memo “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” In other words, classifying a threat as “imminent” does not require any indication that it is actually ”imminent.”

We know that government officials are dangerously slippery about who they’ll call a terrorist threat. During the persecution of Liberty Dollar monetary architect Bernard Von NotHaus for minting silver rounds US Attorney Anne Tompkins famously said “Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism.” In Orlando Florida, Mayor Buddy Dyer called activists from Food Not Bombs “dangerous food terrorists” for serving vegetarian chili in defiance of city ordinances. New York Representative Peter King argued that Wikileaks should be classified as a terrorist organization because ”by doing that, we will be able to seize their funds and go after anyone who provides them help or contributions.” But under the Drone Memo, which includes the obtusely vague “associated forces,” it could be argued anyone who provides them help, such as Bradley Manning, could be assassinated.

The question is, are these government officials “informed” and “high level”? Well, those terms aren’t defined. We absolutely know that local law enforcement agencies are high level enough that they’re being issued drones to patrol US skies. There’s even whispers and rumors that these domestic drones may be armed. If they’re high level enough to operate a drone, we can only assume they’re high level enough to authorize firing one.

If not yet, soon.

Is the capture of the “senior operational leaders” of the Free State Project “unfeasible”? Well, since they don’t exist, I’d have to say yes, absolutely. But there are figures who could be construed as leaders, and since Free Staters now have a reputation for peacefully resisting arrest by sitting in front of police cars, or video recording arrests, or simply by going limp it’s entirely possible the diseased mind of a sociocrat could deem arresting them as “undue risk.”

There’s only one protection left. The Free State Project is on US soil and the Drone Memo only mentions assassinating US citizens abroad, but it doesn’t require it. As the ACLU points out, the Drone Memo contains no geographic limit. And what if the secessionists among them succeed? There’s are secessionists in all 50 States in America. If any one of them declares some isolated parcel of land independent couldn’t it be argued that a resulting drone strike wouldn’t technically be on US soil anyway? recently published a post titled “How To Destroy The Machines That Will Eventually Kill You.” It doesn’t require much in the way of weaponry. It mostly involves disrupting their communication. Might be worth taking a look at this point. Maybe even print it out before the State shuts them down, or drones them for trumped up suspicions.

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About the Author: Davi Barker

In grade school Davi refused to recite the pledge of allegiance because he didn't understand what it meant. He was ordered to do as he was told. In college he spent hours scouring through the congressional record trying to understand this strange machine. That's where he discovered Dr. Ron Paul. In 2007 he joined the End The Fed movement and found a political home with the libertarians. The Declaration of Independence claims that the government derives its power “from the consent of the governed." He does not consent.