A Philosopher's Blog

Leaks & Kill Lists

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 14, 2012
Official photographic portrait of US President...

Are You on His List? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was recently revealed that President Obama has a kill list. Those who make this list can expect a fatal visit from an armed drone. Apparently Obama is rather hands on in regards to his list-he has been described as going through terrorist “baseball” cards to decide who will make the list.

After learning about this, many people were outraged. This dismay crossed party lines and both Democrats and Republicans were quick to condemn this terrible thing. Interestingly enough, the condemnation was not aimed at what seems to be an assassination policy. Rather, it was addressed that the leaking of information.

The main line of criticism from the Republicans has been that the Obama administration intentionally leaked the information. As they see it, this information makes Obama look strong in terms of foreign policy and shows that he is tough on terror. This information, obviously enough, contradicts the Republican narrative that Obama is weak and unwilling to do hard things to keep America safe. Crudely put, the Republicans are angry because they think that Obama has intentionally robbed them of some of their talking points. Presumably he was supposed to keep this secret so the Republicans would be free to attack him on foreign policy and defense.

To be fair to the Republicans, they (and some Democrats) are concerned that the leaks will harm national security. That is, their alleged worry is that Obama is putting secret operations at risk by allegedly allowing these leaks. These leaks might be damaging. Or they might not-after all, the terrorists know that we are killing them with drone strikes and the folks in the countries where our drones operate have a pretty good idea what we are doing. The leak seems to mainly leak information to the American public.

Given that the drone strikes are popular and that Obama’s actions contradict the image Republicans wish to present regarding his resolve and toughness, it is tempting to agree with the Republicans that the leaks are intentional and are aimed at helping Obama get re-elected. After all, this information does rob the Republicans of some talking points.

However, it is also worth considering that the leak occurred without Obama’s approval. While it might still be the case that the leak was intended to aid Obama in the election, it is also worth considering that the leak was intended to reveal information about policies and actions that seem to be worthy of moral criticism if not condemnation. After all, ┬áPresident running what seems to be a remote controlled assassination operation seems to be something that the public should know about and something that should be challenged on legal and moral grounds. As such, it might be that the leak was made by someone who has moral (or legal) issues with these policies and actions. If so, it would be ironic that the leak has generated condemnation for the leak and not so much for the policies and actions.

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2 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on June 14, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    …it might be that the leak was intended to reveal information about policies and actions that seem to be worthy of moral criticism if not condemnation…

    Obama seems perfectly comfortable killing people. Jeez, it is not like he water-boarded them or something as terrible as that…

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

      He does indeed.

      While a moral case can be made for assassination, I find the fact that the president is creating kill lists to be rather worrisome. After all, this seems to be comparable to the President running his own undeclared war. If it is not war, then he would seem to just be executing people without a trial. I would like to see a clear moral and legal justification of this policy from the administration. Holder’s line, that the executions follow a process, does not strike me as adequate (as I argued in the relevant post).


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