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Dealing with


In your column about the president's counterterrorism efforts (Urban Journal, "Obama's Second Term"), you said you are concerned that one individual – the executive – could decide which targets would be attacked without any form of oversight, even if the target were a US citizen. And, as you observed by quoting Senator King, that might lead to "deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law."

The problem is that today we confront individuals and groups whose sole intent is to do harm to US citizens or US interests and who do not abide by any rules. Neither are they interested in compromise or any form of reasoned debate on the issues that divide us.

Are we to play by the rules of the Marquis of Queensbury while those who wish us ill play by no rules?

How then are we to respond to this very real threat within the framework of our agreed upon standards and Constitutional commitments?

Unfortunately, much as we would like to find one, there is no textbook answer to this dilemma. Ideally we would send our military and intelligence people out to uncover plots and gather information. The advantage of this approach is that it usually leads to hard information. The disadvantages are that it takes time, is expensive, and is subject to international jealousies and boundaries. And it leads to the risk of abuses in the form of torture.

The other approach involves the use of limited personnel on the ground, extensive employment of information gathering technology and ultimately, employing drones. This approach can achieve results in less time, tends to be accomplished outside of the public view, and results in minimal loss of life. The greatest drawback of this approach is that the targets are usually killed which means that useful information is lost with the target.

I don't have the answer you are seeking. I agree with you that some additional public discussion of how we are to combat the very real threat of terrorism is warranted. However, I do not think we need another commission to study the issue. The press in the form of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and your paper are doing a good job of raising the issue before the public. What we need is for political leaders to raise the issue outside of the political context so that the public will focus on it.

And we need other community leaders and editors to talk about the problem so that the public will become aware of the danger and understand that it may be necessary to respond to this threat in new and untried ways.


In writing about our war on terror, Mary Anna Towler states "those who wage that battle cannot ignore the US Constitution." Well, the president is ignoring and disobeying the Constitution. The Constitution states that "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution... are reserved to the states respectively or to the people."

A federal appeals court ruled that some of Obama's recess appointments were unconstitutional because the Senate wasn't in recess. Those appointees are still in their positions, and his owning or running private entities like auto companies, banks, and financial institutions is unconstitutional.

We have been Obama-sized.