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Bagged another one! I have not read this article, or the leaked memo, but congratulations to the leaker. Secrecy on matters like this has to end. What would we think if Vladimir Putin claimed the power to assassinate Russian citizens, and said his justification for doing so is a state secret? We would say a state like that is evil and cannot be trusted. Yet we regularly lecture Putin and the Russian state about how undemocratic they are, and how they should be more like us!

The Russian government does in fact assassinate its own citizens. Moreover, it does so without acknowledging responsibility for it. Significantly, it does not claim a right to do so. Naturally the Russian government does not acknowledge or justify activities like this: a government that assassinates its own citizens cannot be legitimate. That the United States government thinks it has such a right: that it can compile kill lists in secret, assassinate people in secret, and justify these actions in secret, tells you a lot about its moral self-awareness.

This government is not moral, nor is it legitimate or constitutional. Its claims to constitutional legitimacy are entirely self-declarative, as is its memo to justify targeted assassinations. Once again, a government that claims a right to assassinate citizens violates the fundamental right to life, and has become not a government but a criminal organization. Why is this leaked memo significant? Because it shows how a criminal organization behaves when it wants to persuade itself that what it is doing is okay. We saw the same thing when John Yoo wrote his sordid memo on torture.

The pieces are in place: the government claims a right to torture, to assassinate citizens, and to imprison people in solitary confinement indefinitely without due process. Every government and authority through history that has claimed these rights – or that has done these things without bothering to justify them – has operated without limits. A government that operates without limits is not a government. It is a crime syndicate.

That’s why the flag pin our officials now wear in their lapels is so scary. It has become a perverse and not so subtle way of announcing, “I’m a member of the syndicate. I’m a member of a powerful organization that does whatever it likes.”