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Boston Herald Op-Ed: Barron Not Qualified for Fed Bench

May 20, 2014 in Politics & Elections

Harvard Law professor David Barron is a former acting assistant attorney general in the Obama administration. While in President Obama’s Office of Legal Counsel he wrote memos justifying the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen abroad.

Last year, the president nominated Barron to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and a vote on his nomination is expected this week. I am going to fight this nomination, because I believe Barron has disqualified himself from serving as a federal judge.

I’ve read the Barron memos concerning the legal justification for killing an American citizen overseas without a trial or legal representation. While the president forbids me from discussing what is in the memos, I can tell you what is not in the memos.

There is no valid legal precedent to justify the killing of an American citizen not engaged in combat. In fact, one can surmise as much because the legal question at hand has never been adjudicated.

The courts have examined due process rights of individuals actually captured on a battlefield, but no court has ever reviewed whether an American citizen can be killed without legal representation or a trial. That is precisely why I cannot support placing professor Barron on the appellate court.

I would much rather appoint a lifetime federal judge with heroic qualities, one who had the courage to tell the president that there is no legal precedent or constitutional authority for killing an American citizen not engaged in combat and that the Supreme Court should decide the question in open court.

Some will say that Anwar al-Awlaki was evil and deserved to die. I don’t necessarily disagree with his punishment. I disagree with how the punishment was decided. American citizens not on a battlefield must be convicted before they are sentenced to death. Let me repeat that order for some who seem to have lost sight of our Constitution and basic human rights – you must try and convict someone before you punish them. For further explanation, please refer to the Fifth Amendment.

For those critics not alarmed by granting the right to kill without a trial, realize that the decision to kill is sometimes based on metadata. You know the innocuous business records the government grabs up and tells us not to be concerned with?

A former National Security Agency official was recently quoted as saying, ‘We kill people …read more


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