The White House has approved executing US citizens as a matter of policy, as long as they’re working for Al Qaeda.
Well, that’s interesting.
The spin is that any such action will wait for Presidential approval. However, the White House is not saying that it must wait for Presidential approval — just that in practice it will. The underlying assumption is that the President has the right to authorize executions without court approval, under certain conditions.
I don’t think this works. The justification is that Al Qaeda acts against American interests. There are plenty of NGOs that act against American interests. If Amnesty Internation convinces Britain to pressure the US on human rights issues, they’d be acting against American interests. By this precedent, the President would have the right to authorize executions of American members of Amnesty International.
Previously, such authorization has been reserved for cases where the American citizen is directly threatening the lives of other Americans or their allies. I.e., yes, on the battlefield you don’t have to double check with a judge and jury. This goes somewhat outside that scope.
It’s certainly true that the situation we’re in as a nation is different than any we’ve been in before. We need new rules, as I’ve noted before. However, this one fails the sniff test.