05/27/2014 04:00 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2014

An Advocate For One-Branch Tyranny

As predictable as the denouement of a marriage ceremony, Andrew McCarthy in National Review Online (June 2nd Issue) denounces Senator Rand Paul's opposition to limitless presidential power to play prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to exterminate any American citizen whom he unilaterally decrees based on secret evidence is an imminent danger to the national security. James Madison, father of the Constitution, deplored such an alarming concentration of power in a single branch as the "very definition of tyranny" that provoked the American Revolution. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence elaborates that citizens are duty bound to "throw off such Government."

President Barack Obama has employed the limitless executive power defended by Mr. McCarthy to exterminate four American citizens, including the teenage son of Anwar al-Awlaki while he was eating with friends. A fifth American is on President Obama's hit list.

A presidential decision to exterminate is absolute. No other individual, organization, or branch of government is entitled to vet, second-guess, or even know of the killings. Even Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, Tomas de Torquemada, offered more due process to his victims. And King George III was assailed in the Declaration of Independence, "For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury."

Unlike Senator Paul, Mr. McCarthy is undisturbed by a perpetual presidential Sword of Damocles over the head of every American citizen. In defending Mr. Obama's extermination of Mr. Awlaki, McCarthy elaborates: "Before he was finally killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, Awlaki was implicated in the 9/11 atrocities, the jihadist massacre at Fort Hood, the attempted jihadist bombing of a plane over Detroit on Christmas 2009, and other terrorist plots."

What McCarthy jesuitically conceals, however, is that Mr. Awlaki was never charged with any crime whatsoever--not complicity in 9/11, not complicity in the Fort Hood massacre, not complicity in the attempted plane bombing on Christmas, and not complicity in any other terrorist plots or incidents. Neither was Awlaki charged with joining enemy forces during wartime. Has McCarthy forgotten that a cornerstone of every civilized system of justice is a presumption of innocence in his zeal to disparage Senator Paul's embrace of liberty over Empire? To borrow from Justice Robert Jackson's dissent deploring the racist concentration camps for Japanese Americans in World War II in Korematsu v. United States (1944), the principle of limitless executive power validated by McCarthy "lies about as a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forth a plausible claim of an urgent need."

A strong, enlightened, and free people knowingly accept risks that unfree or effete nations shun not because they appreciate safety less, but because they covet liberty more. The United States Supreme Court put to rest the notion of counter-constitutional emergency powers touted by Mr. McCarthy with words that should live for the ages in Ex parte Milligan : "The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times and under all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism...."