Executive Power

Marc Thiessen Asks. I Answer

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, July 18, 2012, 5:37 PM

Over at the AEIdeas blog, Marc Thiessen asks derisively: “Why is the ACLU suiting Panetta, Petraus over Awlaki Killing—But Not President Obama?

He writes:

if it’s accountability they want, then why isn’t President Obama a defendant in the suit? After all, a recent New York Times story which reported leaked classified details of the drone program revealed that Obama personally selects “every new name on an expanding ‘kill list’” of terrorists to be vaporized — including that of Awlaki. White House officials bragged to the Times how Obama “approves lethal action without handwringing,” and how he had told aides that the decision to kill Awlaki with a drone was an “easy one.”

So why, pray tell, are the ACLU and CCR suing Panetta, Petraeus, McRaven, and Votel — but not the president of the United States? After all, Obama boasted that he personally gave the kill order.

Just askin’.

Just answerin’—and in only two words: Presidential Immunity (see Nixon v. Fitzgerald (1982)).