In February of 2014, President Obama was considering whether to order the Central Intelligence Agency to kill a United States citizen in Pakistan who was believed to be plotting terrorist attacks. One important part of this story is the fact that this person is an American citizen. Another is that “it’s very rare and an extraordinary circumstance for a president to order the killing of an American citizen overseas.” But another part of this story is the fact that Amazon would be an accessory to the assassination. As the largest Web retailer in the world, Amazon is engaged in secure accumulation and analysis of masses of personal data. The company has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services, which can be used even to launch drone attacks. This could make Amazon an accessory in the assassination.
Norman Solomon, “If Obama Orders the CIA To Kill a US Citizen, Amazon Will Be a Partner in Assassination “Truthout, 29 Mar. 2014.
Judy Woodruff, “Obama Administration Faces Conundrum in Weighing Drone Attack against U.S. Terror Suspect.” PBS, 29 Mar. 2014.
Student Researcher: Sorca Jordan
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
After reviewing the issue of the orders for the assassination of a United States citizen overseas, it has become clear why the government would want to prevent this from being covered on the mainstream media. Obama’s director of Nation Intelligence suggests that the administration reserves the “right” to carry out such assassinations. In this case, though, the assassination purpose is not the only ethically questionable aspect of this story. Amazon acquired a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services. After several months, resulting in the confirmation of the contract, Amazon said, ”We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.” All of this means that Amazon now contributes to keeping government secrets from the public in order to allow the agency to successfully and efficiently do its work.
So, the United States Government is not only attempting to hide its assassination powers from the American people, but it is using a company, logoed with a smiley face from A to Z, as an accessory. This company is the largest web retailer in the world. Amazon has invited public trust using this website based on secure accumulation and analysis of massive personal data. But, after the company gained the contract with the CIA, there were hopes of opening up new vistas for surveillance and warfare. So Amazon is now an integral part of the government’s foreign policy of life threats and assassinations. As the world’s largest retail company, it is now responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work. This situation creates a conflict of interest because Amazon is helping keep secrets from the American people using personal information it acquires from them through its public trust.
Furthermore, the man whom President Obama suspects of terrorism overseas is the American-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. The New York Times and The Washington Post confirm that the White House has confirmed the assassination. The assassination was ordered to take place no matter where the subject was found, no matter his distance from a battlefield.
But how can this be justified? The Executive Branch’s power to assassinate U.S citizens away from the battlefield allows no due process at all. The United States government believes that this is for the greater good, when in reality, it is violating American citizens’ constitutional right to due process as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments; let alone using the web’s largest retail company to help it do so.