This week, a United States Citizen, born in the United States 38 years ago, was intentionally targeted, and killed on foreign soil in Yemen along with a second US citizen, Samir Khan, who was with the target. Don’t get me wrong, I am not soft on national security and consider myself to be a hawk when it comes to foreign policy and military deployment.
BUT! Targeting an US citizen; at home or abroad for assassination; in a non combat environment; really? I opposed this when Bush was President and still oppose it today. US Citizens come in all varieties, good, bad, beautiful and ugly (morally). But, we share one thing in common, the US Constitution and the rule of law, I thought.
I get it, al-Awlaki was a very bad person who apparently was a high value, Al Qaeda, target that needed to be neutralized in our war on terror. Ironically the administration upgraded al-Awlaki’s status from a Radical Muslim Cleric to the “external operations” chief for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula after the killing. I understand that he would kill Westerners, especially other US citizens without batting an eye. But we really need to access who we are and how we are going to engage our enemy. On the one hand, our kids fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have to “Mirandize” anyone they are going to detain in the field in a combat situation; and our kids have to make sure a person is a direct threat to them before they can use lethal force on the person even though they just witnessed the unsub planting an IED. But it is OK for the President to put an US Citizen’s name on a list and then have someone direct drones and aircraft bomb strikes specifically against that named person.
The Administration’s Justice Department signed off on the Administration’s right to kill an US Citizen in a foreign country under the Congressional authorization to use military force as shown below in the law that was enacted days after 9/11. The administration lawyers also site “established international law that recognizes our right of self-defense”. I personally do not care about international law, we are governed first and foremost by the US Constitution and laws duly enacted by Congress and signed by the President of the United States. Finally, one brilliant person in the administration defended the lack of due process afforded to al-Awlaki by invoking “due process in war”, whatever that means. In 2001, immediately following 9/11, Congress passed a simple law that said:
SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
- (a) IN GENERAL—
- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
- (b) War Powers Resolution Requirements—
- (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION—
- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
- (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS—
- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
- (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION—
Approved September 18, 2001
Reading paragraph (a) there is no doubt that Congress intended for the President to use this power against anyone who, “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001“. Bush used this law to target and kill Abu Ali al-Harithi, a Yemeni al-Qaeda operative accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole along with an US Citizen who was targeted and known to be with Abu Ali al-Harithi. I did not see in the law above where the attack on the Cole was included.
But here is the irony and the abject inconsistency.
The Supreme Court forced Bush to get Congress to pass the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that authorized the use of military tribunals for NON CITIZEN Enemy Combatants.
US CITIZENS WERE EXCLUDED BY THE USE OF THE TERM, “”alien” means a person who is not a citizen of the United States” which is the language directly out of the Executive Order 13425 implementing the Act passed by Congress.
CITIZENS CANNOT BE TRIED IN MILITARY TRIBUNALS AND MUST BE TRIED IN US COURTS.
BUT, WE CAN ISSUE A KILL ORDER ON A US CITIZEN WITHOUT DUE PROCESS, ANY COURT ORDER, ANY BURNING OF INCENSE OR THE LIGHTING OF CANDLES.
IS THIS RIGHT?
I am not mourning the loss of al-Awlaki or Khan but I am mourning a potential loss in my personal rights as an US Citizen.
- I expect Due Process no matter how nuts I get.
- I expect a fair and impartial trial for any crimes I may commit.
- I expect an appeal process to be in place so I may contest the outcome of any wrong verdict I may feel I received.
- I expect not to be killed in my bed at night by my government without warning nor provocation.
I said when the Patriot Act was passed that all laws like this one are fine under a “moral and just” government but it is too easy to use these powers against our own citizens which is the danger when we give up rights for protection. Who is going to protect you from your own government? Any thoughts?
Executive Order 13425: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2889/is_7_43/ai_n25407333/
Authorization to use Military Force: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Authorization_for_Use_of_Military_Force