Should a U.S. president be ordering the assassination of a U.S. citizen-turned-terrorist?
THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE — and the United States a safer one — if notorious terror-imam Anwar al-Awlaki were removed from it.
Anwar al-Awlaki is an American citizen-born in New Mexico-and a committed jihadist. He is reportedly in Yemen.
Though the details of Awlaki’s involvement have not been made public, it was he who corresponded with the perpetrators of-and possibly helped plan-three terrorist attacks. The alleged Fort Hood mass murderer, Major Nidal Hasan, e-mailed extensively with Awlaki before the massacre. Awlaki was also corresponding with failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and unsuccessful underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab. Awlaki has reportedly referred to Hasan and Abdulmutallab as his “students.”
Shahzad said he was “inspired by Awlaki.” Abdulmutallab admitted being trained by al Qaeda and meeting with some al Qaeda leaders, including Awlaki.
Last, and not least, Awlaki has been linked to the 9/11 attacks. Several of the hijackers at-tended his sermons in 2001, and the telephone number of his mosque was reportedly found in an apartment in Germany used by one of the hijackers.
Last September, Jonathan Evans-head of Britain’s MI5 domestic security agency-labeled Awlaki “public enemy number 1.”
Awlaki has been named a “specially designated global terrorist” under Executive Order 13224, freezing his funds. And the Obama administration reportedly ordered that Awlaki’s name be added to a CIA “capture or kill” list.
Which should have ended the matter, but this is modern America, which means that the question — even in time of war — is now a question for the courts. Awlaki’s father brought suit — about which more later — to set aside the order.
Can a president order the assassination of an American citizen? The answer is “maybe.” It depends on where the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief begin and end. And it further depends on where and when it’s done and who does it. Though the federal courts, under the “non-justiciability” doctrine (as we’ll see below), should not decide the issue, it’s entirely possible that an activist federal court will intervene to do just that.
But there is a curious dichotomy in the Obama policy: if there are so many reasons to protect the rights of foreign-born terrorists, why doesn’t that effort extend itself to Americans such as Awlaki?
SINCE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S first days, it has been working tirelessly to afford terrorist prisoners all the rights preserved for American citizens under the Constitution. Almost simultaneously with his inauguration, Obama and his team removed the supervision of terrorist interrogations from the CIA’s authority and brought it into the White House, and ended use of the entirely legal “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were the means by which intelligence information was obtained from terrorist detainees during the Bush years. (Former CIA director George Tenet wrote in his memoir that these interrogations produced more valuable intelligence information than everything else done by the CIA and FBI.)
Not content with the military commission system created by President Bush (and later recreated by Congress after years of litigation culminating in a Supreme Court decision that confirmed the propriety of a military commission system), the Obama administration has been working tirelessly to either release inmates of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba terrorist detention facility or move those who aren’t released to a prison in the United States. It has brought one such terrorist to the United States for trial and — despite congressional bans — Attorney General Eric Holder still lobbies to bring more here for that purpose.
It has even redefined “enemy combatants” to the euphemistic “unprivileged enemy belligerents” in an effort to leave no privilege behind.
The terrorists’ “rights,” as the Obama theory goes, have to be protected if America is to recover the good graces of the nations of the Islamic world. Heaven forbid that we be perceived to be acting as if we were an Arab (or Persian) nation.
The Obama administration has been inarticulate in explaining its policy, but it is faithful to it. In his bumbling November 2009 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Holder assured the committee that reading Miranda rights to Osama bin Laden wouldn’t be necessary because he’d not likely be captured alive. Holder also said that there’s no worry about reading Osama his Miranda rights because the evidence against him is so overwhelming.
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