National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy, who thinks that President Obama’s drone killing of radical Yemeni-American al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki was “obviously the right call,” notes a gross inconsistency in the administration’s attitude toward due process for Islamist terrorists:
So here is the Obama Left’s position. If an alien enemy combatant, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mass-murders 3000 Americans and is then captured outside the U.S. in wartime, we need to bring him to the United States and give him a civilian trial with all attendant due process rights. If an alien enemy combatant is sending emails from outside the U.S. to an al Qaeda cell inside the U.S., the commander-in-chief needs a judge’s permission (on a showing of probable cause) to intercept those communications. If an American citizen terrorist outside the United States — say, Awlaki in Yemen — is calling or emailing the United States (or anyplace else), the commander-in-chief needs a judge’s permission to intercept those communications. If we capture an alien enemy combatant conducting war operations against the U.S. overseas, we should give him Miranda warnings, a judicial right to challenge his detention as a war prisoner, and (quite likely) a civilian trial. But, if the commander-in-chief decides to short-circuit the whole menu of civil rights by killing an American citizen, that’s fine — no due process, no interference by a judge, no Miranda, no nothing. He is a proven threat because … the president says so.
To put my cards on the table, I think that we should, at the very least, approach the extra-legal executive-ordered killing of a U.S. citizen with extreme caution. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Obama and Eric Holder’s position on this question has been a little less than principled.
By the way, Jed Babbin discussed the possibility of assassinating Awlaki in our February issue.