New reality: US assassinates it own citizens with no due process

Glenn Greenwald reports on the US assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen in Yemen, who had not been charged with (or convicted of) any crime. Al-Awlaki was "far from any battlefield," and no judge or jury considered any accusations that had been levelled against him, nor did he have the opportunity to face his accusers nor offer a defense. Whether or not al-Awlaki was a terrorist (something no court can determine now), this sets a new precedent: the US can assassinate its own citizens on presidential order without any due process or accountability.

After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.). It almost certainly was able to find and kill Awlaki with the help of its long-time close friend President Saleh, who took a little time off from murdering his own citizens to help the U.S. murder its. The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world. The government and media search for The Next bin Laden has undoubtedly already commenced.

What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President's ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki -- including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry's execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists -- criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed.


  1. I also think Bin Laden should have had a trial. The “American Way” is now whatever the media wants to spin. 

    Due process has to be for EVERYBODY or it means nothing.

      1. Really?  Absolutely everyone in the city at that time agrees with you?  Not one of them thinks we should have made a serious effort to try bin Laden in a court of law?  Not one of them values the rule of law and the value of due process over bloody vengeance?

        I don’t think you give the city quite enough credit.

        1.  He was actively engaged in war against the United States. Truthfully I have no problem with his absence of due process.

          1. If he is fair game to the US without due process because of war, what parts of the US are now fair game to others of his ilk? If you don’t prosecute each and every time, you can’t prosecute others later because you’ve given up the moral authority to do so.

          2. Good point,Pirate3,  but the following statement from our administration stands above the academic argument.

            …”First, he posed an imminent threat to the lives of Americans, having
            participated in plots to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and to
            bomb two cargo planes last year. Second, he was fighting alongside the
            enemy in the armed conflict with Al Qaeda. And finally, in the chaos of
            Yemen, there was no feasible way to arrest him. “

          3. No, you’ve made that clear.  But I don’t agree with you (though I was in L.A. on 9/11), and I suspect that several New Yorkers (at least) do have a problem with his absence of due process. It’s a big deal.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to conceive of situations wherein an especially enthusiastic band of, say, Occupy Wall Street protesters happen to take things a little bit too far, something gets blown up, the offenders go into hiding, the DoJ eventually declares them a terrorist organization, and begins ordering assassinations.  Under the Constitution we currently have, this would be a law enforcement issue involving the DoJ from the Executive Branch enforcing laws passed by the Legislative Branch, and resulting in trials conducted by the Judicial Branch.  That’s due process, is it not?  When the Executive Branch takes all the responsibility on itself, that’s circumventing said Constitution.  I do understand the exceptions you wish to impose, assuming al-Awlaki’s actions constituted acts of war rendering him an enemy combatant and thus fair game on the battlefield that nowadays apparently constitutes the entire known world.    The argument is not whether al-Awlaki is evil or dangerous, though I find myself unable to suppress a slight smirk at what was said by Stuart Levey, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (man, what a business card that guy must have) about the guy: that he “has proven that he is extraordinarily dangerous, committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide … [and] has involved himself in every aspect of the supply chain of terrorism—fundraising for terrorist groups, recruiting and training operatives, and planning and ordering attacks on innocents.”  Now, I get the idea that a criminal mastermind doesn’t always have literal blood on his own literal hands, but the idea of an “extraordinarily dangerous” fundraiser, recruiter, trainer, and plotting mastermind sounds to my underqualified brain like something that could stand to cool its heels in a cell and await a trial.  Such treatment was good enough for the likes of Saddam Hussein, Timothy McVeigh, Göring and Hess, Ted Kaczynski, Ed Gein, Ted Bundy, and plenty of other “extraordinarily dangerous” dudes… many of whom were violent as well as influential.

            But I don’t care if this guy was Lex Luthor without the sweet disposition.  Targeting someone for assassination in this manner is a very bad precedent.  It undermines the confidence in our judicial system and it removes the ability of other branches of governmental authority to check and balance the agenda of the Executive.  That’s not an abstract problem.  If somehow the Executive made a mistake and actually ordered the assassination of someone who did not actually deserve it (assuming some people do), there would be no chance for the judiciary to review the case and judge whether the Executive was doing the right thing or not.

            This.  Is.  Bad.

          4. He was actively engaged in war against the United States. Truthfully I have no problem with his absence of due process.

            The USA hasn’t been at war since 1945. Where do people come up with this horsesh*t?

          5. See, the problem is, he was killed NOT because he was “actively engaged in war against the United States”, but because someone, somewhere SAID he was “actively engaged in war against the United States”. But, since he is now dead, there will never be a trial to find out if the allegations were true. Had we put him on trial, we could have shown the world we are a lawful people, and what a scum he was. Now, we’ve just created another martyr. Oh yeah, and lost our soul.
            Samovar, what if tomorrow, someone with a grudge says YOU are a terrorist mastermind? And the CIA believes it? And the President says it’s OK to assassinate you?
            But, if we simply follow our laws, then the innocent get protected and the guilty go to trial.
            Personally, I am not the least upset this man is dead. But, I do wish we had convicted him of something before we killed him.

    1. And where was the trial for the thousands they killed on 9/11… Don’t feel me the Bullshit about due process.. Presidential Executive orders were also put into play for extreme circumstances 

      1. And where was the trial for the thousands they killed on 9/11… Don’t feel me the Bullshit about due process..

        You are what’s known in common parlance as a lynch mob.

    2. Usually people shooting at police or military personnel don’t get a trial, they just get shot. Osama didn’t die in a drone attack like al-Awlaki.

  2. I agree that the idea of killing citizens without due process is scary, but there are situations in which national defense trumps due process rights.  To say that he killed without due process pretends it was possible to give him due process.

    For the sake of argument, pretend there is a United States citizen who has vowed to kill all other United States citizens and then builds himself a bunker surrounded by armed militants who vow to kill anyone who invade their territory.  If that person then participates in high level planning of acts of war against the United States, but never leaves the bunker, are we to just wait for him to come out so that we can handcuff him and give him a trial?

    Maybe there isn’t any proof he did that, but to assume it’s never ok to kill someone (excluding self-defense from bodily injury issues) without due process ignores the realities of the world.

    1. There’s something called ‘trial in absentia.’ It would work in that case, and it would have worked here.

      If you start to give excuses for why certain citizens don’t need/deserve due process, it’s as slippery a slope as slippery slopes get.

          1.  And drone bombing the car he was in is the new definition of arrested?

            The judge said “arrested by force, dead or alive.” That’s not something I see come up on CSI, so I guess your definition is as good as mine.

        1. That’s nice. I guess we should amend the Constitution to allow due process “somewhere in the world.”

        2. I’m curious what other Yemeni court decisions we are or are not following. Its seems funny to base executions on foreign judicial procedings.

          1. I’m curious what other Yemeni court decisions we are or are not
            following. Its seems funny to base executions on foreign judicial

            Whereas I’m curious what sort of message of advocacy you extracted from me contributing one (1)  Troo Fact™ to the discussion. Seriously — I don’t know what the legal implications of that court decision are, but I thought it might be salient, and nobody else was mentioning it. I know he was a dual US-Yemeni citizen, and he was tried in absentia by one of his citizenshiprics. I know he never formally revoked US citizenship, but he renounced it informally many times, and attended college in the US under a foreign student visa. Seems like a thornier, more nuanced issue than Greenwald is acknowledging, but, like you, I’ll wager that snark and alarmist rhetoric will get to the bottom of things faster than Troo Facts™ and citations. Wink!

      1. Absolutely. And as an addendum to this: even if there was some emergency situation that supposedly required murdering somebody immediately, at the very least if the government’s intentions were in the least bit honest and honorable, there would be some way found to publicly provide at least some evidence about this individual after the fact about why this was an extraordinary situation that justified immediate action.

        Given that the Obama administration is flat out resisting this and just telling us to trust them, I can’t see how a reasonable person would find this acceptable.

    2. If that citizen never leaves the bunker, how would you know the planning of the acts even transpired? Even if he planned something, wouldn’t it be important to have evidence that they aren’t merely insane transgressions in his own head?

      Shoot now, ask questions later: an antiquated error of impatient justice.

      1. I didn’t say it could be proved.  I said for the sake of argument assume it was.  My point wasn’t that killing him was justified, just that due process in the form that we commonly imagine can’t always be provided in perfect harmony with the defense of the United States against its enemies.

    3. Your statement is very foolish. I’m sorry to be blunt but any plot this guy was a part of would have given a very small death toll. Nothing on the order of the number of people killed on the highway, crime, or medical accident. Because you are so easily frightened and so ready to come to a conclusion without any critical thought I would imagine the government can convince you that, drug kings, stalkers, any future political opposition making the case for political change when the system can no longer be changed by election are all fair game. You are ready to accept an expanded list and even an expanding list. Due process will die because people like you. Politicians cannot help themselves for the most part. Nature drives them and they lack the means of self government. It’s people like you that let it happen.

      1. it doesn’t really matter how GOOD he is at executing treason. Your post is tatamount to saying if you punch me, but don’t hurt me as much as a martial arts expert might, you haven’t committed assault and thus if I hit you back I can’t argue self defense.

    4. I agree that the idea of killing citizens without due process is scary, but there are situations in which national defense trumps due process rights.  To say that he killed without due process pretends it was possible to give him due process.

      The only problem with your argument is that it’s completely bogus. Who gets to choose when it’s okay to assassinate a US citizen? Apparently, the president. Nothing could ever go wrong with that. And your silly example with the evil mastermind surrounded by armed militants? Get rid of the “evil mastermind” bit and you have WACO. Which, you know, wasn’t a stirring triumph of justice, but it was, apparently, legal. If our evil mastermind friend is in a foreign country, well, you know, we won most (all?) of the wars we’ve fought without assassinating the enemy’s leader. No need to kill the mastermind, take out his support structures (much easier) and he’s just a wandering loony. Thanks for the straw man, though!

      1. The point was that you can’t apply due process rights in the way that most people think of them to all situations.  I didn’t say the killing here was justified, just that that we shouldn’t pretend we can put every person on trial.  The facts were assumed for the sake of argument, not assumed to be actually true.

        1.  Sure you can. You send out a team of people and arrest these guys. You bring them in, give them the best lawyers they or you can muster and give them a trial by jury. 9/11 was maybe 100 to 200 arrestable people. If troops were not about giving strength to petty war lords it’d even be easier to send out teams of agents to arrest these people one by one. Instead people like you want fire for emotional effect. You enjoy the shock and awe, then clamor for more authority and power once the chaos of your ill conceived actions and lack of strategic insight finally comes home to roost. Franklyn was asked what kind of government was formed in Philadelphia in 1787. He answered, “A republic if you can keep it.”. Well, thanks to people like you, we cannot.

    5. Schrobble Head….”If that person then participates in high level planning of acts of war against the United States, but never leaves the bunker, are we to just wait for him to come out so that we can handcuff him and give him a trial?”

      Well, yeah. But only when a Republican is president.  Didn’t you get the memo??

    6. Obviously not. But it probably wouldn’t be very hard to get an arrest warrant, at which point the authorities are authorized to go in and get him. They aren’t authorized to blow him up.

      If he resists being taken into custody then he might wind up dead, but merely deciding to kill him strikes me as wrong.

    7. This is obviously false — if the government had honest intentions and there was ever truly some emergency situation that required murdering some citizen without some semblance of a jury or due process, then why is the government resisting releasing some proof or justification for why this was such an extraordinary situation after the fact?They are literally saying “We killed this guy because he is bad, just trust us.”

      I find it sad to see anybody justify the government in this situation.

  3. I keep fantasizing that one day, the US will elect a President Badass Rightsdefender, who would use Solomonic wisdom on his legislators

    He would argue forcefully, but with arguments that those who notice such things would find sinisterly reminiscent of the language of fascist dictators, for the extension of provisions allowing for torture and detention without due process.  The day after the bill was passed, every legislator who had voted for it would be mysteriously absent.  Years later, they would turn up in various parts of the world, haggard, toothless, without ID.

  4. You know, really, overall it was a pretty good run, the whole “government of laws and not of men” thing.

    I mean, sure, I’m bummed that it’s gone. You have to admit that it was pretty good while it lasted, though.

  5. I imagine that if this guy said and did everything else exactly the same but wore a suit and was clean-shaven, he’d still be alive. In any case, the Constitution doesn’t clearly define “due process” so I’m sure the White House will have legal experts come up with an explanation as to why the process of defining someone as a CIA target fulfills the “due process” requirement.

  6. And expect a whole lot more targeted killings in the next year, because Obama is clearly planning to rack up the body count so he can use “strong on national security” as an election strategy against the GOP.

  7. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous
    crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in
    cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in
    actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be
    subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or
    limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness
    against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without
    due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use,
    without just compensation.” should NEVER get trumped.

    Otherwise, why even HAVE a constitution?

    Oh, yeah…right……

    1. Yes, except for that little phrase buried in there “except in 
      cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in 
      actual service in time of War or public danger”.

      If you recall from a couple of weeks ago, the President renewed the ‘state of emergency with regard to certain acts of terrorism’.   The reasoning probably goes something like “During a state of emergency, the armed forces of the USA received multiple, collaborating intelligence  reports that the [victim/target] was planning/helping to plan armed attacks on US citizens and personnel, both domestic and overseas.  In light of this intelligence the [victim/target] was found to be an enemy asset per [Patriot Act?] and the armed forces were ordered to capture or kill the [victim/target] at earliest opportunity in order to protect US citizens from harm or death.”

      Yeah, it rots.  But the odds are about 5 to 4 that, if the question were to make it to the Supreme Court, it would be held that, yep, that constitutes ‘due process’, nothing to see here, move along…

      1. That phrase refers to people serving in the military or in a militia during time of war. It means they are subject to the UCMJ rather than civilian criminal proces. It doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means.

    2. If the very same people who wrote that saw one of their compatriots fighting other side of the lines, on the battlefield, there would be no question as to what to do.

  8. Wrongness. With no extradition treaty with Yemen, could understand a “nighttime extradition.” But as he never renounced his US citizenship, afaik, no trial and no due process? Ugly move.

  9. The great thing about “Trials in Absentia” is that any country can do them. George Bush, Dick Cheney and now President Obama could conceivably be tried in absentia by a foreign nation and sentenced for their numerous crimes against humanity accordingly. Slippery slope you said?

  10. “it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.”

    Oh. That’s reassuring. So I guess there’s nothing to worry about then.

  11. If you’re interested in the counter (legal) argument for why killing Anwar al-Awlaki is not a violation of due process, check out the arguments over at

    The folks who write the blog are right-wing (at least the ones I recognize), but very smart.

    If you’re not a lawyer and/or have no exposure to the muddled morass that is law of war and nat’l security law, then you’re probably better off skipping it.

    I suspect, though, that even if you agree with their interpretation of legal theory, many will disagree with the facts they apply to that theory. Or rather, the facts they assume to be true and which others argue require more process before a determination can be made. Specifically …

    (1) Was Anwar al-Awlaki “part of” enemy forces within the meaning of the AUMF?
    (2) Was Anwar al-Awlaki playing an active, operational role in attacks against the United States?

    1. They might be smart but they are also biased and have a very remote and alien view of violence, especially Benjamin Wittes. I would be careful of their words.

  12. I”m just not buying Greenwald’s citizenship argument.  I seriously doubt Thomas Jefferson would have minded, and aren’t we are at war with Al Quaeda?  And the president is not alone in this war.  Doesn’t the military take an oath to defend the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic? 

    1. “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” (Title 10, US Code; Act of 5 May 1960 replacing the wording first adopted in 1789, with amendment effective 5 October 1962).
      So no, they don’t take an oath to protect the nation. They swear to protect the CONSTITUTION.

  13. Kinda funny how Steve Benen, whose initial rah-rah blog post reporting the death was linked to by Greenwald as an example of the mindless embrace of this event by “the hardest-core White House loyalists,” later decided to (somewhat belatedly) discuss “the legal, moral, and political propriety of the attack.”  Well, he doesn’t actually discuss it as such.  Just brings up the points of the controversy as a “debate worth having,” but claims he has no expertise in such matters.

    Hmph.  “Yay, we blew up The Bad Guy!”

    (Seven hours later…)

    “Oh, wait… we blew him up when we might not have had a completely bulletproof legal or moral or constitutional justification for doing so.  We should talk about that sometime.  Once we’re done celebrating, of course.”

  14. IANAL, but actually a defense I heard on NPR makes legal sense to me. The fact that this case was considered by the Justice Dept., the accused was in an area where there is no rule of law for extradition, the evidence ( confessed individually by those involved in Ft Hood, nyc car bomb, underwear bomber) that he was instrumental in US-based attempts arguably constitutes
    due process.
    I’m liberal and dove-loving. I believe we’re in this mess and have to escape it. This administration let’s me down and I’m scared of what might be next.
    But just because A a-A was born in NM doesn’t mean he didn’t spend his adult life working to kill his countrymen. If a
    SWAT team took out a home-grown mall shooter would you folks even notice?

    Wanna spend yr time usefully?
    Occupy Wall Street.

  15. “Whether or not al-Awlaki was a terrorist (something no court can determine now),”

    I do not see why this is true. There could still be circumstances that would have his designation as a terrorist argued in court, it could even have 2 sides (one even that supports his interests) and not be in secret. 

    However I will grant you it will not do him a lot of good.

  16. I think the issue here may not be the actual incident, but the precedent it sets.  During WW2, would the Allies have done the same to Lord Haw-Haw if  they could have?  Sure.  But, in the future, one can foresee much less clear-cut cases also being resolved by assassination. Look how the death penalty or Three Strikes laws are enacted after a particularly gruesome “slam-dunk” case, then see how those laws are later abused in marginal cases.  And, what if they start letting the CIA kill citizens in secretive  ways where the US doesn’t take direct credit, such that there’s no blowback at all if they get it wrong?

  17. I am sorry but I was under the impression that he had formally denounced his citizenship and as such was no longer a U.S. citizen.

    As this is a war you do not either murder or assassinate, you kill your enemies.   This man had instigated violent and deadly attacks against  U.S. citizens and is therefore is as guilty as the perpetrators.  It would be great if we could wrap this up and have war trials ,(for all sides), but that is not going to happen.

    1. “As this is a war”

      It is?  When did congress vote to declare war?  Against what nation?

      If you do your research, you will find that the US has not ‘declared war’ this century.  And probably not for the several decades.  Per the Constitution, only Congress can declare war.  And it hasn’t.

      1. If it walks like a duck,,,You are correct and no formal declaration of war was made by congress but it is still a war even if it doesn’t fit our definitions.

        1. No, it’s police work being carried out with military hardware.  Calling it a ‘war’ is marketing, pure and simple.

  18. See – this is the whole problem with the whole “war on terror”. We aren’t fighting zee Germans or the British, we are fighting an ideology. An ideology usually doesn’t wear a uniform. One can’t assume because a person is from “X” that he is an enemy. You can’t declare war on an ideology, only other countries. For example, Saudi Arabia isn’t the enemy, elements within it are. At least with the Taliban they were the actual rulers and government of Afghanistan.

     In WWII there were Americans who fought for the Germans, basically defecting. Few would have had a problem if these people were bombed without a trial.

    Obama – for all his good intentions – hasn’t shut down Guantanamo down like he said he would because he is faced with the reality that these people are not tryable(?) by the law in the traditional sense, but letting them go will most certainly have repercussions down the line.

    So what we are left with is a big ass grey area.  Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

    1. “Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.”

      True.  What is even more unfortunate is that no one seems to be willing to give the hard answers either.  They just keep postponing the decision, hoping that someone else will have to take care of it later…

  19. Warning, this will not be a popular comment. I hope that that fact alone won’t be considered justifiable grounds for deleting it (as apparently it was earlier today against another comment of mine, for the first time in the many many years I’ve been reading and commenting on BB. No doubt I violated some TOS or another, I’m not protesting it.)

    So, while I agree that due process is critical, and any exception to that is a very slippery slope… I don’t know. I keep trying to be upset that this guy’s dead, and I’m not quite managing it. From everything I’ve read about him today, and frm pretty much every quarter… This was a Very Bad Man.

    So yeah, kinda conflicted. I realize that this makes me a hypocrite. I don’t even pretend to be philosophically consistent about this.

    Maybe this makes me a terrible person, or weak minded or w/e… But sometimes the world is just better off without someone in it. This seems like one of those times.

  20. I’m kind of thinking no one really thought of him as a U.S. citizen until afterwards when media pointed it out. Oopsie!

  21. Wouldn’t every Confederate soldier fall into the same category as A a-A?

    They too were US citizens fighting against the US on behalf of the Confederacy.

    I don’t believe they were given due process rights in a courtroom.

    1. Wouldn’t every Confederate soldier fall into the same category as A a-A?

      They too were US citizens fighting against the US on behalf of the Confederacy.

      I don’t believe they were given due process rights in a courtroom.

      When they were fighting, they either killed or were killed.  War was declared, and the gloves came off.  When the war ended, no Confederate was tried for treason.  (Wikipedia tells me that some leading Confederates like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were indicted for it, but were given amnesty by President Andrew Johnson.)

      Due process was not violated.

        1. I stand corrected.  Secession was declared, Fort Sumter fired upon, armies raised, more secessions declared, bangity bangity bang.  I suppose Lincoln didn’t want to think of it as more than a rebellion rather than a declared war.  Which kind of makes sense, if one considers that declaring a war via Congress implies a common enemy, and since the Union refused to recognize the Confederacy, they weren’t about to declare war against an entity they didn’t acknowledge to be a legitimate body outside the United States.

  22. Sorry guys, if you get up in front of cameras and call for death to America and give tangible support to terrorist organizations, you just lost your right for us to put you on trial. I’m sure if he waltzed into the Federal Building and gave himself up he would have got a great trial. Too bad he hid out in Yemen. That’s defacto citizenship change to me. Glad he’s dead.

    1. Sorry guys, if you get up in front of cameras and call for death to America and give tangible support to terrorist organizations, you just lost your right for us to put you on trial.

      False.  If you murder and eat human beings and are caught, you will be arrested and put on trial.  If you molest and decapitate a hundred kindergarteners and are caught, you will be arrested and put on trial.  If someone takes it upon themselves to summarily execute you before that trial, they have broken the law, and they will be arrested and put on trial.  In our society, they do not have the legal right to do so, much as we may wish it otherwise.  It is a founding factor of civilization that we punish evil thoughtfully and deliberately, not rashly nor hastily nor ill-advisedly nor unilaterally.  For the system to work, it must be applied consistently.  Much of our frustration stems from the fact that it is not applied consistently, but that is not a defensible excuse for contributing to the problem.

      jimkirk above quoted the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.  It is still in force, believe it or not.

    2. Well, that’s the thing. What you said isn’t actually true.

      I can stand up in front of cameras and call for people to actively try to kill President Obama, then suggest they bomb all of DC into rubble with fertilizer bombs.

      And I still have every right I had before I did that.

  23. This whole thing just disgusts me. I can’t believe otherwise liberal people are defending an extrajudicial killing of an American citizen by the US president. If W had done this there would be cries from the left for his impeachment. Of COURSE the excuse is that we’re at war. Every government that commits atrocities against a minority plays the war/national emergency card. It’s part of the goddamn playbook. Sure some of the people they socially cleanse are real bad guys. Inevitably, however, most are not. So cheer all you want now, but some day your neighbor will disappear, or your father will, or your sister, all to Protect Our Freedoms. Ugh, it’s such a well documented pattern throughout 20th century history. I blame the lousy US education system.

  24. The US government killed hundreds of thousands of US citizens without due process during the civil war. Some were enemy soldiers and others were support. There is plenty of precedent set.

  25. The end is NOW.
    This cant possibly sit well with even the most hardened.  Nearly everyone agrees the guy was a real POS, possibly even needed to be put to death for his actions.  Not only is there something clearly wrong with just killing someone without due process, but what about the cowardly way it was done.  The whole thing screams of end times and corruption.   I dont in any way side with the jerk, just that something is FUNDAMENTALLY wrong with the way things happen these days.  Police are judge, jury and executioners.  Why would we expect any more of the government.  Is there somewhere I can move that isnt about to fail miserably and nearly guaranteed to destruct inward on itself? 

  26. If he didn’t want to be killed by Presidential fiat, he shouldn’t have set fire to the Reichstag building.

      1. Commenters should reference historical examples more in threads on human rights and civil liberties. Threads on fashion and music trends, not so much.

  27. As far as I am concerned, he gave up his citizenship when he became a traitor and started plotting against the U.S.

    1. If you join a foreign army that is at war with the U.S. – you are considered to have relinquished your citizenship.  Also, your conduct can indicate whether you relinquish your citizenship: Vance vs Terrazas, 1980.  I’d say moving to Yemen and joining a terrorist group would be considered conduct indicating you are relinquishing your citizenship.  Didn’t he shred his passport too?  I can’t imagine any conduct MORE indicative of the relinquishing of citizenship than what this man did.

    2. As far as I am concerned, he gave up his citizenship when he became a traitor and started plotting against the U.S.
      Treason is defined quite succinctly in the US Constitution. You’ll have to prove it first– which brings us back to those inconvenient concepts of “proof”,”due process” and “rule of law”.

      The ultimate end run around this is to declare the entire world a “battlefield”, where the rule of law has been suspended. I believe that this has in fact, been done, so if the United States wishes, for whatever harebrained reason, to dispense with the pleasantries, it may stick you in jail, torture you, or kill you. You’ll just have to trust that bureaucrats never make mistakes, Mr Buttle, because no lawyer, and no court will have the opportunity to correct them.

    3. And, as with other comments in this thread, that may be your opinion, but it isn’t the way it works.

      He may have renounced his US citizenship. I have no idea if that actually makes you no longer a US citizen, to be honest. 

      Merely being a traitor does not make you no longer a US citizen. It may get you tried and executed, but it doesn’t automatically lose you your citizenship.

  28. No, Confederate soldiers were not given due process, because as soon as the war was over, they surrendered and took an oath of fealty to the Union and were released with a full pardon under the authority of the officer administering the oath.  Lengthy war crime tribunals were not in the best interest of the nation as a whole and would do nothing to heal the rift.  No due process was necessary, unless they went rogue and became bandits rather than surrendering and rejoining the Union.  This did happen, and the ones that were captured were given due process and tried under the law.

    That being said, no corollary can be drawn between Al Qaeda and the CSA.

  29. Due process is a constitutional right of all persons, not just US citizens.  The fact that he was a US citizen makes it more dramatic, but all the dramatic coverage misses the fact that with regard to due process (and several other rights) he is no different than anyone else.
    We don’t pull people with tourist visas off the street without due process because of the constitution.
    IANAL, but this was on my citizenship exam.
    That being said, this happens all the time. Koresh, San Diego tank guy, Dialo, MOVE, and countless others. Not being all that rare makes it all the more sad of course.

  30. Just tossing some more on despite the Godwinning.

    al-Awlaki retained dual citizenship between the US and Yemen.
    A formal legal challenge had been made to the order to kill him.
    Due to being on the US’s “specially designated terrorist list” it is illegal to represent Anwar al-Awlaki in court without special permissions from the US government.

    That challenge was not heard before he was killed causing a lack of due process.  

    Flip mode, flip mode is the greatest:

    al-Awlaki was tried (in absentia) in Yemen and found guilty of inciting violence against foreigners
    a request was put out by Yemeni authorities for assistance in the arrest (dead or alive) of Anwar al-Awlaki
    The US government used this to follow through with their previous commitment to Yemen to assist in the bombardment of other suspected al-Qaeda targets
    Anwar al-Awlaki had already been authorized to be killed all the way back in April of 2010

    US provides requested aid to Yemen in dealing with a tried and convicted criminal since he was a citizen of both countries.

  31. As a non-US citizen (in US terms that would be a ‘subhuman’) I would like to welcome you all to our club.  Now you too can be assassinated by your government.

    Nice country you had there.

      1. I guess from the long-standing policy of it being ‘OK’ to tap my phone calls or other activities without a warrant.  It only ‘mattered’ when your government started tapping your phone calls.  It has always been ‘OK’ to assassinate we non-US citizens, because we don’t matter as much. 

        It has also been quite ‘OK’ to kidnap and torture non-US citizens, even when we are innocent (google ‘Maher Arar; for a Canadian example).  

        So I am welcoming you to the very large club of people whom your government feels free to kill, torture or otherwise harm in pursuit of its own interests.  Now since I have never done anything to harm anyone, American or otherwise, I feel somewhat justified in being offended at the concept that my life and rights are of less value than that of an American citizen.

        You all had a really nice idea, with the liberty and rule of law and such.  And you have let it atrophy through hubris. It is depressing and worrisome.  Perhaps your newfound membership in the global ‘people who the US government feels free to kill or harm’ club will help change the trajectory.  I hope so, because if the US falls we all fall.

        And I am not particularly worried about the US ‘falling’ to some form of ‘Islamofascism’ or other foreign boogypersons.  I am very worried about it falling to some homegrown tribalism and naked exploitation of same by vested interests.  You are right on the brink.  I hope you pull back from it and go another way.

        1. I feel somewhat justified in being offended at the concept that my life
          and rights are of less value than that of an American citizen.

          To be fair, you are half-parrot.

  32. Big Surprise.  No Due Process…So What?  This is the new and improved 21st Century as I recall…

    Wake Up and Smell the Assassinations, People!

    You should all know your History: now that the foundations are being poured, the unpleasant truth becomes obvious: you have never had a Government that represents you…you have a ruling class that tells you how it’s going to be from now on.  Like it or lump it.  And OMyGosh!  The money (and those that control it) control the people you call your Representatives.

    A two century old document written by a bunch of rich white dead guys: only convenient when useful to the people in power.  It was never meant to protect you, my fellow peons.

    Bill of Whats? Amend how agains?  WE WILL FUCKING KILL YOU IF IT IS IN OUR BEST INTEREST.  

    (sorry for the caps: but these are the jokes, folks…sorry if there is no humor to be found.)

    My advice: play the game.  Join the Power Structure.  Kowtow to The Man so your family can eat and you can enjoy the etc etc allowed by the Ruling Class…maybe once ensconced inside you can try to sway others in power to not be So Evil and thereby diminish dickishness…

    Otherwise: shoot a politician or media celebrity.  blow up a building.  get on the nets and encourage dissent and revolution And See Where That Gets You…

    Not too fucking far; that’s where.  We all have one life.  Use it how you will.

    Go ahead: tilt at that windmill…

  33. If an American joins a foreign army that we’re at war with, we are legally allowed to shoot him as much as we want.  That’s what this guy did.  He’s fair game.

  34. Ok so newb question, is this an impeachable offense? A delicious dilemma for any Rethuglican in DC,  he railed a terrorist but he authorized an assassination of a US citizen.. regardless IF he was a citizen of the US then a crime has been committed. Slowly the curtain pulls back and our democracy looks to be more of a fraud than under the slaughter twins Bush and Cheyney.

    1. The level of melodrama on this subject is getting quite high here. 
      But you are an American citizen, so it’s ok :)
      It’s the Non-American critics on this forum that I find quite galling.

    2. “Ok so newb question, is this an impeachable offense?”
      It would be a waste of money.  What elected member of Congress is going to vote to impeach a president for killing a terrorist (well, two, but no one seems to be saying anything about the other guy in the car…)?

  35. This is a little stickier than you really want to make out. By your argument, Cory, every Confederate soldier in the Civil War had to be arrested and tried as a matter of Constitutional principle, because, after all, the whole reason the Union was fighting was based on the principle that they were still citizens.

    The problem is that the Constitution is quite vague about what should be done in a situation in which citizens declare war on the US. In practice, the US government has been all over the map, from declaring war right back at you (Civil War and the current case) to capture, trial and imprisonment (Timothy McVeigh). It isn’t clear what should be done. What is clear is that any bright line, either yours or Obamas, is bound to be wrong.

  36. I agree that it is troubling, and perhaps even yet another layer of regard for due process has eroded, but a) to argue this with including context is not doing complete diligence, and b) perhaps we should consider this: at least it’s somewhat decisive. The last effort was a war with Iraq.

    Nonetheless, I really appreciate this angle and I hope it gets a lot more attention and consideration (not that it will ultimately amount to much).

  37. The creepy thing with this killing and the subsequent discussion here and in other places  isnt that that this guy was an american citizen, but that killing people seems to be fine as long as theyre not americans. Morally there is no distinction between the killing of an american citizen and a non-citizen. 

  38. …and this from your constitutionalist president!

    was awlaki the only one who died or were there (as is common) a number of unfortunate sods in his vicinity who died as well?

    of course, those deaths are simply considered accidents. collateral damage.
    they are just as dead though.

    joystick soldiering. welcome to our new world.

  39. So the US citizens are the new Herrenrasse. A US life is worth more than from someone of the lesser “races”.

    I’m familiar with this ideology. I live in a country where this way of thinking once thrived. My forefathers did unspeakable things because they thought the life of a fellow countrymen is worth more than someone elses (AFTER they newly defined who is of their nation – excluding lots of people who where included before). The one good thing that came out of this: We learned from our mistakes . Europe learned from our mistakes. Here every child is taught in school about those atrocities and the ideology that lead there because we don’t want to repeat them.

    Perhaps the USA should have a look at the lesson we learned 70 years ago. It’s not too late.

  40. My own feeling is the following. 1) The constitution protects all people within jurisdiction of the U.S.  2) With that in mind, (as others have pointed out) the reading of the 5th amendment advocated by Greenwald and other commentors would make large parts of war unconstitutional. For example, could we sink ships before they can enter battle? Can we bomb targets behind a battle front, knowing people will die? I don’t believe that 2) was intended by the framers of the constitution, so I don’t believe that there is a constitutional argument here.

    This is, in fact, part of a moral debate that should surround the new ability humans have to target individuals with bombs from the air. I am not really comfortable with this ability. However, I also feel that it is the obligation of the military and intelligence services to prevent attacks on this country. I am conflicted, but leaning toward being glad Anwar al-Awlaki is dead.

    I am also curious: what do those appalled by this action propose we should have done with Anwar al-Awlaki? Send police into an armed militant camp in Yemen — risking their lives — so we can make a good-faith effort to capture him? Ignore him, because was can only be absolutely sure he was telling people to launch attacks if he has a trial?  Leave him until he’s actually, in the moment, arranging the next attack, because force is only justified if danger is imminent? (I don’t ask questions of those glad of his death, because their answer is self-evident).

    This is, I think, a new variant of the question, “Is it acceptable to kill one person, knowing that you will save the lives of others?” I respect that there are many answers to this question in principle, but it is the practical application that puts the meaning in the morals.

  41. I knew the only place I had to come to see moral outrage that this asshole was killed would be BB. Thanks for not letting me down guys but seriously.. Where do you get the energy? I cannot muster an ounce of care that they took this guy out. The fact that they targeted the car in which he was travelling with a remote-control plane is just uber-badass icing on the revenge cake. Had the guy not recruited a bumbling fool to play the role of underpants bomber, and a plane full of Americans had gone down as was planned then I’m sure you all wouldn’t be too worried about seeking the moral and legal authority behind killing him in this way.

    The idea that this is the first US citizen the Government has killed without due process is incredibly adorable. I’m not saying that I think they have the right to do that, I’m just saying that this ain’t the first time.

    The US should get credit for at least laying claim to their acts of international assassination. Israel’s Mossad isn’t quite as forthcoming with information regarding their (long history of) extrajudicial killings.

  42. I think even those who think his killing was completely deserved would agree it would have been better to capture and try him. But I don’t see how any reasonable person can see this as a practical outcome. I simply can’t believe the guy wouldn’t fight back (or have others do it for him) and would allow himself to be captured.

    I also don’t see this as any different from drones killing other insurgents.  Extending this to argue that it allows the US to kill anybody is a straw man argument born from living in a place where law and order, for the most part and admittedly not perfectly, prevails. Try making this argument to someone fighting insurgents in a lawless war zone and it completely falls apart.

  43. So, we have reports that he was a Yemeni citizen.  We have reports that he was tried and convicted by Yemen, and that the equivalent of a warrant was issued for him, supposedly ‘dead or alive’.  Assuming that there exists some ratified treaty with Yemen that allows us to support lawful requests by the government of Yemen, then due process exists.  It may even exist without the treaty, ask your friendly Supreme Court Justice.

    The shortcomings of the government of Yemen is a political question (probably should be a moral one, but it seems to be unpopular to consider those in international politics these days… if ever) (OK, except when needed as a casus belli) and are left as an exercise for the reader.

    But that’s logic.  Which has little enough to do with The Law.

  44. Here’s the problem with the court cases so many people seem to think we should have …yes, there IS evidence against these individuals, but it comes from the intelligence community – i.e. the evidence is classified, and to divulge it to a public court could mean giving away some of our more sensitive methods of information gathering (and no, I’m not referring to torture, which is a whole different argument), and thus give other terrorists something to say “hmm, how can I avoid this?”. 

  45. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

    “But US District Judge John Bates refused to intervene in Awlaki’s case.”

    That reads like a judge did consider at least some of the question, and deferred to the Exec. Branch.  The judge may have been in error, but no doubt the Executive branch, and probably the Legislative as well, will cite this as evidence of due process.  At least for the purposes of a sound bite.

  46. We have redefined a word and based on this new definition our
    president has given an extra-judicial order to kill a citizen of the
    United States in a foreign country. How has our new definition of war
    brought us to the point that our president has essentially nullified the
    5th and 14th Amendments to our constitution? This action not only
    serves to provide fuel to our critics, but threatens each and everyone
    of us. All because we have allowed our government to redefine one word,

    We need to stop calling this attempt to bring those conspiring to
    commit murder a war. We are not at war. We are threatened by common
    criminals. Obviously, these are not your typical common criminals, but I
    prefer to deny them any status above common criminal. These are
    murderers, plain and simple. Their reasons, while important to them and
    their followers, do not change the fact that they are nothing more than
    criminals and should be treated as such. Meaning they should be arrested
    and tried in court, and, if convicted, sentenced accordingly. This is
    called due process, and without it we erase 210 years of constitutional

    Think about this in others terms. In this country there are far more
    criminal groups, with far more members, than there are terrorist groups
    threatening or country. These criminals are a far greater threat to our
    security than any foreign terrorist group, yet so far they are still
    granted constitutional protection. These criminals cost our society
    billions of dollars every year, more than terrorists will ever cost us
    had we had not redefined what it means to be at war, eroding our
    constitution in the process.

    The 5th Amendment states that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in
    the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

    Please notice that this amendment does not make a distinction between
    U.S. citizen or foreign national. The amendment clearly states, as I
    have made bold, that “No person shall be held to answer for a capital,
    or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a
    Grand Jury,…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due
    process of law.”

    This was eventually followed by the 14th Amendment, adopted on July
    9, 1868, as part of the Reconstruction after the Civil War, which states
    in Section 1 that “All persons born or naturalized in the United
    States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the
    United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make
    or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of
    citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of
    life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any
    person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    A president convinced us that we are in a state of war, an opinion
    with which many would disagree. The president and congress declared
    common criminals to be equal to internationally recognized state
    governments; congress then gave the president the authorization to use
    military force to destroy this threat. And now, when it is convenient,
    even those who would see the United Nations dissolved find sanctuary in
    Security Council Resolutions authorizing the use of military force. Once
    we define our actions as war, constitutional rights are set aside for
    those who are found to be enemy combatants, citizenship
    notwithstanding.  Granting these criminals the status of a state and
    then saying we are at war stretches the law beyond its limits.

    This is all a grand abuse of language and law. Redefining what
    constitutes an enemy of the state and redefining war to include common
    criminals, we distort the law beyond recognition. This does not mean we
    can not use military force to hunt down and bring international
    criminals to justice in accordance with international law. It means we
    must remember that that is what we are doing. We must carefully choose
    our words to make the distinction that we are not fighting a war, but
    hunting down common criminals. By doing this we no longer allow our
    government to treat its citizens as enemy combatants, and we restore the
    rule of law.

    Only by restoring and extending the rule of law to everyone do we
    show our true strength and set ourselves above those that would wish us
    destroy our country from within. Only by restoring and extending the
    rule of law to everyone, especially the worst among us and those least
    able to defend themselves, can we hope to protect ourselves and our
    children from the real threat to freedom, ignorance and hatred.

  47. Fuck trials, lets just kill off all our perceived enemies of the state. 

    That will surely usher in a new era of civil liberties on a global scale. 

    USA! USA!

  48. There is no reason they couldn’t indict him, and try him in absentia if they wanted to do this.  By not doing so the president is claiming the right to assassinate any of us at any time without due process.  What don’t you understand about that?  Additionally, they could’ve capture him, just like they did bin Laden.  He wasn’t in a bunker, and they knew where he was enough to shoot missiles at him, they could’ve sent in special forces to capture him.  But either way, an indictment and trial ARE THE ONLY CONSTITUIONAL MEANS a president has to execute an American citizen.  Obama has gone way further than Bush ever dreamed.  Everyone screamed when Bush merely claimed the right to listen to our conversations without a court order.  He never tried to claim the right to assassinate us.  Even the kings of England, since the magna carta in 1215, didn’t have the right to kill their citizens without trial.  Of course there have been sham trials etc., but at least they preserved the forms of a civilized society where the leader didn’t have complete dictatorial power of the people.  Learn your history before you post ignorance.

  49. I see it as a lack of competence issue.

    If you’re not actually competent enough to capture and try criminals, I guess you have to murder them.

    Wouldn’t it be great to have a competent government?

  50. I was very sickened to see Bill Maher on his show champion the killing with some macho bullshit.  How can he not see the implications of this?  Sigh… He’s just proving himself to be more of an entertainer than a thinking person on this one.

    Imagine someone like Rick Perry with this power down the road…  Obama is certainly trying his best to become a war criminal, no wonder he didn’t help us go after Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld for it.


  51. Do we even know if the guy was real or really killed? What exactly are the implacable facts?

  52. The President has acted in direct violation of the 5th amendment. This, in turn, is in direct violation of his oath of office. Since this was an illegal execution, that makes this murder, ergo: The President of the United States has committed murder. Murder is a high crime. This President must be impeached (and possibly removed from office if impeachment succeeds). We MUST ensure that no current or future US President behaves in this manner in order to protect our future.

  53. While we can argue whether the assassination was technically legal or not, what bothers me is that I suspect there was little soul-searching amongst the decision makers. I would imagine that the entire conversation was about legalities and not about the sanctity of life.

    Like others posting here, I am gravely concerned about this “war on terror” that seems to have no definition, no end game, and no rules whatsoever. Where is the American ideal in that?

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