War on Terror

Ron Paul, Gary Johnson Among Those Not Keen on U.S. Killing of Anwar al-Awlaki


Anwar al-Awlaki is dead; and on the occasion of the deliberate targeting and killing of an American citizen by the American government, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is less than excited about the precedent that may have been set. 

The protections under the Constitution for those accused of crimes do not just apply to people we like — they apply to everyone, including a terrorist like al-Awlaki. It is a question of due process for American citizens.

The rest of Johnson's response here.

Texas Congressman and fellow GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul made lots more headlines when he dubbed the killing of terrorist friend and inciter Awlaki (and another American citizen) an assassination. In contrast with the other potential presidents besides Johnson, Paul thought this didn't bode well for America, saying:

No one knows if [Awlaki] killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the 'underwear bomber.' But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys. I think it's sad.

Paul pointed out how domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh got a trial, appeals, and an execution, and said that's what should have been done with Awlaki.

Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the Independent Institute, weirdly enough wrote a column just two days ago in which he contrasted the outrage over recently executed Troy Davis and the less for the appeal-free death sentence put on Anwar al-Awlaki.

The meat of Eland's objections:

"War on terror" advocates will then argue that that is only a technicality, because Congress did pass a resolution authorizing military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and those who harbored them. But although al-Awlaki may be part of the group al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (a franchise of the main al-Qaeda group), has publicly called for the killing of Americans, and may even be linked to certain specific terrorist attacks in the United States, it has not been alleged by Obama administration officials that he planned, authorized, committed, or in any way assisted the 9/11 attacks or harbored those who perpetrated them. Thus, killing him is not authorized by the congressional resolution.

His case merely highlights the fact that the administration has secret criteria for putting people, including U.S. citizens, on a hit list. Thus, al-Awlaki won't even have been informed of how he ran afoul of the U.S. government before he gets whacked. But why should Americans care about the rights of some guy who hates America and may even be a terrorist? Because if an American president can just declare anyone anywhere, including U.S. citizens, a danger to national security and kill him without any due process or oversight from the other branches of government, the rights of all Americans (and other persons) are in danger.

Even the district court judge who dismissed a suit by Anwar's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, who tried to argue against the Obama administration's unconstrained authority to kill any American without due process, wondered why the administration required a judge's warrant to target a U.S. citizen overseas using electronic surveillance but not to target that same citizen for death. 

Read the rest here.

All three, as well as that faithful opponent of the open-ended war on terror, Glenn Greenwald, make the same point. Even by the rules set out during post-9/11 feverish paranoia, this is something new. And though the Obama administration is making sure to declare Awlaki a big fish posthumously, The Atlantic again makes the case that he was just a blow-hard who was a little too good at convincing the U.S. government that he was a threat. Even if that's not true, the Obama administration has not been forthcoming enough to destroy that argument to everyone's satisfaction.

Read Reason on the war on terror, especially Jacob Sullum on some half-assed debates over the legality of targeting Awlaki for death in the first place. And stronger words of caution from Sullum last June:

Before you take the government's word that Awlaki has been marked for death based on something more than his anti-American tirades, consider its track record in justifying the detention of alleged "belligerents." Even though the burden of proof is much lighter than it would be in a criminal trial, the American Civil Liberties Union notes, "the government has failed to prove the lawfulness of imprisoning individual Guantanamo detainees in 34 of the 48 cases that have been reviewed by the federal courts thus far."

Luckily for the government, it does not need to present any evidence against Awlaki or other "high-value targets," because it does not want to detain them. It only wants to kill them.