Where Are The Moral And Legal Lines When We Target American Citizens For Death?

Okay, it's progress that we're publicly having this discussion. I'm glad that we're having it. But it absolutely horrifies me that we're setting this

Okay, it's progress that we're publicly having this discussion. I'm glad that we're having it. But it absolutely horrifies me that we're setting this legal precedent:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism.

The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy.

Uh, shouldn't it?

To eavesdrop on the terrorism suspect who was added to the target list, the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is hiding in Yemen, intelligence agencies would have to get a court warrant. But designating him for death, as C.I.A. officials did early this year with the National Security Council’s approval, required no judicial review.

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“Congress has protected Awlaki’s cellphone calls,” said Vicki Divoll, a former C.I.A. lawyer who now teaches at the United States Naval Academy. “But it has not provided any protections for his life. That makes no sense.”

Administration officials take the view that no legal or constitutional rights can protect Mr. Awlaki, a charismatic preacher who has said it is a religious duty to attack the United States and who the C.I.A. believes is actively plotting violence. The attempted bombing of Times Square on May 1 is the latest of more than a dozen terrorist plots in the West that investigators believe were inspired in part by Mr. Awlaki’s rhetoric.

“American citizenship doesn’t give you carte blanche to wage war against your own country,” said a counterterrorism official who discussed the classified program on condition of anonymity. “If you cast your lot with its enemies, you may well share their fate.”

President Obama, who campaigned for the presidency against George W. Bush-era interrogation and detention practices, has implicitly invited moral and legal scrutiny of his own policies.

But like the debate over torture during the Bush administration, public discussion of what officials call targeted killing has been limited by the secrecy of the C.I.A. drone program. Representative John F. Tierney, who on April 28 held the first Congressional hearing focused on the lawfulness of targeted killing, said he was determined to air the contentious questions publicly and possibly seek legislation to govern such operations.

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