Americans woke this morning to the news that Anwar Al-Awlaki, the number one Al Qaeda target since the death of Bin Laden, was killed in a CIA predator drone strike Friday. Al-Awlaki has been tied to several terrorist attacks including the Fort Hood shooting in 2009.
Nidel Hasan – the alleged assassin in the Ft. Hood shootings – claimed to have had direct communication with Al-Awlaki before the massacre that killed 14 people and wounded several others. Al-Awlaki, unlike the other high profile targets in the Al Qaeda network, is American born. He became radicalized at an early age and in 2010, President Obama signed an order making him the first American to be named to the “capture or kill” list.
The Yemeni defense department confirmed the kill Friday morning. Yemen’s cooperation in bringing Al-Awlaki to justice has increased dramatically since the rise of civil unrest in the region. The killing strikes a major blow to the terrorist network as Al-Awlaki was considered to be the functional and inspirational leader of Al Qaeda since the death of Osama Bin Laden.
The legality and constitutionality of the attack that killed Al-Awlaki will now invariably come to the forefront. Unlike Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders, the American born Al-Awlaki had rights guaranteed under the Constitution to Due Process of law. However others will argue that his actions clearly were treasonous, a penalty that at worst warrants death or at least warrants expatriation.
There will be a flurry of arguments from both sides of this issue, but for now, the United States has dealt a severe both to the already shell shocked terrorist network from which it will take a long time to recover.