By now any American breathing knows that Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a US military launched drone in Yemen on Friday, September 30, 2011. His killing has been hailed as the largest US success in hitting al-Qaeda leadership since the May, 2011, killing of Osama bin Laden. But his killing raises questions about al-Awlaki, an American citizen. He has not been charged with any crime, and civil liberties groups have questioned the US’s authority to kill an American without trial. The strike also killed Samir Khan, the co-editor of an English-language Al Qaeda web magazine called “Inspire.” Khan was an American of Pakistani heritage. His magazine promoted attacks against U.S. targets.
Who was Anwar al-Awlaki?
Anwar al-Awlaki, 40, from San Diego, CA, born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents, was an American, a former imam, and an engineer and educator. He was promoted to the rank of “regional commander” on the Saudi Arabian peninsula within al-Qaeda in 2009. He reportedly spoke with, trained, and preached to a number of al-Qaeda members and affiliates, including three of the 9/11 hijackers. Al-Awlaki was believed to be in hiding in Southeast Yemen since 2002. President Obama signed an order in early 2010 making him the first American to be placed on the “kill or capture” list.
al-Awlaki’s Recent Activities
Anwar al-Awlaki is credited with inspiring or directing at least four plots on US soil:
There can be little doubt that al-Awlaki was a bad guy.
Due Process Of Law
Civil liberties groups are condemning the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, saying that he was killed without proper legal process. Anwar al-Awlaki’s father, Nasser, sued President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta in 2010, when it became clear that the US was targeting al-Awlaki. But US District Judge John Bates threw the case out. Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU lawyer who handled the case said, “The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the president, any president, with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.” [emphasis mine – I guess al-Awlaki’s recent activities were not concrete, specific and imminent enough for Jaffer]
But Kenneth Anderson, an international law scholar at American University’s Washington College of Law, said US citizens who take up arms with an enemy force have been considered legitimate targets through two world wars, even if they are outside what is traditionally considered the battlefield.
Let’s turn our attention to the US Constitution, specifically the 5th amendment. Among other things, it clearly states, “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;….” Does “in time of War or public danger” apply to al-Awlaki? Apparently civil liberty groups don’t think so.
“War On Terror
President Obama and his administration worked hard to stop using the phrase “War on Terror,” essentially declaring it to be over, or that it never existed. They refused to call all activities by al-Awlaki “terrorist activities.” Obama has put himself on the spot. If he admits that we are fighting terrorists, he is admitting how wrong he has been about the “War on Terror.” If he does not, and continues downplaying the terrorist threat, he puts the nation at greater risk on the altar of political correctness. Obama does not want to identify the enemy for who they are – Islamic Jihadists working to destroy our way of life. We are at war and the enemy will never rest in their desire to harm us. They can’t be negotiated with or pacified. We must be more determined to destroy them than they are to destroy us.
So I suspect that the current situation with al-Awlaki, his being killed, and his “rights,” will come down to interpretation of the 5th amendment to the US Constitution and whether or not this country is “at war.” But let’s remember that al-Awlaki was a self professed al Qaeda member, and that the al Queda attack on September 11, 2001, was an act of war. Some ACLU “do-gooder” lawyer will file a lawsuit on behalf of al-Awlaki, and we taxpayers will again have to foot the bill for him and his activities.
But that’s just my opinion.