Monday, October 03, 2011

The Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan assassinations (2)

New Yorker senior editor Amy Davidson poses Questions About Killing Awlaki 09/30/2011. She concludes her piece with a key question:

If the debate about the death penalty in the past few weeks has shown anything, it should be that the bad nature of the executed is not the only thing that matters. So does the approach we take to execution, and the character and commitment to the law we show when we decide to kill someone. We have every right to interrogate those, no matter the frightening pictures and quotes from sermons we are shown. If we can kill Awlaki, in the way and for the reasons we have, whom else can we kill, and why?
Here are more of her questions:

... there are a couple of points here that should make anyone wary: first, that the President of the United States could order the killing of an American citizen with no judicial proceedings, in a country (Yemen) with which we are not at war, simply because the President judges that person to be dangerous; and, second, the fuzziness used when discussing the exact nature of the danger Awlaki posed. ...

Was it as a conspirator or an inspirer that he was killed? The "senior Administration official" told the Times that his operational role was more important, and the A.P. noted that the Administration disclosed new "detailed intelligence to justify the killing of a U.S. citizen." If so, it makes the extrajudicial nature of this operation more frustrating. And when one hears about Awlaki being linked to a dozen terror cases, the link in question is more often a sermon or an article or e-mails about jihad, rather than what might be called overt acts. (The Washington Post noted that he had been "been implicated in helping to motivate several attacks on U.S. soil.") Would that have been enough?
Although she mostly speaks about Awlaki's killing, she does mention the simultaneous killing of Samir Khan, who like Awlaki was an American citizen.

Marcy Wheeler in Anwar al-Awlaki Assassination: Double Secret Illegitimacy Emptywheel 10/01/2011 deals with this article by Jack Goldsmith, formerly of the Cheney-Bush Justice Department, in which he justifies the assassination of Awlaki, A Just Act of War New York Times 09/30/2011. The following is a big understatement: "This fateful new step in our ever-expanding war against terrorists — intentionally killing an American citizen — is fraught with the danger of executive overreach or mistakes." He doesn't even bother to mention the assassination of Samir Khan, the other American citizen who was with Awlaki. Unlike with Awlaki, the Justice Department had convened a grand jury to bring charges against Khan but failed to do so.

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