Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan assassinations (3)

The Presidential-ordered assassination of American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in Yemen, neither of them so much as indicted for actual crimes, is a further serious corruption of the US Constitutional system. The Executive Branch has neither the legal nor Constitutional authority to target individual Americans for assassinations, within or outside the borders of the country. The idea that the President can order a hit on anyone he pleases, including an American citizen, goes to the heart of the rule of law, just as does the torture policy initiated by the Cheney-Bush Administration.

Michael Ratner, the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, writes on The Extrajudicial Drone Murder of US Citizen Anwar al-Awlaki Alternet 10/02/2011:

The claim, after the fact, by President Obama that Awlaki "operationally directed efforts" to attack the United States was never presented to a court before he was placed on the "kill" list and is untested. Even if President Obama's claim has some validity, unless Awlaki's alleged terrorists actions were imminent and unless deadly force employed as a last resort, this killing constitutes murder.

We know the government makes mistakes, lots of them, in giving people a "terrorist" label. Hundreds of men were wrongfully detained at Guantánamo. Should this same government, or any government, be allowed to order people's killing without due process?

The dire implications of this killing should not be lost on any of us. There appears to be no limit to the president's power to kill anywhere in the world, even if it involves killing a citizen of his own country. Today, it's in Yemen; tomorrow, it could be in the UK or even in the United States. [my emphasis]
Daphne Evitar back last December noted the problematic nature of the federal court decision that blocked a challenge by Awlaki's father to the assassination order in Al-Awlaki Decision Leaves Key Questions Unanswered Human Rights First 12/07/2011:

"How is it that judicial approval is required when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for electronic surveillance, but ... judicial scrutiny is prohibited when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for death?"

That's just one of many intriguing questions raised - but not answered - by the D.C. District Court today in its decision dismissing the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, a challenge to the government's authorization to kill a U.S. citizen allegedly tied to Al Qaeda overseas. Ultimately, the court won’t answer any of these critical questions because it decided that Al-Awlaki's father lacks standing to sue, since he’s not directly harmed by the U.S. action.

Significantly, though, Judge John Bates did not dismiss the case on the merits. Instead, he went out of his way to write that the case raises important legal questions regarding whether the government can target its own citizen for death in a foreign country without so much as a hearing to determine that he's done anything wrong. [my emphasis]
Neither the torture crimes nor the assassination policy are going away. There has to be a real accounting for both. And an end to both.

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