American-born terrorist executed without due process

In case you missed the story from Friday, the United States killed one of its own citizens, a New Mexico-born terrorist working with al-Qaeda, in Yemen without due process, a protected right by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution:

President Obama welcomed news of the death of one of the nation’s most-wanted terrorists, cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen on Friday, calling it “another significant milestone” in the war against al-Qaida and its affiliates. Speaking just months after he ordered the killing of Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in his compound in Pakistan, Obama said Awlaki took the lead in “planning efforts to murder innocent Americans” as head of external operations for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Awlaki was a charismatic Yemeni-American who grew up in New Mexico and was considered the most influential English-speaking cleric preaching global jihad today. He was killed by a U.S. drone and jet strike in a joint operation of the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, the Associated Press reported.

“The death of Awlaki is a major blow to al-Qaida’s most active affiliate,” Obama said at the retirement ceremony for Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. Awlaki’s death is a “tribute” to the U.S. intelligence community, and the efforts of Yemen and its intelligence community, he said.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shedding tears for the loss of this terrorist. But I do believe this sets a very troubling precedent. The idea that the United States government can condemn a citizen to death — and yes, al-Awlaki was indeed a citizen — continues the fall down a slippery slope, as Kelley Vlahos explains at The American Conservative:

The U.S government has spent the last year trying to convince us that it was legal to target an American citizen for termination because he was a “terrorist” and “key al Qaeda leader,” though it never bothered to give us the evidence because of course, any intelligence it had on Awlaki was “classified” and we just had to take their word for it. Plenty of smart people are pointing out today that Awlaki was hardly a significant operational threat, much less the new Osama bin Laden — though the White House was trying so hard to make him OBL’s replacement.

So now the U.S government has gone from blowing up from the sky any foreigner it deems a threat to national security (and anyone unlucky to be next to him at the time), to picking off American citizens with the same impunity. A foreboding moment, seeing that Awlaki’s assassination comes the same month we’re told the military is working on pilotless, automatic killer drones, and amid growing reports that American police and border patrol agents are routinely using surveillance drones for law enforcement here in the United States. Scarier still, is that by public accounts, Awlaki was targeted for what he said, not what he did. He was an extremist and a propagandist in a war that has been just as much about moving hearts and minds as it has about tearing into flesh and imprisoning the enemy. Crazy people might have listened to him and acted on their own impulses — much like Anders Behring Breivik liked to listen to American Islamophobe propagandists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller before he went out and killed 76 people in Norway — but we have yet to hear any evidence that he picked up a gun or planted an IED or even plotted a successful attack against the United States. Judge, jury and executioner — it doesn’t matter much to Awlaki now, but we deserve to hear the proof.

Ironically, many of the same voices that spoke so loudly at the warmongering, abuses of civil liberties, and even the proposal of killing an American citizen without due process during the last administration, are stunningly silent as his successor, Barack Obama, shows his own infidelity to the Constitution.

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