Has the U.S. Targeted Cleric al-Awlaki for Assassination?

First we had the congressional hearing at which Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair gave details of information Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (aka Private Underpants) has given to the FBI during debriefing sessions. He also explained that it's acceptable policy for the U.S. to target Americans overseas for assassination.

Now we have more law enforcement leaks about Abdulmutallab's debriefings: He's ratted out cleric (and American citizen) Anwar al-Awlaki. Not that al-Awlaki knew about his Christmas Day attack, just that he was his "teacher" and they had met and communicated, something al-Awlaki also acknowledges. [More...]

A senior U.S. intelligence official said Mr al-Awlaki represented the biggest name on the list of people Mr Abdulmutallab might have information against. His information could provide fresh clues for forces attempting to kill or capture him in the remote mountains of Yemen.

Weeks ago, the U.S. was negotiating with the tribes in Yemen, where al-Awlaki is believed to be hiding out, to turn him in. That hasn't happened. What next? Seems to me our officials staged these public leaks to let al-Alwaki know if he doesn't surrender, he's on our hit list.

If true, it means the lofty, principled United States has put out a contract on al-Awlaki, who has not been charged with a crime, who insists his role is inspirational not operational and that he had no knowledge of either the Ft. Hood killings or Abdulmutallab's Christmas Day attack. Yes, he's a recruiter for Jihadists, and a very successful one. He's associated with AQAP. Does that make it okay to give orders to kill him on sight? Sure seems that's the message.

Have we really moved from torture to outright murder of people we regard as suspects, before we even charge them with a crime? How abysmal, first for the victims killed by such a policy, but especially for us as a nation supposedly dedicated to freedom, due process and the rule of law.

Just the other day I was praising some of the lines in Obama's SOTU address, particularly this one: "America must always stand on the side of freedom and human dignity." Guess it was just a soundbite after all.

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    Constitutional Law Professor. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by observed on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 05:08:01 AM EST

    Not much of a team-player these (5.00 / 0) (#4)
    by kidneystones on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 07:20:49 AM EST
    days, are you Jeralyn? Thank goodness.

    Some Dems think this administration needs a tongue bath.
    Between targeted assassinations and Wall Street bailouts, ruinous unemployment and record deficits, hiring more mercenaries and expanding two wars, it's pretty clear the Republicans won the WH, Senate, and the House in 2008.

    Sadly, this ain't news.... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 08:13:21 AM EST
    Have we really moved from torture to outright murder of people we regard as suspects, before we even charge them with a crime?

    I don't think government assasination of citizens or foreigners is a new policy at all..its what the CIA does as part of s.o.p.

    What is new is being so brazen about it...new that is becoming acceptable behavior that the government must feel is no longer necessary to keep secret.

    Sun God help us.

    This.... (2.00 / 0) (#3)
    by jarober on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 05:17:48 AM EST
    Is why treating war acts judicially gets messy.  When you have an enemy combatant sitting in a hostile land where there's no rule of law, it gets to be pretty difficult to issue subpoenas...

    Or, to put it the other way, (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Peter G on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 11:42:42 AM EST
    this is why treating international criminal conspiracies as if they were armies at war with the U.S., and then applying the "rules" of modern war (which is to say, apparently, no rules), gets worse than "messy."  (Starting with: they don't wear uniforms and carry their weapons openly, therefore every one of them is an "unlawful combatant." Cf. Blackwater contractors, our intelligence operatives in action overseas, etc.) It becomes "war" without any of the "law of war" being applied -- either the U.S. Constitutional law, or the international humanitarian law.  And where there is no rule of law, there is no true civilization.

    what's your point? (none / 0) (#27)
    by diogenes on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 07:41:30 PM EST
    Should we ask Yemen to extradite this fellow and put him on Interpol posters until he is found?  Or is it OK to try to kill him?

    The President orders the hits (none / 0) (#1)
    by caseyOR on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 03:19:36 AM EST
    on American citizens. Glenn Greenwald explains this very well (I'd link to him, but the Salon site is undergoing "maintenance"). The president, and the president alone, with no judicial review, no requirement that any safeguards be taken, has the authority to decide that an American citizen, any American citizen,  will be assassinated.

    This newly minted power of our president's is not limited to ordering hits on Americans who are actively trying to kill other Americans; it is not limited to Americans who are proven to be members of an Al Quaida group; it is not limited to Americans who are out of the country. President Obama is claiming the power to order a hit on any American citizen living in the United States or anywhere else, with no more reason than Obama thinks this person is a terrorist. No requirement that a crime be committed, much less that a trial be held.

    And, as we have oh so sadly learned, once a president claims a new executive power and that claim is allowed to stand, every succeeding president will have that power. Think about that-- President Palin or President Paul Ryan with the power to order the killing of any American, anywhere.

    Read Glenn when the Salon site comes back up. It is all quite horrifying.

    Im more concerned about (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by jondee on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 11:09:19 AM EST
    the established precedent of interested parties being able to "cook the intelligence" (with the help of a media kitchen staff), that leads to assassinations -- and wars, with complete and utter impunity.

    It is disturbing that there is no (none / 0) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:06:38 AM EST
    check on this power.  I don't feel endangered by President Obama but who knows who will be President next round.

    I worry (none / 0) (#14)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:19:42 AM EST
    My worrying in regard to Obama is that he's continuing to lower the bar that I thought had hit rock bottom

    Considering the assassinations (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:36:37 AM EST
    that took place when we almost lost Baghdad under Bush, I don't see how they can lower that bar any lower.  I am told that people died who should have never died and I have no evidence, only talk from long faces.  This President does seem to have strict rules, though we aren't allowed to know what those are and guessing on such a thing can't be beneficial to anyone.  I have no way of comforting you or myself outside of saying that I can't see how Obama could lower the bar any lower than where he inherited it outside of dropping a nuke on a village with a couple of Al Qaeda in it.

    Sadly (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:41:30 AM EST
    The older I get the deeper the bottom seems to go. I grew up on Superman who fought for "Truth, justice and the American way"!

    Kit Bond (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 07:41:05 AM EST
    Not happy with the WH about leaking information about Abdulmutallab cooperating with officials.

    Bond, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to the president this week accusing the White House of sharing information that "reached the ears of our enemies abroad," when it confirmed that the accused Christmas Day bomber was cooperating with law enforcement. He claimed that he had been told to keep information about Abdulmutallab's interrogation strictly confidential.


    Bond responded by escalating the war of words.

    "After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I'm supposed to apologize?" he said in a statement to POLITICO

    Bond is retiring this year.  

    First Goodman says Obama is a "slow learner" and now Kit Bond is calling him out?  

    Gonna get nastier before it gets better...

    Hey, I'm delighted if Republicans (none / 0) (#7)
    by observed on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 08:10:16 AM EST
    call Obama a "slow learner" or any other insult.
    No, it's not because I agree---it's because it forces Obama away from PPUS garbage.

    Goodman (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 08:19:13 AM EST
    is actually a Democrat - which makes it more interesting.

    Fear sells (none / 0) (#6)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 07:42:05 AM EST
    I received an e-mail from the ACLU yesterday about the Senate renewal of certain provisions of the Patriot Act.

    After reading this, I doubt that there's a snowball chance in h#ll of any opposition.

    America is supposed to be the home of the brave. Yet we continually allow a group of right wingers to cower us in a corner, whether it's over terror, HCR or the economy.

    These same fear tactcs worked well for the hardliners in the 1950's. This time instead of a black list, we'll just shoot them.

    I'll be blunt (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:03:25 AM EST
    If you teach and enable terrorism or take part in terrorism, our forces will hunt you down and kill you and they will not be sorry.  They are probably trying to get him to turn himself over so that they can further understand the framework of the terrorism structure that exists in Yemen.  This is our new reality no matter who is President.  I find it absurd to think that any sitting President will invite terrorist acts or gamble with the possibility of them ever again.  Those days of feeling secure yet knowing about the risks are over.  JSOC will hunt you, JSOC will kill you, end of discussion.  If they release the last of the Gitmo prisoners and they join terrorist networks, they will be hunted and killed.

    If only this were true.... (5.00 / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:11:06 AM EST
    If you teach and enable terrorism or take part in terrorism, our forces will hunt you down and kill you and they will not be sorry

    More accurate would be if you teach and enable certain strains of terrorism, we'll farkin' kill ya.  Other strains are just peachy, in fact we're the perpetrator.


    This is probably true at this time (none / 0) (#15)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:27:18 AM EST
    If we had Americans forming terrorist cells and schooling terrorism I would think the FBI would address that, and that risk and those individuals we would all think would be in FBI jurisdiction. We do not allow Americans the freedom to form terrorist cells though or preform acts of terrorism.  That is not simply okay to do.  As for assassinating worldwide Islamic Fundy terrorists right now, I'm having a really really hard time feeling sorry for any of them.  Lost too many friends, these people have no respect for the rights of anyone and they never will.  If you are captured by them for being from the West, go ahead and explain to them that you are empathetic in any human way, shape, or form.  Depending on the group I'd give any one of us about a 10% chance of living to see the next day.  Most likely they will hack off any one of our heads simply for their own personal pleasure.  I do not know any other way to address the enormous problems of the current Islamic terrorism or the total annihilation wishes and goals that they have for every single one of us, and it is all based on who and what they want their God to be and the power their self created God and deadly terrorism lends to them.

    We'd hope it would be the FBI (5.00 / 0) (#26)
    by caseyOR on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 02:55:35 PM EST
    investigating and, if warranted, bringing criminal charges against Americans performing terrorist acts. As always, the devil is in the details. And the details are scary, very scary.

    The current assassination program is NOT limited to people on foreign soil. It is NOT limited to people acting with extreme Islamic fundamentalists. Anybody the POTUS, and POTUS alone, decides is a terrorist can be targeted to elimination. The president, whoever that might be, could decide that people demonstrating against, oh say the WTO, in oh say Seattle, were terrorists and order them killed. No check on his power to do this.

    This is what happens when we screw around with the Constitution and the tenets of the United States, when we lose faith in our own rule of law. Once that genie is out of the bottle it becomes very difficult, if not impossible to get the genie back in. When that happens America stops being America, and becomes another lawless state run by evil and soulless people.


    I hear ya... (none / 0) (#18)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:37:41 AM EST
    sometimes it boils down to kill or be killed...I just think leaving these backwards mofo's halfway around the world alone is worth a shot before we play world executioner cop...though it may be too late for that now, what do I know.

    BTW I wasn't referring to homegrown terrorists, I was referring to our homegrown federal government and their coups and meddling and bombing, specifically pre-9/11.


    And what terrorism are we (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:29:11 AM EST
    perpetrating at this time?

    Where do I start?....n/t (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 10:38:41 AM EST
    That's a cop out (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Feb 09, 2010 at 04:36:00 AM EST
    I was talking to kdog (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Feb 10, 2010 at 07:48:55 PM EST
    not you.  I do that often and we often agree, and sometimes don't.  I will agree to disagree with you perhaps over your own point.

    I agree that drone strikes that kill (none / 0) (#29)
    by Militarytracy on Tue Feb 09, 2010 at 04:55:57 AM EST
    innocents are very damaging and can be considered a terrorizing factor in the daily lives of those who are around the people forming, training, and recruiting for terrorist organizations and networks.  Those strikes are not made though in order to terrorize anyone.  Those strikes are made to kill people that like to kill large quantities of innocent people in order to scare the whole world and have power and fame due to those actions.  They've gotten pretty good at it too.  You can attempt to say that our country only pretends to have justifiable intent and it truly does intend to terrorize people, and I can tell you that I live with someone who is exposed to this entire process daily and you couldn't be more wrong.  And it is fine to complain, needs to happen....but sadly nobody complaining has any working solutions to dealing with these terrorists and Booman's whole stupid notion about giving them everything they want and they'll just leave us alone comes from a total idiot.  The people we go after with drone strikes love the power that comes from terrorism and nothing else is the real issue for the people running this stuff and trying to recruit people who will actually listen to their crap and then detonate themselves for Allah.  You can give these terrorist network creators and providers everything they say they want today but the reality is that they are addicted to the power and the notoriety, the attention and power to create mass fear that comes with being a terrorist who prospers in the failed states of the world right now.  The other reality is that the people that we target with drone strikes are religious extremists and I'm an Infidel and nobody is going to make me TAKE their religion....I will choose my religion, I will not cover my hair or my face for such misogynist filth in hopes that they wouldn't kill me today.  It wouldn't really matter if I did do all those things though anyhow as they kill innocent Muslims just as easily and conscienceless as they do anyone and everyone else.

    You can say that intent (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Feb 10, 2010 at 07:00:54 AM EST
    does not matter but you aren't responsible for keeping the citizens of the United States safe, President Obama is.  You aren't responsible if another terror strike politically blows up your own party's ability to govern and then crazy people will, President Obama is.  President Obama is literally stuck in between two powerful forces of crazy people.  I don't think that criticism should be sidelined either, but you can't just flush away the truths you don't like.  And you can also cite whatever sources you can find that agree with whatever argument you desire to make before you care to weigh all the facts all you want.  You aren't responsible for what happens the next time Al Qaeda succeeds, President Obama is and there is no negotiating with those thriving on preforming terrorist acts.  Nobody wants to negotiate with people MORE than this President does, to the point that he drives his own base literally nuts right now.  He is a cautious President, and he is choosing to address this problem in probably the most cautious ways it can be addressed in.  Once again as well, so much of the world is in Afghanistan with us and upping their numbers participating daily.  This is a huge global problem and much of the globe is responding back.  It is not just me and a-hole Americans like me against Al Qaeda and I'm going to lose some media battle.  If you didn't notice, almost the whole civilized not a failed state world stands with me.  Lastly, I'm not afraid of facing Al Qaeda but you obviously are.  

    Terrorists (5.00 / 0) (#25)
    by Andreas on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 02:55:26 PM EST
    if you teach and enable terrorism or take part in terrorism

    The members of the Bush administration have done all of this. And the Obama administration does the same.

    End game? (none / 0) (#23)
    by mmc9431 on Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 11:11:35 AM EST
    Do you feel we can win with the strategy we've undertaken?

    My bigger fear isn't another terrorist attack. My bigger fear is that we're caught in a loop and my great grandchildren will still be fighting this war.