Beware the civil liberties damage from Anwar al-Awlaki’s assassination

Oct 06, 2011 Beware the civil liberties damage from Anwar al-Awlaki’s assassination

As I first wrote over a decade ago: How many people, when asked "What were you doing during [some major historical event]?" can only shrug their shoulders to say they missed it all, during the daily grind of work, the commercial monster, commuting, eating, sleeping, and beer?

As to Anwar al-Alwaki’s September 30 assassination at the direction of President Obama, the week was ending, the weekend was for recharging my batteries, and the week has been filled with court battles. I knew about the story, and I need to start blogging about it now, at least briefly.

Mr. Al-Awlaki was an American citizen. Was he targeted mainly as an Al Queda propagandist? That would raise serious First Amendment concerns, by itself. President Obama claimed his role was more extensive than that, calling Mr. Al-Alwaki “’the leader of external operations for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula… In that role, he took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans.’" 

My further concerns include:

– When Osama bin Laden was killed, I raised important issues to consider rather than rejoicing over his death. The same concerns apply as to Mr. Al-Alwaki.

– Mr. Al-Alwaki was assassinated by a drone missile inside Yemen, a country with which the United States is not at war, and a country whose leader, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, is far from a friend of human rights. Did the U.S. seek Yemen’s pre-approval or post-approval for the attack? If so, and if that approval was gained, was that meant to blunt U.S. pressure for Saleh to step down? If such pre-approval was not freely and voluntarily obtained (from whom, though?), so much for respecting the sovereignty of other nations.

– A drone does not have any intelligence to know whether it is hitting only the targeted person. Here, seven people were reportedly killed by the drone missile that killed Mr. Al-Alwaki. The Washington Post reports that among the dead is United States citizen Samir Khan, "the co-editor of an al-Qaeda magazine."

– Consequently, the drone strike approved or ordered by President Obama thus far does not reveal that sufficiently extenuating circumstances justified the drone bombing, and it was a strike killing two United States citizens at that. If you feel that such actions are not going to threaten everyone’s civil liberties — including the right to a fair trial under the Constitution at the very least for United States citizens who allegedly commit crimes abroad — think again. Thanks to Jonathan Turley for having blogged yesterday on this civil liberties angle, and to Ron Paul for having raised concerns about who is next on the killing list.

– How much safer is anyone with Mr. Al-Awlaki’s killing? Plenty of people probably are more than happy to fill his shoes.  

– Reuters reports on a secret U.S. government kill list. Just having learned about this list, I will look into it further. 

– Violence begets violence.

Now is the longest that the United States has ever officially been at war since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. All this war against terrorism, in Afghanistan and in Iraq continues to kill and maim innocents among those who are violent themselves, continues killing and maiming United States soldiers, deteriorate our civil liberties, and depletes the United States treasury at the worst time considering that the economy is in the worst shape since the Depression. Whatever your view is on all this war activity and curtailment of civil liberties, let your voice be heard by the government and by those who vote.

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