October 1st, 2011

Was it legal to kill al-Awlaki?

Was it legal to kill al-Awlaki without due process, courtesy of drone?

Some will say “who cares? Good riddance.” But they are ignoring the importance of the issue and the possible danger of the precedent, while those who question the mission’s legality are asking a question that is necessary to confront: under what circumstances can a president order the liquidation of an American citizen (or possible former American citizen) without any courtroom procedure, even a military tribunal?

I have some respect for those on the left who were vocally against Bush’s extra-judicial treatment of terrorists and who also are criticizing Obama for his actions. At least they display an admirable intellectual consistency, although I think they’re wrong.

Here’s why, from Kenneth Anderson at the law blog Volokh. Anderson writes:

The government has maintained throughout all this that Al-Aulaqi was deemed a lawful target not on account of his expression of opinions, including calls to violence against the United States and its citizens, but instead on account of his operational involvement in AQAP, in ways going to leadership of an associated force terrorist organization and operational and planning involvement. My view of this targeted killing is straightforwardly, congratulations, Mr. President. What has been visible publicly leaves little or no doubt in my mind that Al-Aulaqi was deeply involved in AQAP in operations, and indeed at the highest levels…

Who? As an international law matter, is Al-Aulaqi a lawful target? The US government sees him as taking part in hostilities, part of the operational leadership of an associated force with Al Qaeda, the AQAP. So, yes, he can be targeted with lethal force — and targeted without warning, without an attempt to arrest or apprehend as a law enforcement matter.

Where? Does it matter that he was in Yemen, and not an “active battlefield” in a conventional hostilities sense? The US government does not accept the idea that the armed conflict with Al Qaeda — or armed conflict generally — is confined as a legal matter to some notion of “theatres of conflict” or “active battlefields” or related terms that have been used in recent years by academics and activist groups. As I understand the US government position, it sticks by the traditional concept of “hostilities,” and that where the hostiles go, the possibility of armed conflict goes too… So the fact that he was present in Yemen does not make him beyond targeting, because he is not present in some “active” battlezone such as Afghanistan.

There’s more in the essay, much more—and I highly recommend reading the entire thing—as well as this draft of an article by Robert Chesney, written before the killing. It all dovetails considerably with my own thought process on the subject (which I wrote before reading any of the legal discussions), here:

Al Qaeda is a foreign-based international terrorist group that has declared war on the US and put its money where its mouth is. So for al-Awlaki, he’s got a combination of factors that distinguish him: member of foreign terrorist organization that declared war on US, foreign residence for years, and participant in killings.

I will add that it is disturbing and troubling that a US citizen (whether or not he effectively although informally renounced his citizenship some time before that) was summarily killed by a drone. But the arguments are strong that in this sort of case it is legally acceptable to have done so, and the practical arguments also make it clear that there was no other way to prevent further attacks on this country by this person. In his draft, Chesney writes on the latter subject (again, his piece was written before the killing):

(i) there is substantial evidence that [al-Alwaki] is planning terrorist attacks, (ii) there is no plausible opportunity to incapacitate him with non-lethal means, and (iii) there is not good reason to believe that a plausible non-lethal opportunity to incapacitate him will arise before harm to others occurs. A second question then arises, however. Must al-Awlaki be linked to a specific plot to carry out a particular attack, or is it enough that the evidence establishes that he can and will attempt or otherwise be involved in attacks in the future without specificity as to what the particulars of those attacks might be? The former approach has the virtue of clarity, yet could rarely be satisfied given the clandestine nature of terrorism. The latter approach necessarily runs a greater risk of abuse and thus perhaps justifies an especially high evidentiary threshold, but in any event it is a more realistic and more appropriate approach (particularly from the point of view of the potential victims of future terrorist attacks).

Fighting international terrorism presents us with a different kind of war. That does not mean we can do whatever we want. But it does mean that the rules need developing and clarifying. I’ll finish with Anderson again:

As to the due process claims, as Robert Chesney notes at Lawfare, the US government does not appear to be taking a blanket position that a US citizen deemed to be a targetable participant in a terrorist group has no due process rights outside of the US in any sense, on the one hand, but neither does it appear to take the position that the vindication of whatever those due process rights are entitles the citizen to merely being subject to an attempt to arrest, including in a remote location in Yemen, and to warning before using lethal force. I don’t think the US government has a worked out position suitable for every case — as seems to me quite appropriate. It is in the process of working out something that is only partly like straight-up armed conflict law and something that is gradually, inchoately emerging as a sort of “state practice” of covert intelligence operations. The working out of those positions is proceeding case by case.

52 Responses to “Was it legal to kill al-Awlaki?”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    “So the fact that he was present in Yemen does not make him beyond targeting, because he is not present in some “active” battlezone such as Afghanistan.”

    Okay, but as others have suggested, does that mean they can target him with a missile from a Predator in, say, Nevada?

  2. John Says:

    I don’t care if it was legal or not, the world is better off without him.

  3. expat Says:

    I saw that another person killed in the attack was AQAP’s master bomb builder. That seems to establish a close tie with the operative arm of AQ.

    As to the Nevada question, I think the problem is that the area of Yemen where he was hiding is not under control of the Yemen government. It’s a bit like building bombs on a ship outside the 12-mile limit.

  4. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I guess I’m just a callous and insensitive guy, but if someone tries to kill you and other fellow citizens in car load lots, and encourages and recruits others to do so as well, if you kill him before he kills you, that is a cause for rejoicing, and not for pettifogging, for sniveling, and hand-wringing.

    Human nature and experience being what they are, there are a lot of violent, sadistic, and brutal people in the world, and as far as I am concerned, “taking out the trash” is a very worthwhile and civic duty.

    It is no wonder that people have less and less faith in and more and more cynicism about the “law” and our “justice system,” as they see–over and over again– that there often is no real Justice, and that the guilty often either get clean away with it, or suffer very few consequences or punishment for their crimes.

    It is amazing to me, how often the victims of such monstrous people are just forgotten about and, instead, all of that weeping and wailing, protestations, vigils, and argument are directed almost exclusively at bewailing the presumed ill treatment of, and assuring such monster’s “rights”–all by seeming armies of self-described “concerned,” “sensitive” and “enlightened” people who, apparently, couldn’t care less about the victims of these monsters and, in fact, who often try to “blame the victims,” as if it were somehow their fault that they were killed or kidnapped, raped or tortured–see 9/11.

  5. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    vanderleun@4:53: “Okay, but as others have suggested, does that mean they can target him with a missile from a Predator in, say, Nevada?”

    My supposition is that they might consider his presence in Nevada more amenable to capture rather than a drone attack. However, the Ruby Ridge and Branch Davidian cases indicate that the government will use whatever they consider appropriate force to arrest/terminate an enemy of the government. The fact that there have been no further similar violence against citizens here in CONUS indicates that there is some restraint as a result of all the debate that followed those incidents. In the cases of Ted Kaczynski and Tim McVeigh there were pains taken to follow the law closely. Of course, in those days drone technology was not available. Would drones have been used to take either Kaczynski or McVeigh out if they were available?

    Satellite face recognition technology, GM’s On Star, data mining of computer systems, and tracking of cell phones makes it more difficult for criminals/terrorists to just melt into the crowd or easily lose their pursuers. All of this creates new questions about privacy and the reach of the state.

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    J.J.: the examples you give (both real and hypothetical), lack the basics that are present in the al-Awlaki case and are used to justify what happened there. None of those people were (as al-Alwaki was) important operatives in an international terrorist group that had declared war on the US and which had murdered US citizens in furtherance of the goals of that group.

  7. effess Says:

    Here is a suggested “compromise” for targeting future al-Awlakis: somewhere on the exterior of drone missiles we should print, ala cigarette packages, the Miranda rights warning.

  8. stan Says:

    Having publicly joined in a war effort against the US, he should be fair game for military operations by the US wherever he is (even Nevada). And it should not matter whether he is or was a US citizen. You wage war vs. the US, you get war waged against you. War, not law enforcement.

    And he continues to be fair game until he publicly renounces his effort to wage war and surrenders to the US. I.e. if he worked to wage war vs. the US for a period of years and then chose to genuinely retire (say like Osama, but no communication with any other combatants), he should still be a fair target until he surrenders. That applies to any place in the world he should choose to locate.

  9. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    I was just trying to address the concern that many who are against Awlaki’s termination are putting forth – ie that the government can take out citizens without due process anywhere, anytime. That this creates a slippery slope where our justcie system will be ignored. I thought that was what was intimated by vanderleun’s question. Possibly I was wrong. I was merely trying to answer that it is not necessarily the slippery slope that some are opining. Many who are opposed to using aggressive methods of fighting the GWOT do not seem to recognize the threat the Islamist jihadis pose. They appear to equate Alwaki with Jane Fonda or some other such equivalence.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    J.J.: I understand.

  11. Left Coast Conservative Says:

    I will add that it is disturbing and troubling that a US citizen (whether or not he effectively although informally renounced his citizenship some time before that) was summarily killed by a drone.

    As opposed to being summarily killed by being shot in the head? I think you laid out the case justifying the killing quite well, and once that is done, what does it matter about the method? If the man has been within the United States, then perhaps arrest and trial should be attempted, but Yemen is effectively a war zone and al-Awlaki was a combatant.

    I find it disturbing that a U.S. citizen became a member of Al Qaeda.

  12. Occam's Beard Says:

    I could make a great argument for the President deciding to kill Ayers.

    From Wiki:

    1. In 1969 he co-founded the Weather Underground, a self-described communist revolutionary group that conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings during the 1960s and 1970s, in response to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

    2. Ayers became involved in the New Left and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).[10] He rose to national prominence as an SDS leader in 1968 and 1969. As head of an SDS regional group, the “Jesse James Gang,” Ayers made decisive contributions to the Weatherman orientation toward militancy.

    3. Ayers participated in the Days of Rage riot in Chicago in October 1969, and in December was at the “War Council” meeting in Flint, Michigan. Two major decisions came out of the “War Council.” The first was to immediately begin a violent, armed struggle (e.g., bombings and armed robberies) against the state without attempting to organize or mobilize a broad swath of the public.

    4. Larry Grathwohl, a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant in the Weatherman group from the fall of 1969 to the spring of 1970, stated that “Ayers, along with Bernardine Dohrn, probably had the most authority within the Weatherman”.

    5. Larry Grathwohl, an undercover FBI agent who infiltrated The Weather Underground, claimed that Ayers wanted to overthrow the United States government. In an interview in January 2009, Grathwohl stated that:

    “The thing the most bone chilling thing Bill Ayers said to me was that after the revolution succeeded and the government was overthrown, they believed they would have to eliminate 25 million Americans who would not conform to the new order.”
    6. In response to the death of Black Panther member Fred Hampton in December, 1969 during a police raid, on May 21, 1970 the Weather Underground issued a “Declaration of War” against the United States government, using for the first time its new name, the “Weather Underground Organization” (WUO), adopting fake identities, and pursuing covert activities only.
    7. These [covert activities] initially included preparations for a bombing of a U.S. military non-commissioned officers’ dance at Fort Dix, New Jersey in what Brian Flanagan said had been intended to be “the most horrific hit the United States government had ever suffered on its territory”.
    A list of Weatherman’s terrorist of actions.
    So replace “al-Awlaki” with “Ayers,” and “Islamic terrorist organization” with “revolutionary communist terrorist organization,” and suppose Ayers was visiting, say, Mexico. OK to smoke him with a Hellfire, had we had them then? (The only element not obviously present for Ayers is the “international” part of the terrorist organization, but who wants to bet that the Weather Underground had no dealings with the various European and/or Middle Eastern leftist terrorist organizations, or the KGB?)

    Please convince me the answer is “yes,” because I would dearly love sound justification for that to happen.

  13. Occam's Beard Says:

    As opposed to being summarily killed by being shot in the head? I think you laid out the case justifying the killing quite well, and once that is done, what does it matter about the method?

    It matters a lot. Consider the difference:

    killed in a bombing raid/battle. No harm, no foul, and good riddance.

    killed by a sniper who tracked and shot him specifically. This is equivalent to the Hellfire strike, IMO.

    Now suppose al-Awlaki hadn’t been in Yemen, but in, say, Egypt. OK to smoke him there? How about France? They wouldn’t extradite him to the US (because of the possible death penalty), so kidnapping or assassination are the options.

    I say again, I hold no brief for this dirtbag, and am glad he’s dead. I just don’t like the President unilaterally deciding to cancel someone’s Social Security number, and doing so without making any bones about it. At least do it Mossad-style, where people suspect what happened, but appearances have been maintained.

  14. Ymarsakar Says:

    The only slippery slope to fascism is when Demoncrats are in charge. Otherwise, it’s not a big deal.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    This ends up as the position that it doesn’t matter what was done or who was killed. What matters is the one doing it: that will determine whether it is generally to the good or to the evil.

  16. Occam's Beard Says:

    I wish I could believe that, Ymarsakar. I really do. But, unfortunately, I have profound concerns about the polarizability of human nature under the influence of power. I don’t want any government – liberal or pro-American – to have that kind of power, because, to paraphrase Lord Acton, absolute power will absolutely be abused.

  17. Richard Aubrey Says:

    IMO, we think and law about the current situation in terms of the Westphalian model. In part, the WM presumes every state controls every last square inch of whatever’s on the map in its grasp. Thus, anything bad coming from that nation is, by default, its will or its deliberate negligence. There is no room for inability. Second, there was no consideration for the non-state actors, except for pirates who had no rights.
    Now, we have the failed state, the state pretending not to have the ability to control its territory. We have non-state actors who look like and deal with some of the states with whom we are at conflict, or with whom we are allied.
    Going after such means “invading” another country.
    Non-state actors, not being actual soldiers, are provided more rights than actual soldiers. If captured, they’re not POWs because they weren’t soldiers. They’re illegal combatants, except they aren’t until a legal process says they are, which is not necessary if they had been soldiers. If Pvts. Smith and Jones bust into a room and find Mohammed Snuffy with an AK, whence fire had been coming, and Snuffy’s AK jams, and they capture the guy, how does the US prove he’s an illegal combatant? One of the guys who captured him is working on an oil rig off Alaska and the other’s in Bethesda with half his brain missing. The guys outside only know what Smith and Jones told them and can’t testify for certain that nobody got away by going through a window. It’s hearsay. Now what?
    The internation relations anticipated by the Westphalian Model and the wars anticipated by the Geneva Convention and follow on instruments have lacunae into which our enemies have gone with considerable success, especially amongst the left.
    As Lincoln said, we need to think anew.

  18. Hey, Due Processers: Here’s the Smoking Underwear Bomb « Cynical Synapse Says:

    […] Predator drone attack on US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, there’s been a popular uprising questioning the legality of killing the jihadist cleric. Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul blasted Obama for violating al-Awlaki’s […]

  19. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    How to frame this so OB will see the connection.

    How about this? We have people working in the Pentagon who make plans, recruit fighters, supply them, and otherwise actively promote the war effort. Yet, they do not pull a trigger or fly an airplane or drone. Are they not performing duties similar to Alwaki? Are they not combatants? That is why al Qaeda aimed an airplane at the Pentagon of 9/11. The people who work there, though they are not on a battlefield or doing kinetic operations, are in the fight and are legitimate targets. Just as our executive branch leaders, whose job is protecting the people, are legitimate targets and were probably targeted by United 93 on 9/11. This IS a different kind of war. The Westphalian Model, as Richard Aubrey said, does not apply.

    I recognize that this is not an exact equivalence, but I’m attempting to point out why Awlaki was a combatant even though he wasn’t on any official battlefield. His pro al Qaeda activities were sufficient to be accused of treason – a reason for stripping his citizenship and his rights as a citizen.

    If that doesn’t make sense to you, so be it.

  20. rickl Says:

    While I’m glad that scumbag is dead, I am very troubled by this.

    Setting a precedent for a U.S. citizen to be summarily executed by the government is a very, very dangerous road to start down.

    It absolutely boils my blood to hear so-called “conservatives” howling like banshees whenever anyone from either the left or right calls this policy into question (like Ron Paul, for instance). Those people scare the hell out of me. They are Nazis, plain and simple. They will support the government killing anyone, in any number, just as long as it isn’t themselves or their friends.

    This whole thing could be solved very easily if the U.S. government would simply declare war on Islam.

  21. rickl Says:

    I am not impressed with the legal arguments quoted in Neo’s post. We have already seen that lawyers and judges can make arguments that can justify anything at all. The Constitution has been rendered unrecognizable, if it hasn’t been voided entirely. Commerce Clause? Roe v. Wade? Kelo? The War on Drugs?

    No, the bottom line is simply that peaceful coexistence between Western Civilization and Islam is impossible. The planet is not big enough for both of us. The sooner we recognize that fact, the better we will be able to deal with the threat.

  22. Promethea Says:

    We can’t “declare war on Islam” because we need the cooperation of various Muslim countries. So we have to be a little more subtle.

    However, we should continue to remind ourselves that Islam is a long-term threat (like communism), and proceed accordingly.

    Re this particular killing–I don’t think whatshisnames status as an American citizen should make a difference. He was working in a foreign country as an enemy of the United States.

    But lawyers can argue differently–there’s an entire industry devoted to defending terrorists. Oddly enough, our very own attorney general was one of those lawyers.

  23. rickl Says:

    We should have killed a lot more Communists in the U.S. in the 50s and 60s.

    20-20 hindsight, I know.

  24. Jim Kearney Says:

    His guilt committing Treason is evidenced by his very public videos and communications with other Terrorists such as the Islamic U.S. Army Major Hassan.

    Treason IS a capital offense, but we’ve become too “Soft” as Obama says, and it is almost never used.

    Trie the Islamist in absentia and execute away. I also believe Taliban Johnny Walker Lindh, Bill Ayers, and any other traitor to his country should be executed, and that should’ve included Jane Fonda during the Vietnam war, AND John Kerry who gave aid and comfort to the enemy.

    I do believe they should be tried first of course.

    Treason of ones own country is the lowest act, of the lowest scum.

  25. How To Acceptable To Be America Citizen | Vale Future Says:

    […] extrajudicial murder UTLaw Magazine | Human Rights Happy Hour: Professor Catalina Smulovitz.. neo-neocon » Blog Archive » Was it legal to kill al-Awlaki? Ron Paul Condemns Killing of American Citizen Awlaki for Pre Crimes | Paul,.. Where can an American […]

  26. expat Says:

    There is also a message sent by our actions: If you live in and value a country governed by laws, you will receive the protections of that law. But if you live (especially when this is a choice, not an accident of birth) in a country where the strong guy wins and you seek to spread that model, we will resist. We can play by your rules, and when we do you will lose big.

    The big failure with Ayers is that he was applauded by many and allowed to rise in the field of education, where he continued to propagate his ideas. Had he avoided prison but spent his life shovelling s**t in a zoo because no one else would hire him, it would have been more tolerable.

  27. rickl Says:

    Jerry Pournelle has a thoughtful post about this: Proscription and Reasons of State

    In the old Roman Republic before the wars of Marius and Sulla it was considered sacrilege to put to death a Roman Citizen without trial. The Civil Wars changed that, and when one faction won it would publish lists of enemies who could be killed without trial or mercy if found within Roman jurisdiction. Most lists of proscription also carried rewards to those who found and executed the proscribed enemy of the people. Proscriptions also carried confiscation of property, and were used by Sulla to replenish the treasury.

    The obvious question for discussion is whether this activity – summary execution of citizens without trial – is permissible or desirable under Constitutional Government as part of the discretionary war powers of the President, and if so, do they apply within the United States as well as in foreign nations? It is not a simple question. What acts must a citizen perform to earn a place on the proscription list? One of those killed was “Samir Khan, who edited an online magazine that spread the word on ways to carry out attacks inside the United States”, but is that the totality of his acts that made him an enemy of the people? (I say enemy of the people, but I don’t know what designation is given to people who may be killed on sight without trial.) What agents of the Republic are authorized to carry out the act of proscription?

    Could a private citizen who somehow got wind of the fact that a given person was on the list plead that as a defense? I killed him because he is proscribed. You cannot prosecute me. (As we certainly cannot prosecute the members of Seal Team Six for the execution of Osama, although I suspect the government of Pakistan would do just that if they could get custody of the team. As for example, suppose that one of the operators of an armed drone, told to kill a certain American citizen on sight if found in Oman or Pakistan, sees that person coming out of a casino in Las Vegas and takes the opportunity to gun him down. Would that be a valid plea in Nevada?

    As always, read the whole thing.

  28. Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup » Pirate's Cove Says:

    […] neo-neocon wonders if it was legal to whack al-Awlaki […]

  29. RickZ Says:

    Jim Kearney Says:

    October 2nd, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Treason of ones own country is the lowest act, of the lowest scum.

    That’s kind of an overly broad brush. If your talking about a Vidkun Quisling, then I’d agree. But if you’re talking about a von Stauffenberg, then no, I don’t agree.

    I know this is going to sound odd, but it really does depend on the treason whether the traitor is “the lowest scum” or not. Russians spying for us in the Cold War out of ideological hartred of communism versus the wronged Benedict Arnold and his treason based upon his swollen ego.

    Just like one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter so, too, with treason: One man’s traitor is another man’s hero.

  30. Dan Says:

    1. Yes, we should’ve shot on sight folks in the ’60s who “declared war” on the US. So much would be quieter now.
    I do believe folks like these two are enemy combatants in a state of war against the US and can be shot on sight, whether in Yemen or Nevada or the TV studios or the UN.

    Can we just declare these folks Outlaws? I remember the wanted posters in the films and TV shows of my youth:
    Wanted Dead or Alive
    $1,000 Reward

    These are bad actors. These are bad people. But we’ve given them too much free rhetorical range. Declare war on us? Die. Call for the destruction and death of Americans? Die.

  31. Jim Kearney Says:

    To RickZ. Good point you made on treason. A German betraying the Nazi Third Reich would not apply. But betraying America……?

  32. Jack Says:

    As al Alwaki is about the clearest example of a traitor you can have, I cringe to hear the words “American citizen” bandied about when referring to him. The fact that he is a clear “enemy combatant” and has directly influenced/directed other “enemy combatants” who have attacked or planned to attack Americans here and abroad takes precedence. While I know all you guys with NRA cards are worried that this means a left-wing government will be able to someday round you up and execute you and your families, calm down. The only situation that would ever happen in is if Sharia were to become the law of the land, which by the way, was the goal of the “American” in question here.

    If there was a way to capture him in Yemen, we would have done so. Unfortunately, deploying ground troops would have to involve Yemeni officials, who we know would immediately alert him to get away.

    If he were in Nevada, as someone pointed out, he would have been surrounded and captured (if possible). The same goes for if he were in France or within the borders of any country with a government that didn’t support al Alwaki. This kind of operation was impossible in Yemen for several reasons (not the least of which would be Obama’s hesitation to carry out an operation with American troops in yet another Muslim country without notifying them).

  33. rickl Says:

    The government should have stripped him of his citizenship when he declared war and/or took up arms against the U.S. That would make it easier for me to take.

    Don’t misunderstand me. I’m glad he’s dead. I’m not defending him in any way.

    I’m very worried about a slippery slope, though. Haven’t we all heard the constant drumbeat of Tea Party members described in the media and by some elected officials as “violent”, “racist”, and “economic terrorists”?

    I’ve said before that I believe there is a concerted effort to dehumanize Americans who oppose the government’s policies (that would include us commenters here). This could lead to a very ugly place.

  34. Curtis Says:

    I will not be
    by acts of war

    you make me
    an enemy
    so then I

    find a way
    to get others
    to agree

    are a bad guy.

  35. Eric Says:

    Law prof John Yoo (yes, that John Yoo) explains why the al-Awlaki killing is legal: http://ricochet.com/main-feed/Was-the-U.S.-s-Lethal-Attack-on-Al-Awlaki-Legal

  36. Curtis Says:

    The rule of law must not be superseded by the rule of common sense. This is what is known, in legal parlance, as judicial discretion. It incorporates a statement which limits our understanding but nonetheless requires a judgment. The Anglo Saxon law uses tradition and experience and reason and the Bible to approximate.

    Fools desire Koran and Koran only.

    Can you even consider them?

  37. Eric Says:

    Makes sense to me: when you become an American at war with the United States, whether you’re fighting for the Confederacy, Nazis, or terrorists, you become a legal war target.

  38. Occam's Beard Says:

    We have people working in the Pentagon who make plans, recruit fighters, supply them, and otherwise actively promote the war effort. Yet, they do not pull a trigger or fly an airplane or drone. Are they not performing duties similar to Alwaki? Are they not combatants? That is why al Qaeda aimed an airplane at the Pentagon of 9/11. The people who work there, though they are not on a battlefield or doing kinetic operations, are in the fight and are legitimate targets.

    J.J., sure I get it. And I don’t mean to be contentious. All of those involved as combatants, in whatever capacity, are perfectly valid targets. No argument there.

    But let’s extend your point a bit further. Ayers & Co. considered those people in the Pentagon to be legitimate targets too, belonged to an organization that had declared war on the U.S., the whole nine yards. By the same token, Ayers himself was arguably a legitimate target as the leader of a terrorist organization that had declared war on the U.S. If Ayers had traveled to, say, Mexico, would Nixon have been justified in sending a sniper team there to take him out?

    For that matter, consider an American-born leader of a drug cartel in Mexico. OK to smoke him too?

    It’s not that these worthies don’t deserve getting smoked. God knows they do. It’s just that I believe Constitutional protections, inconvenient as they may be, should obtain for American citizens, without any provisos or carve-outs. The Fifth Amendment says, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, … nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” There’s no footnote saying “unless the person is a pain in the ass, lives overseas, or would be tough apprehend, in which it’s open season.” Put another way, for which American citizens exactly does the Fifth Amendment apply, and for which does it not?

    The critical thing for me in al-Awlaki’s case isn’t that he was killed, but rather that he, personally, was targeted. Drop a bomb in the course of combat operations and happen to get him, terrific. Target him personally with a Hellfire, or send a sniper team to get him personally … I dunno about that. That’s a slippery slope, methinks.

    As I said, I don’t mean to be difficult or contentious, but I find this incident troubling in its long-term implications. Today, al-Awlaki. Tomorrow, Rush Limbaugh or Andy Stern. All that lies in between is a whole series of shades of gray. I draw a bright line at American citizen, yes or no.

  39. rickl Says:

    I saw an excellent comment on another forum:

    The government chose to kill a citizen whose death would garner no sympathy, and whose killing would be almost universally lauded. His actual death is uncontroversial. But they killed a citizen. Their stated justification is that he was a threat to national security. They have described you and I in the same way.

    I responded thusly:
    As Edward Everett wrote to Abraham Lincoln following the Gettysburg Address, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

  40. Curtis Says:

    It’s good we have people who are concerned that the killing of Al Awlaki may be extended. The concern, here, as proper, is not so much his killing as what might the current administration do with that event. They might extend it beyond proper borders and we all fear the power that the current regime seeks: personal czars of the President have crippled America. Maybe the reason they have not completely seized power and control is that America believes they will be repealed and sanity will be restored.

  41. Curtis Says:

    Conservatives and progressives have many points on which they agree: man has responsibility to protect the environment, his fellow man and to uphold a rule of law. What has been most unreported is Obama’s negligence with regard to the latter. Even a progressive believes law is superior to the executive. But Obama has increased, not decreased, his ability to wage war. This should very much concern progressives and I am sure it does but they are afraid to voice that dissent. Hopefully, for some, it will cause them to evaluate if current day liberalism really does stand for what they think it stands for.

  42. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Is there a difference between a non-citizen in arms against the US and an American citizen in arms against the US?
    Is killing one more or less allowable than killing the other? Why?
    Awlaki wasn’t just a pain in the ass. He was operational in military operations, terrorist operations, against the US. Does being a citizen shield him? Why?
    Now, I could see a problem with killing, say, Ayers. It would take a good deal of objectivity for me to think of the down side. But there would be a downside.
    Question is, does Awlaki get a break because he’s a US citizen that the Yemeni terrorist riding beside him does not? If so, why?

  43. Old Rebel Says:

    So — no one has a problem with the CiC ordering the assassination of an American citizen?

    Obama’s already assumed the authority to wage war unilaterally, and has even gone beyond Bush with his “preventive detention” policy.

    Next thing you know, Obama will exile Republicans who oppose his policies. Lincoln did it. Why not Obama?

  44. Wm Lawrence Says:

    I crushed a cockroach the other day. He was also born in New Mexico and had at least as much loyalty to this country as the scumbag in question. Should I feel guilty for not reading him the Miranda spiel?

  45. Wm Lawrence Says:

    Come to think of it this ties into another topic, that of anchor babies. Dirtbag was only considered an American citizen because he was born in Las Cruces, NM while his parents were here on a student visa. They went back to their native third world sh*t hole when he was 7. His parents were not US citizens and he wasn’t much of one. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that he, or persons in similar circumstances should never be granted citizenship unless they become naturalized voluntarily at an appropriate stage of maturity. Might be a step in the right direction.

  46. raf Says:

    …the traditional concept of “hostilities,” and that where the hostiles go, the possibility of armed conflict goes too…

    I think this is a good rule. I thought it was a good rule during the Cambodian Incursions of the Viet Nam war, as well.

  47. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I agree, although the Westphalian Model that people either believe represents the ideal, or reality, or the ideal reality, or a really handy way to handicap the US, does not allow for that, except, possibly, after long and complicated and necessarily fruitless efforts to accomplish the thing some other way.
    Couple of points. Yeah, we got OBL. Only a few people killed. Getting Aidid was different. In fact, there was a movie made of it. Can’t guarantee a successful arrest in some conditions.

    I reiterate, does Awlaki get a break because he’s an US citizen that the Yemeni terrorist in the front seat does not get? If so, why?

  48. The ‘Would-Be’ Anwar al-Awlaki Defenders | CPS News Says:

    […] Predator drone attack on US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, there’s been a popular uprising questioning the legality of killing the jihadist cleric. Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul blasted Obama for violating al-Awlaki’s Constitutional […]

  49. Ymarsakar Says:

    Point 1: Good people will create good consequences, irregardless of the methods they use, with the restriction that they cannot float on water just because they desire it.

    Point 2: Evil people will do evil, whether have good, bad, stupid, or negligent intentions.

    Point 3: Lawfare is a weapon designed and used by evil and anti-human factions in the world, in order to overthrow any humane government or society.

    Point 4: Executions are increasingly becoming more necessary because of lawfare and how it shields people. People no longer trusting in the legal system to guarantee security, now have no more reason to keep people alive for a rigged trial, when killing them is much easier.

    Point 5: An evil person using lawfare generates bad consequences for the progress of humanity, whereas an evil person using executions of people, will also generate bad consequences because they’re evil. They aren’t going to make a building just because. It’s always a step in the direction of causing the maximum harm and fatalities, spiritually, mentally, physically.

    Point 6: If a good person used executions or mass killings, like HIroshima, and generated good consequences due to being correct in decision making, then that’s because they were good to start off with. Not because such actions made them good. If a good person uses lawfare, it will be to protect people from a totalitarian government and jury rigged kangaroo courts, like To Kill a Mocking Bird, where jurisprudence and legal rigor mole, irregardless of where it comes from, is used for the purpose of saving human souls and lives.

    This isn’t so much a question of which path or method is right, or whether government should or should not have this power. A government full of wise nobles and confident judges will pursue justice with a moderately good chance. A government full of Leftists couldn’t improve people’s standard of living if they wanted to. That is the difference people should keep in mind.

  50. DNW Says:

    I should probably do a little research on the particular fact situation, but I wonder offhand if he had been charged with anything, and if so if a warrant had been issued.

    Seems to me that you could issue a warrant, and then kill him when he refused to surrender himself to the judicial system for trial. In this manner he would place himself outside the law – in the manner of an old time bandit who made himself an outlaw by fleeing to the Oklahoma territory rather than yielding to the judicial system. Perhaps we (the professional legal class) nowadays feel that it is offensive to the dignity of our system to even recognize that some persons cannot in principle be compelled to appear in court.

    But whether or not that is the case, we do also obviously have a problem in this country in persistently imputing citizenship to persons who have publicly renounced it.

    What interest “the system” has in not recognizing renunciations from expatriates more readily, I cannot say.

    The subject could of course be granted a certain amount of leeway, and informed that official and legal notice was taken that he had performed a public renunciation of his citizenship, and that he was invited to appear before an appropriate court to correct any misunderstandings.

  51. Artfldgr Says:

    if abortion is legal, killing him was legal

    ie… the ONLY difference was that the state had forgotten to make a rule to make it legal…

    which is the point of arbitrary rule over rule of law
    from the minute obama negated the rule of law, the following it was only a convenience…

    now there is no rule of law…

    or like Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria said:
    “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”

    [The average American commits three felonies a day]

    you see.. we have passed the line of Red Terror, where you raise one too many bunnies, and are in the hole for 4 million… where a lemonade stand is a crime against the state for not having licensing…

    as i said long ago… you just dont GET red terror

    ie… what happens if the state decided to tighten up and go to a real level of zero tolerance? the result would be to be allowed to take anyone you want and do what you want to them… no?

    if you can hold a father in jail for 6 years without due process… you can do what you want…

    EACH item that breaks the constitution is only redundant as it technically only took one to make it fail

    affirmative action for women? out goes equality before the law… and soviet inequality is the norm, and so the outcomes are whatever they want it to be so it matches PC… (politically correct is a soviet term feminists transplanted)

    AT BEST, any argument as to the lack of legality is only one of momentum… like imagining the scraps of law we can pick off the floor can be still applied as if the law was whole..

    the law as you knew it no longer exists
    there is just custom now.. which keeps us pretending it does.. then we are suprised when it doesnt..

    that is until we ‘get’ it…

    that bad advice internally, inter-socially, etc
    is a form of WAR…


    as to this question:
    What interest “the system” has in not recognizing renunciations from expatriates more readily, I cannot say.

    socialist cows are not free to produce for others…
    only free individuals have a right to choose where and whom they want to serve… but once they said: X causes Y decline in productivity, they were telling you they own you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! most were just too stupid to tell… (and even worse, were SO stupid as to defend their stupidity against someone cluing them in!!)

    i can only lose what i own..
    so productivity can only be lost if the state owns you
    and under socialism, the state owns all means of production…

    in case the dip sticks dont get WHAT THAT MEANS…
    it doesnt mean property, machines, etc…
    it means PEOPLE…

    machines dont produce wihtout people
    property is not productive wiht out people

    so… now we are OWNED…
    and the rest of the countries are respecting that ownership…

    everyone thinks that this can be reversed..
    it cant…
    its a done deal… and so is whats coming..

    when you love your cancer, you die…

    how how do you love your cancer?

    normalize the cancer… as Stalin pointed out

    then the cherished will murder the body politic.

    JUST so we can understand what is happening, like pieces on a chess board converging at once..

    “A psycho-politician must work hard to produce the maximum chaos in the fields of ‘mental healing.’ You must work until every teacher of psychology unknowingly or knowingly teaches only Communist doctrine under the guise of ‘psychology.’ You must labor until every doctor and psychiatrist is either a psycho-politician or an unwitting assistant to our aims. You must labor until we have dominion of the minds and bodies of every important person in your nation (America). You must work until suicide arising from mental imbalance is common and calls forth no general investigation or remark… You must dominate as respected men the fields of psychiatry and psychology. You must dominate the hospitals and universities… You can come and take your instructions as worshippers of Freud… Psycho-politics is a solemn charge. With it you can erase our enemies as insects. You (psychologists) can change their (leaders) loyalties by psychopolitics. Given a short time with a psycho-politician you can alter forever the loyalty of a soldier in our hands or a statesman or a leader in his own country, or you can destroy his mind. Use the courts, use the judges, use the Constitution of the country, use its medical societies and its laws to further our ends… By psycho-politics create chaos. Leave a nation leaderless. Kill our enemies. And bring to Earth, through Communism, the greatest peace man has ever known. Thank you.”

    supposedly said by Beria, repeated in Dianetics (1955) L Ron Hubbard… (no evidence of its authenticity has emerged since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and different editions of it are believed to contain text added by L. Ron Hubbard and neo-Nazi Kenneth Goff. The original authorship remains unclear.)

    and while the source here is questionable (after all you cant set an appointment and read what they did say or not!!)

    Basically, Man is an animal. He is an animal which has been given a civilized veneer. Man is a collective animal, grouped together for his own protection before the threat of the environment. Those who so group and control him must have in their possession specialized techniques to direct the vagaries and energies of the animal Man toward greater efficiency in the accomplishment of the goals of the State.

    Man is already a colonial aggregation of cells, and to consider him an individual would be an error. Colonies of cells have gathered together as one organ or another of the body, and then these organs have, themselves, gathered together to form the whole. Thus we see that man, himself, is already a political organism, even if we do not consider a mass of men.

    ah… so if you have a body politic
    and you want it DEAD.. you can have war
    and that war can kill so many CELLS, that the body dies and you take over…

    but you can also make it sick…
    you can loosen the morals..
    you can give bad advice how to live
    you can make them more egalitarian (Weak and proven mathematically. see: Egalitarian civilisations ‘are weaker’ than those with inequality – study in the news today)

    or… to hear stalin say it:

    America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.

    Feminism destroyed ALL THREE…

    and we are now collapsing from within

    and now AFTER we have abandoned morals for feminism, and so on…

    you wonder if its moral to kill X?

    this is socialism… under socialism the shoa was moral. and not only moral, unavoidably necessary… and so was the deaths in russia, china, etc.. all are necessary for the body politic..

    so is it legal to kill him?

    As it was LEGAL to exterminate by torture and starve 100 million people for socialism, for the greater good

    under this ideal… all he is is a cancer recognized by the body politic.

    so what do you do with a cancer?
    cut it out
    what do you do with one you dont know is cancer?
    love it till it kills you

  52. Artfldgr Says:

    Goals of the State should be formulated by the State for the obedience and concurrence of the individuals within that State. A State without goals so formulated is a sick State. A State without the power and forthright wish to enforce its goals is a sick State.

    State goals depend upon loyalty and obedience for their accomplishment. When one discovers a State goal to be interpreted, one discovers inevitably that there has been an interposition of self-willedness, of greed, of idleness, or of rugged individualism and self-centered initiative.The interruption of a State goal will be discovered as having been interrupted by a person whose disloyalty and disobedience is the direct result of his own mis-alignment with life.


    If loyalty is so important in the economic and social structure, it is necessary to examine it further as itself.

    Loyalty means simply ‘alignment.’ It means, more fully, alignment with the goals of the Communist State. Disloyalty means entirely mis-alignment, and more broadly, mis-alignment with the goals of the Communist State. [gliechshaltung]

    When we consider that the goals of the Communist State are to the best possible benefit of the masses, we can see that disloyalty, as a term, can embrace Democratic alignment.

    Loyalty to persons not communistically indoctrinated would be quite plainly a mis-alignment.

    The cure of disloyalty is entirely contained in the principles of alignment. All that is necessary to do, where disloyalty is encountered, is to align the purposes of the individual toward the goals of Communism, and it will be discovered that a great many circumstances hitherto distasteful in his existence will cease to exist.

    A heart, or a kidney in rebellion against the remainder of the organism is being disloyal to the remainder of the organism. To cure the heart or kidney it is actually only necessary to bring its activities into alignment with the remainder of the body.

    The changing of loyalty consists, in its primary step, of the eradication of existing loyalties. This can be done in one of two ways. First, by demonstrating that previously existing loyalties have brought about perilous physical circumstances, such as imprisonment, lack of recognition, duress, or privation, and second by eradicating the personality itself.

    [as in feminism describing marriage in those terms to realign the loyalty of women to the state over their mates and children, and then to focus on the cause of women, not the cause of A woman (herself). As i said, CHANGE means to throw away any and all dreams, hopes, personal goals, and such… and replace them with the dreams hopes and goals of the state, even if the state says, you gotta go!!! they continue]

    The first is accomplished by a steady and continuous indoctrination of the individual in the belief that his previous loyalties have been granted to an unworthy source. [in the case of women, its men… in the case of children, its adults. in the case of blacks its society. etc… ]

    One of the primary instances in this is creating circumstances [making history] which apparently derive from the target of his loyalties, so as to rebuff the individual. [make em feel ashamed that they want for their family good things… as if that denies all good things]

    As part of this there is the creation of a state of mind in the individual, by actually placing him under duress, and then furnishing him with false evidence to demonstrate that the target of his previous loyalties is, itself, the course of the duress.
    [change marriage laws, give bad advice, etc.. that causes collapse, lack of fulfillment, malaise, etc… then make up stories about how women could never do X (despite you can list a dozen that did), and so on… rule of thumb? false… etc… men are the oppressors, they are slave masters of women, etc… see how it works? it took 60 years… but look what it wrought and how unstoppable it is… and all you had to do, was open the society, and close yours to the same ills (hows feminism doing in russia and china where they claim its an answer?.. how much did the socialist leaders in obamas office pay attention to women?)]

    Another portion of this same method consists of defaming or degrading the individual whose loyalties are to be changed to the target of his loyalties [see sarah palin… even betty friedan when having second thoughts… each is attacked when they fall out of alignment with the goal!!!!!!!!!! now it makes sense… no?],

    i.e., superiors or government, to such a degree that this target, at length, actually does hold the individual in disrepute, and so does rebuff him and serve to
    convince him that his loyalties have been misplaced.

    These are the milder methods, but have proven extremely effective.


    It is adequately demonstrated that loyalty is entirely lacking in that mythical commodity known as ‘spiritual quality.’ Loyalty is entirely a thing of dependence, economic or mental, and can be changed by the crudest implementations. Observation of workers in their factories or fields demonstrates that they easily grant loyalty to a foreman or a woman, and then as easily abandon it and substitute another individual, revulsing, at the same time, toward the person to whom loyalty was primarily granted. The queasy insecurity of the masses in Capitalistic nations finds this more common than in an enlightened State. In Capitalistic states, dependencies are so craven, wants and privations are so exaggerated, that loyalty is entirely without ethical foundation and exists only in the realm of dependency, duress, or demand.

    ie. they will love their cancer over everything else.

    so union members will fight for unequlity, pretending it makes us more equal, even if it collapses the whole thing and they get nothing.

    women will support feminism, even by just being quiet, and letting it happen (and feigning that isnt supporting using dissimulation)… will keep supporting it no matter what its doing…

    so craven is their loyalty to that which was given to replace the loyal thing they were taught betrayed them for millinea!!!!!!

    their love of their husbands and children was transferred to the cause… those who are not part of it, are duly impgined for the cause by those who are aligned with the body politic.

    too bad this stuff has been around since before the summer of love… but if i remember correctly,they marginalized anyone that warns anyone about it, or isnt a part of it.. like phyliss shaffly, palin etc..

    they are not even real women
    and look.. they are loyal to the oppressors!!

    heck… if it wasnt for them you woudnt have to have babies… (yes, they ACTUALLY are promising that to young ladies!. and they are right, the dead and exterminated dont have babies)

    there is so much more from so many places…
    some good, some bad

    but i guess making up reasons, solutions, ideas of whats happening… thats the way to go..

    such amuses the gods…

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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