Looks like American-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has been assassinated via drone attack -- and if that's the case, I'm certain he deserved it. So I realize this won’t be a very popular opinion, but like Kevin Williamson at the National Review, I’m uneasy, and always have been, about allowing the United States executive branch to simply order the assassination of an American citizen with so little oversight or demand for evidence.
The Obama administration authorized the assassination against an American last year because intelligence agencies claimed to have evidence that the cleric posed a threat to American interests, that he was an al-Qaeda recruiter and was involved in a number of attacks.
I don’t really doubt any of that, but I will reprint what I wrote last year when the decision came down:
In other words, the administration has a straightforward case to make. Yet, when Awlaki's father asked a court to enjoin the president from killing his despicable son, the administration asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the case by invoking "state secrets."
With that, the Obama administration argued that the president should be empowered to order the execution of a U.S. citizen — outside a war zone and without exhibiting an imminent threat to other citizens — without any oversight from the judicial or legislative branches of government. And by using the protection of state secrets argument, the administration is also asserting that the public has no right to know why.
No, the U.S. government should not be prohibited from targeting enemies of the nation, nor should it be forced to widely disseminate sensitive state secrets. And, no, the Obama Administration doesn’t have some nefarious interest in killing innocent citizens -- or anything of that nature. But I do wish there were a more transparent process or guidelines and some functional way to insure that the decision makes sense.
We've just set a precedent that allows a president to order the atomizing of a citizen in some far off corner of the world without a trial. Seems like a power that could be abused rather easily to me in different circumstances.