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Johnson, Paul criticize drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki
The drone attacks that killed Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen have sparked renewed talks of due process for U.S. born citizens alleged to have been involved in terrorist activity.
al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico, and two presidential candidates, along with a host of civil liberties writers, have called into question the legality of killing a U.S. citizen without a court proceeding.
Former New Mexico governor and current presidential candidate Gary Johnson came out with fellow candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul against the drone attack, which also killed another U.S. citizen during an attack on a convoy carrying the two members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Johnson’s full statement:
Let there be no doubt. We have to be vigilant, we have to protect the U.S. and U. S. citizens from terrorist attacks, and we have to aggressively pursue those who would do us harm. At the same time we cannot allow the War on Terror to diminish our steadfast adherence to the notion of due process for American citizens. The protections under the Constitution for those accused of crimes do not just apply to people we like — they apply to everyone, including a terrorist like al-Awlaki. It is a question of due process for American citizens.”
“I understand that laws may allow these decisions by the President and other officials in regard to al-Awlaki, and I do not in any way want to diminish the skill and dedication of our CIA and military. But, at the same time, it must not be overlooked — and thoughtfully examined — that our government targeted a U.S. citizen for death, and carried out that sentence on foreign soil. To my knowledge, that is a first, and a precedent that raises serious questions.
“If we allow our fervor to eliminate terrorist threats to cause us to cut corners with the Constitution and the fundamental rights of American citizens, whether it be invasions of privacy or the killing of someone born on U.S. soil, I could argue that the terrorists will have ultimately won.
“The world is very likely a better place without al-Awlaki in it, but let us not neglect to ask the tough questions this attack raises and about the laws that allowed it to be carried out.
The Wall Street Journal has this from Ron Paul:
“Nobody knows if he ever killed anybody,” Mr. Paul said after a breakfast at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics. “If the American people accept this blindly and casually…I think that’s sad.”
Wall Street Journal does point out the congressman from Texas applauded the assassination of Osama bin Laden, who said at the time, “Osama bin Laden applauded the 9/11 attacks. Such deliberate killing of innocent lives deserved retaliation. It is good that bin Laden is dead and justice is served.”
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), denounced the killing of Awlaki, telling CBS News:
As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. […]
The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the president – any president – with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.
And Glenn Greenwald, a former a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and writer for Salon, took exception to the government’s killing of Alwaki with incendiary prose:
Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even has any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt. When Awlaki’s father sought a court order barring Obama from killing his son, the DOJ argued, among other things, that such decisions were “state secrets” and thus beyond the scrutiny of the courts. He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner. When Awlaki’s inclusion on President Obama’s hit list was confirmed, The New York Timesnoted that “it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing.”
After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.). It almost certainly was able to find and kill Awlaki with the help of its long-time close friend President Saleh, who took a little time off from murdering his own citizens to help the U.S. murder its. The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world. The government and media search for The Next bin Laden has undoubtedly already commenced.
al-Awlaki studied extensively in the U.S., earning a bachelors in engineering from Colorado State University and a masters in education leadership from San Diego State University.