Obama's Knocking Off Al Qaeda Operatives Like Bowling Pins, Even The American Ones

Obama's Knocking Off Al Qaeda Operatives Like Bowling Pins, Even The American Ones

But what does the American justice system have to say about it? Andrew Cohen with The Atlantic attempts to answer.

It seems like every couple of weeks we get word of another al'Qaeda leader or operative having been assassinated by U.S. military operations. Zawahiri, al-Yazid, al-Rhaman, bin Laden himself, and the latest in the Obama Administration's ever-shrinking hitlist; Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born citizen living abroad that was placed on the administration's hit list last December. Now he's dead and there are questions arising about the legality of the U.S. government assassinating their own citizens (there was another American defector with Al-Awlaki during the drone attack). A recent article in the The Atlantic by CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen seeks to analyze the constitutionality of these acts and answer the question; does the government have the right to secretly place an American citizen outside the reach of due process and constitutional liberty? It's the swampy crossroads of domestic and military law where so many issues have been lost to the inexorable suck of a question more easily dismissed than answered.

That, in a thought, is exactly where Cohen starts, with the comments of U.S. District Judge Bates, who to date is the only one that has, "spoken on behalf of the federal judiciary on the topic of the constitutionality of these targeted killings." Bates summed up the legal questions, but gave nothing in the way of legal answers. "Can the Executive order the assassination of a U.S. citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization?" Does al-Awlaki, being a natural born citizen of the United States alleged defected to a known global terrorist organization, possess the same rights as an American citizen similarly affected? Known "domestic grown" terrorists, even those that are not American citizens, seem to benefit from some form of trial and due process.

The question is more interesting when put in the context of our "War on Terrorism", dating back to the federal courts of 2002 and 2003, when issues regarding guilt and innocence of potential terrorist agents was largely deferred to the executive branch based simply on... what? Allegations? Now, in 2011, have we come so far from that desire for vindication that we're once again questioning the country's motives in the war? Has the chip on our shoulder weathered enough that the case may be brought against the government that although they are seeking the very people for whose blood we were slavering just five or seven years ago, there should be a public inquest into who exactly is writing the names (or moreover, checking them off) the Obama hit list? What about the larger moral question? Should we be unilaterally killing people, trusting that the intelligence on them is solid? After all, we've still yet to see a single WMD (no matter what Mr. Cheney's fallacious book says) in Iraq, and that was supposedly "hard intelligence".

To my thinking, we are still embroiled in a war, and the commander-in-chief and his war council make those decisions. Being our elected representatives and the military minds of our country, I defer to their decision-making. It's a convenient thing to apply the U.S. military when the public is out for blood, and to point fingers and cast dispersions when we've had a moment to cool down. If that's true, perhaps we should have been more discrete in the application of our military might in the first place.