Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki: President Barack Obama authorizes the assassination of an American overseas

I’m all for killing foreign terrorists and those foreigners who provide material assistance to terrorists, but what about an American citizen who has not yet obtained due process in a court of law? Do you just kill him or her based on the intelligence information that you have gathered?

My answer would be no. You don’t shred the Constitution to save it. American citizens can be arrested for cause, but must be given the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law. Period. 

And so I was flabbergasted yesterday on hearing that my president—the president I voted for in 2008 and who used to teach constitutional law—has authorized the targeting of an American, Anwar al-Awlaki, for assassination.

Here’s Glenn Greenwald today:

What’s most striking to me about all of this is that — as I noted yesterday (and as Olbermann stressed) — George Bush’s decision merely to eavesdrop on American citizens without oversight, or to detain without due process Americans such as Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, provoked years of vehement, vocal and intense complaints from Democrats and progressives.  All of that was disparaged as Bush claiming the powers of a King, a vicious attack on the Constitution, a violation of Our Values, the trampling on the Rule of Law.  Yet here you have Barack Obama not merely eavesdropping on or detaining Americans without oversight, but ordering them killed with no oversight and no due process of any kind. 

What the hell is going on? This is not okay. Here’s some more from Greenwald:

[B]oth The New York Times and The Washington Post confirm that the Obama White House has now expressly authorized the CIA to kill al-Alwaki [sic] no matter where he is found, no matter his distance from a battlefield.  I wrote at length about the extreme dangers and lawlessness of allowing the Executive Branch the power to murder U.S. citizens far away from a battlefield (i.e., while they’re sleeping, at home, with their children, etc.) and with no due process of any kind.  I won’t repeat those arguments — they’re here and here — but I do want to highlight how unbelievably Orwellian and tyrannical this is in light of these new articles today.

Just consider how the NYT reports on Obama’s assassination order and how it is justified:

 “The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday. . . . 

American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.

It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.  A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president. . . .

“The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words,” said an American official, who like other current and former officials interviewed for this article spoke of the classified counterterrorism measures on the condition of anonymity. “He’s gotten involved in plots.”

No due process is accorded.  No charges or trials are necessary.  No evidence is offered, nor any opportunity for him to deny these accusations (which he has done vehemently through his family).  None of that. 

Instead, in Barack Obama’s America, the way guilt is determined for American citizens — and a death penalty imposed — is that the President, like the King he thinks he is, secretly decrees someone’s guilt as a Terrorist.  He then dispatches his aides to run to America’s newspapers — cowardly hiding behind the shield of anonymity which they’re granted — to proclaim that the Guilty One shall be killed on sight because the Leader has decreed him to be a Terrorist.  It is simply asserted that Awlaki has converted from a cleric who expresses anti-American views and advocates attacks on American military targets (advocacy which happens to be Constitutionally protected) to Actual Terrorist “involved in plots.”  These newspapers then print this Executive Verdict with no questioning, no opposition, no investigation, no refutation as to its truth.

This is very, very disturbing. I support President Obama on most things, but not here.

Here’s Olbermann on this:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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5 Responses to Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki: President Barack Obama authorizes the assassination of an American overseas

  1. Santi

    I don’t know if I’ve understood this, so to get things straight I have to ask you:
    You are bottered not because of the killing order itself, but only because it’s aimed at an U.S. cityzen? It is not a problem for you to give a fatwa to anybody else non-US cityzen?

  2. santitafarella says:


    I’m concerned with protecting my country and my country’s Constitution, and that means that if my country’s intelligence services discover that a foreign-born human being is materially assisting or plotting terrorism against American citizens, then I want that person killed, yes. You can’t have a tolerant and free country if you do not defend it against the intolerant and violent. That means that foreigners should fear plotting to violently attack my country or its citizens. I believe that any other free country has the same right of self defense (and to possess intelligence services that monitor terrorist threats). Any person who substitutes a gun for an argument must be, by any self-respecting and free person, responded to in kind. I am not a pacifist when it comes to defending my country’s Jeffersonian and Enlightenment-based Revolution (which gave us our Bill of Rights and Constitution).

    Of course, there are channels and procedures for stopping a foreign born terrorist. First, you seek cooperation from the country that houses the terrorist.


  3. santitafarella says:


    I would add that I would never want a foreign intelligence service (America’s or any other) violating the rights of non-Americans. I believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but I also insist that America must not let countries that will not (or cannot) stop terrorist activity off the hook. Americans cannot be expected to sit on our hands while terrorists seek to enact dramatic terrorist spectacles via conventional bombs or weapons of mass destruction (biological, chemical, or nuclear).


  4. Santi

    There are many things to say on this, but now I just want to explore your, I dare to say typical from U.S., double standard: If you think it’s ok for your country to target human beings for murder, what it’s the difference if they are U.S. cityzens or not? I really didn’t understand that. For you foreigners can and must be killed without “due process” other than recommendation by an “intelligence” commite, that is who decide who is a “terrorist” and who is not. I’m curious to know why you think this criteria is ok for non-U.S. cityzens, but it is not for U.S. cityzens.
    And please, spare me of the ” I beleive the UDHR..” bullshit. It don’t impress me at all, and just makes you sounds hypocrite.

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