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Anwar al-Awlaki killed in Yemen
September 30, 2011 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Yemeni and US government sources confirm US-born Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed today al-Awlaki was widely credited with inspiring the shootings at Ft. Hood and the attempted Christmas bombing of an airliner approaching Detroit.

The authorization of his killing by the Obama Administration drew heavy scrutiny because of al-Awlaki's status as a US citizen.

al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen, where government forces have been engaged in a brutal struggle against pro-democracy and separatist forces. The US government and Yemen have had a long and uneasy partnership against Islamist militants. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, intelligence sharing between the US and Yemen increased following the departure of Yemeni President Saleh for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Saleh has returned to Yemen.
posted by BobbyVan (512 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excellent. Now we can get on to killing other U.S. citizens suspected of crimes.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:45 AM on September 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


The most dangerous job right now is being in Al-Quida leadership. They can't even enjoy birds anymore from fear of drone attacks.
posted by amazingstill at 5:46 AM on September 30, 2011


Associated Press:
A U.S. counterterrorism official said American forces targeted a convoy in which al-Awlaki was travelling with a drone and jet attack and believe he’s been killed. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
posted by BobbyVan at 5:54 AM on September 30, 2011


there are "careful procedures our government follows in these kinds of cases, but U.S. citizenship hardly gives you blanket protection overseas to plot the murder of your fellow citizens."

Pot, meet kettle.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:56 AM on September 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Um, what the shitting fuck?
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:06 AM on September 30, 2011


At the end of the day al-Awlaki was one of the bad guys who openly conspired against US interests and the lives of its citizens. To allow him to continue with impunity was in no one's interests. Would it have been better for him to be brought to the US to stand trial for his roles in inciting murder and other criminal and terrorist acts? Yes. That wasn't going to happen.

The world is a better place without this man.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:13 AM on September 30, 2011 [18 favorites]


They can't even enjoy birds anymore

Angry Birds is more like it.

Sorry, I'm not mourning this motherfucker. He had pretty clearly renounced his citizenship in numerous public statements. Enjoy whatever hell you believe in, asshole.
posted by spitbull at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sentence first, verdict afterward.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Nobody who cheers this better show up complaining that people cheer for executions that at least feature trials.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:17 AM on September 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


He had pretty clearly renounced his citizenship in numerous public statements.

Did he do so in front of U.S. consular officials? No? Then he hadn't renounced his citizenship.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:18 AM on September 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


"The justice of a society is measured not by how it treats its best, but how it treats its worst.". Stephen Jones, lawyer who defended Timothy McVeigh.
posted by lalochezia at 6:24 AM on September 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


At the end of the day al-Awlaki was one of the bad guys who openly conspired against US interests and the lives of its citizens. To allow him to continue with impunity was in no one's interests. Would it have been better for him to be brought to the US to stand trial for his roles in inciting murder and other criminal and terrorist acts? Yes. That wasn't going to happen.

The fact remains that all of this was according to the U.S. government. Then that government killed him.
posted by IvoShandor at 6:25 AM on September 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


The fact remains that all of this was according to the U.S. government. Then that government killed him.

al-Awlaki's calls for killing Americans were pretty well documented independently of the US government.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:30 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." ~Thomas Paine
posted by IvoShandor at 6:31 AM on September 30, 2011 [20 favorites]


Or you could listen to any one of the primary sources. al-Awlaki's videos and essays are all over the internet.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:31 AM on September 30, 2011


Did he do so in front of U.S. consular officials? No? Then he hadn't renounced his citizenship.

There are several other ways to renounce U.S. citizenship, but it's debatable whether any of them apply to al-Awlaki. It's possible that § 1481(a)(7)'s requirement that the renouncer be "convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction" only applies to the listed crimes (e.g. treason, violating or conspiring to violate any of the provisions of section 2383 of title 18) but does not apply to the general "bearing arms against the United States."

But that interpretation of the law is something a court would have to make, which of course didn't happen here.
posted by jedicus at 6:31 AM on September 30, 2011


"Did he do so in front of U.S. consular officials? No? Then he hadn't renounced his citizenship."

This whole America killed one of its own citizens is forgetting the fact that congress signed on for America to use lethal force against terrorist under Operation Enduring Freedom. The legality was approved by Congress itself. I have a strange feeling that this will come up on Fox News tonight to discredit Obama's drone campaign...

If you are bringing up “legality” issues, let’s paint another bleak legal picture. Somewhere in a foreign country an armed government agent trespassed into a private property, stood at a bedroom entry way, and lethally shot an unarmed man named Osama. These are horrible legal truths we would have to engage if we were not under the banner of war.
posted by amazingstill at 6:32 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:33 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the end of the day al-Awlaki was one of the bad guys who openly conspired against US interests and the lives of its citizens.

And your proof of this statement comes from the same people who assured you Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons for Osama bin Laden.
posted by three blind mice at 6:33 AM on September 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why is it so hard to find a suicide bomber these days? - Foreign Policy article
posted by warbaby at 6:35 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


I wonder who thought up the phrase "U.S.- born" was it the reporter or in the government press release?
"The same U.S. military counterterrorism unit that got Osama bin Laden used a drone and jet strike in Yemen on Friday to kill the U.S. citizen -born cleric suspected of inspiring or helping plan numerous attacks on the United States..."
but this is all kind of a distraction from the fact that the US policy of assassination from the sky is completely counter-productive. The U.S. is on the verge of being kicked out of Pakistan because of it. But, of course, we will blame the perfidiousness of the Pakistanis rather than our own hubris.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:35 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


And your proof of this statement comes from the same people who assured you Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons for Osama bin Laden.

Senator Barack Obama said that? Cite please.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:39 AM on September 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nobody who cheers this better show up complaining that people cheer for executions that at least feature trials.

I'm not cheering it. I just don't see it as either surprising or unwarranted.

It's also not hard to hold these two beliefs. They are not in opposition. In a perfect world al-Awlaki would have been brought to the US to stand trial and if convicted have an appropriate sentence handed down. This wasn't going to happen. We can't even get our government to allow trials for people we already have detained.

Where's the better solution here? Seriously, how would you have dealt with al-Awlaki?

There's a huge difference between killing an individual that is in active opposition to your country and putting down an unarmed prisoner (even after a trial).
posted by cjorgensen at 6:41 AM on September 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


The legality was approved by Congress itself.

Congress has absolutely no power to override the Constitution.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:44 AM on September 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Where's the better solution here? Seriously, how would you have dealt with al-Awlaki?

Look I get where you're coming from but if our default solution for 'Gee I can't figure out what to do!' is to shoot a motherfucker from space, there's something stupid going on.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:44 AM on September 30, 2011 [27 favorites]


Congress has absolutely no power to override the Constitution.

That's not strictly true. A two-thirds vote in both houses is sufficient for an amendment. But it's true that a normal law or resolution cannot override the Constitution.
posted by jedicus at 6:46 AM on September 30, 2011


That wasn't going to happen.

Well it sure as shit won't happen now, will it? I love this throw-in-the-towel mentality.

"Welp, sorry folks but we just can't do it. Nope, it's simply impossible. Even though we're the Greatest Country on Earth, the Last Bastion of Democracy, the Shining Light of Freedom. We can't do it. Not going to happen, ever. You'd have better luck bringing Higgs boson back alive."

Why can't we do it? Because it's impossible. Why is it impossible? Because we can't do it.

I dub thee Circular Defeatism.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:47 AM on September 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Senator Barack Obama said that? Cite please.

What a stupid statement. Obama is not and was not personally the director of intelligence operations, then or now. He's a figurehead of a multi-million person executive government, which still employs many of the same operatives that directed the Iraq war and subsequent wars on terror across the globe. Additionally, his executive leadership team made no significant deviation from the pattern of governmental secrecy and deception of the previous administration, and escalated it in most areas that we currently know about.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:47 AM on September 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


That's not strictly true. A two-thirds vote in both houses is sufficient for an amendment. But it's true that a normal law or resolution cannot override the Constitution.

That is not how the Constitution is amended.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:48 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


A two-thirds vote in both houses is sufficient for an amendment.

Well, to start the process, at least. The actual amendment still has to go through the state legislatures for ratification.
posted by absalom at 6:49 AM on September 30, 2011


Where's the better solution here? Seriously, how would you have dealt with al-Awlaki?

To a certain extent, all that matters is that an extra-judicial killing of a US citizen by the US government is strictly unconstitutional, so a "better solution" is anything that abides by the Constitution.

More concretely? For starters we could take the wind out his sails. How about getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Or giving foreign aid to Israel and Palestine on an equal (per capita) basis? Or stopping the drone attacks?
posted by jedicus at 6:50 AM on September 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


That is not how the Constitution is amended.

Yes, I omitted a key word there. Point being that Congress has power to override the Constitution in that it can propose amendments, which is where all of the amendments so far have come from.
posted by jedicus at 6:51 AM on September 30, 2011


What is this "perfect world" nonsense? It was perfectly possible to put al-Awlaki on trial, either by doing it in absentia or by capturing him. The process by which he was killed is exactly the same process by which the government could order someone to walk up and shoot you personally in the head for having an unpopular opinion. The only difference is the public relations effect. This is exactly what the Constitution was written to prevent.

Glenn Greenwald -- "The Due Process Free Assasination of U.S. Citizens Is Now Reality"
posted by zipadee at 6:53 AM on September 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Let's check all of the names of all the KIA Nazi soldiers for anyone who was a US citizen. Oh yeah, we were at war.
posted by amazingstill at 6:54 AM on September 30, 2011


That's true. We were.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:55 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's check all of the names of all the KIA Nazi soldiers for anyone who was a US citizen. Oh yeah, we were at war.

Let's make sure all our prisoners of war are treated according to the Geneva Conventions. Oh, right, it's not really a war.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:57 AM on September 30, 2011 [25 favorites]


I protested the Iraq war and I am extremely frustrated with our overall Middle East policy. I also think that in general, drone strikes are doing more harm than good. On a good day I'm also against the death penalty.

I still feel pretty happy this guy's gone. He dedicated himself to hate, violence, and a sort of silly extremist ideology. If he wanted a fair trial he should have apologized for his actions and voluntarily returned to the US to face the music.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:00 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where's the better solution here? Seriously, how would you have dealt with al-Awlaki?

Are you serious? Indictment, subpoena, if he doesn't show up attempt to try in absentia (this is extremely difficult and vanishingly rare in the U.S. system, but it's quite possiblle that in a case like this new law could have been made), if you can't try him in absentia use your knowledge of his location to get him and bring him back. Why is this even a hard or difficult problem?

Al-Awlaki wasn't an action movie villain headed toward NYC with a ticking atomic bomb. He was a dude giving speeches on the internet.
posted by zipadee at 7:01 AM on September 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


One of the most curious things about Americans, to me, is that they seem to believe their citizenship endows them with superpowers no matter where they go. This is massively reinforced by Hollywood, which enjoys sending in the Marines to protect American lives with whatever force is necessary anywhere in the world, and even sensible shows, like the West Wing, fall into the narrative trap.

In this case, it seems to extend to a lot of Americans being convinced that their citizenship gives them a right to wage war against their country, plotting the murder of civilians and even having your followers carry out attacks, all from inaccessible and hostile hinterlands, but that instead of being entitled to rescue by the Marines, you are entitled to have a group of Special Forces find you, fly to whever you are, engage in a firefight with your bodyguards, kill them, and then grab you, read you a Miranda warning, and then spirit you back to the United States for a trial. No action you have taken could possibly disentitle you to this treatment. No act of war could sacrifice your right to life - not if you're an American citizen. You're not a terrorist, you're not a soldier, you're just another criminal whose guilt needs to be proven in court, no matter where you are in the world, all because of your citizenship. Very, very odd.
posted by Dasein at 7:02 AM on September 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


If he wanted a fair trial he should have apologized for his actions and voluntarily returned to the US to face the music.

Insisting he has actions to apologize for sort of obviates that whole 'fair trial' thing, no?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:02 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the most curious things about Americans, to me, is that they seem to believe their citizenship endows them with superpowers no matter where they go.

With respect to the U.S. government, it sure as fuck does. At least according to the law.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:06 AM on September 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Oh, right, it's not really a war."

How is it not? Please explain what process needs to happen in order to make it a "real war" in your mind. Hell, citizens get the death penalty all the time, even under peaceful conditions.
posted by amazingstill at 7:07 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to retract my latest statement but I can't.
posted by amazingstill at 7:08 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


What a stupid statement. Obama is not and was not personally the director of intelligence operations, then or now. He's a figurehead of a multi-million person executive government, which still employs many of the same operatives that directed the Iraq war and subsequent wars on terror across the globe. Additionally, his executive leadership team made no significant deviation from the pattern of governmental secrecy and deception of the previous administration, and escalated it in most areas that we currently know about.

So you're saying that President Obama is either a fool (for being suckered by those "operatives" who make shit up to start wars) or a knave (for continuing the "deception").

Either way, President Obama signed the authorization for the US government to target al-Awlaki for killing, and he was a staunch opponent of the Iraq war -- so it's a bit dubious to try to conflate the two situations.

It's fine to be opposed to the killing of al-Awlaki on moral or legal grounds, but to suggest that Obama is a pawn of shady operatives is insulting to the man and treads on tinfoil-hattery.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:08 AM on September 30, 2011


If he wanted a fair trial he should have apologized for his actions and voluntarily returned to the US to face the music.

Since he was not indicted or charged with anything in the U.S. criminal system he was never given the option of a fair trial.

Let's check all of the names of all the KIA Nazi soldiers for anyone who was a US citizen. Oh yeah, we were at war.

I really despair for my country when I see people willing to throw their own Constitution overboard for this kind of lazy and juvenile analogy. There is no legal problem with U.S. troops shooting back against anyone actually fighting against them, whether or not that enemy is a U.S. citizen. This is an entirely different case. The "hey, oh well, unpleasant person X is just like a Nazi soldier" is a straight route to abandoning due process altogether.

The issue is not whether Al-Awlaki was a nice guy. He was a very unpleasant character. The issue is whether the state needs to present any kind of formal proof of a violation of law before executing a citizen.
posted by zipadee at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


No action you have taken could possibly disentitle you to this treatment.

The law is very specific about what actions constitute a renunciation of citizenship. It is very debatable whether al-Awlaki performed any of them.

One of the most curious things about Americans, to me, is that they seem to believe their citizenship endows them with superpowers no matter where they go.

It's not so much that U.S. citizenship is magic but rather that the U.S. Constitution is very specific about how the U.S. government can act. The government simply cannot act except as specified in the Constitution. And one of the things that the Constitution says is that "no person" may be deprived of life without due process of law. Whatever "no person" means it surely means "no U.S. citizen" at a minimum.
posted by jedicus at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


How is it not? Please explain what process needs to happen in order to make it a "real war" in your mind.

Sorry, that was sarcasm. I thought it was pretty widely known that a number of people in the Bush administration believed that since it wasn't a war you could depict on a Risk board, the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war did not apply.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2011


Look on the bright side. At least you don't have to hear me talk about him any more.
posted by Trurl at 7:11 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The other thing I find curious is that so many MeFites seem to buy into exactly the kind of Bush-administration confusion about war and enemies that led the country into Iraq. The Bush administration could never fully conceive of the power of non-state enemies, the fact that war was being waged by them, and needed to be waged against them. Bush's people were totally fixated on state sponsorship of terrorism, and the idea that without state support, terrorism would get nowhere. This made some sense in Afghanistan - where there was state sponsorship of terrorism - but in Iraq, a fixation on problematic states left them with a fixation on destroying Saddam's regime, when it was totally secondary to the real threat faced by the United States - war from non-state actors.

Similarly, on the left, people's thinking is mired in era of the Geneva Conventions, when the threats were from standing armies of states. So if you're not a uniformed soldier for a state - who can be killed on sight when at war - then the left can't conceptualize that you are anything other than a civilian with full civilian rights to trial. Both sides' thinking about war and the threats states face today is decades out of date. War has been waged for 20 years against the United States by non-state actors. Participants in those groups are akin to uniformed soldiers going about their duties; they're not civilians, and they're not protected. And the fact that Americans have chosen to commit treason by joining them doesn't change that.
posted by Dasein at 7:16 AM on September 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


If the law is out of date, you update it, not ignore it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:18 AM on September 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


One of the most curious things about Americans, to me, is that they seem to believe their citizenship endows them with superpowers... In this case, it seems to extend to a lot of Americans being convinced that their citizenship gives them a right to wage war against their country, plotting the murder of civilians and even having your followers carry out attacks... you are entitled to have a group of Special Forces find you, fly to whever you are, engage in a firefight with your bodyguards, kill them, and then grab you, read you a Miranda warning, and then spirit you back to the United States for a trial. No action you have taken could possibly disentitle you to this treatment. No act of war could sacrifice your right to life - not if you're an American citizen. You're not a terrorist, you're not a soldier, you're just another criminal whose guilt needs to be proven in court, no matter where you are in the world, all because of your citizenship. Very, very odd.

One of the most curious things about Americans, to me, is that they seem to believe their citizenship endows them with rights...it seems to extend to a lot of Americans being convinced their citizenship gives them the right to murder, rape, or have their followers carry out other crimes, and in such cases you are entitled to have a group of policemen find you, go to whereever you are, possibly engage in a firefight with you, and then grab you, read you a Miranda warning, spirit you back to a courthouse for a trial, and then demonstrate in front of a jury of your peers that you have actually committed the crimes of which you are charged. No action you have taken could possibly disentitle you to this treatment. You're not a murderer, you're not a rapist, you're just another criminal whose guilt needs to be proven in court, all because of your citizenship. Very, very odd.
posted by zipadee at 7:20 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Terrorism isn't waging war. It's not targeting a government and it is not an attempt at conquering or annexing land or even necessarily in killing citizens. It's a series of criminal acts.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:20 AM on September 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


So you're saying that President Obama is either a fool (for being suckered by those "operatives" who make shit up to start wars) or a knave (for continuing the "deception").

I’m saying that your original ‘show me where Obama argued there was yellow cake’ statement was stupid. If then Senator Obama argued expeditiously that he wouldn’t have voted for the Iraq AUMF (let’s remember he didn’t get to the Senate until 2004, so he never had to take the hard vote in the aftermath of 2001 and never had to face the height of the Republican “why do you hate America?” attack lines), it has nothing to do with his later actions of explicitly continuing the pattern of governmental secrecy established under Bush.

If you want to put a cutesy label on it, he's a knave.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:20 AM on September 30, 2011


He wasn't a misunderstood teen who'd done a spot of shoplifting, he was a terrorist leader of an organisation at war with the United States. I'm glad he's dead and I hope whoever replaces him is killed too. I fail to understand why so many people here are more upset with fighting terrorism than terrorism itself.
posted by joannemullen at 7:23 AM on September 30, 2011


We're upset about breaking the rule of law and principles of Western Civilization being broken in the name of defending that very civilization, FFS. If you can't grok that, then more's the pity.
posted by symbioid at 7:25 AM on September 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


I'm glad he's dead and I hope whoever replaces him is killed too. I fail to understand why so many people here are more upset with fighting terrorism than terrorism itself.

Because fighting terrorism has killed vastly more civilians than 9/11, for example.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:27 AM on September 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


joannemullen, imagine that for whatever reason while you're gallivanting around Europe the US government labels you a terrorist. What stops them from shooting you in the face? International law? The US Constitution? The Geneva Convention? Every single one of these things has been ignored in the 'fight against Terrorism' because apparently terrorism is so so bad that they are obsolete. But you are labeled a terrorist and you are not a terrorist, what do you do?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:27 AM on September 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


I’m saying that your original ‘show me where Obama argued there was yellow cake’ statement was stupid.

It was sarcasm.

If you want to put a cutesy label on it, he's a knave.

Fair enough.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2011


To put it another way - it's not the war on terror we're concerned about - it's the war on civil liberties.
posted by symbioid at 7:29 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I would like to recommend everyone listen to the recent Intelligence Squared podcast called Is it Time to End the War on Terror where they debate some of the very issues in this thread.
posted by amazingstill at 7:32 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pretty sure this guy wasn't just "gallivanting around Europe".
posted by Aquaman at 7:35 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The american government officials behind this don't feel the need for a trial because they have a very clear notion of what a joke their justice system is.

Just this week they found some american criminal that had been on the run for 40 years in my country. Now that he has been captured, he asked to be sent to prison in my country, rather than go to prison in the USA.

That, my friends, is decandence.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:40 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yet another example of creeping fascism. Of course we're making a big deal out of this because he's an American citizen, as well we should, but what about all the innocent non-Americans we have murdered using the same methods?

Our government has been incipiently fascist for quite some time having to hide their dirty actions because the American public wouldn't come along for the ride. It now seems that a certain segment of our population(not just the tea party) has decided that they would like to go along for a ride on the fascism express.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:41 AM on September 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Pretty sure this guy wasn't just "gallivanting around Europe".

Prove it, is the point. That's what a legal system is for.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:42 AM on September 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Well, if you're going to cry for Bin Laden you're going to cry for this idiot. *Shrugs*.

The "what if I become involved in a number of international terror plots over the course of decades? Then it could be ME TOO and being born in the US wouldn't help me!" slippery slope argument is pretty ridiculous though.
posted by Artw at 7:43 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was actually pretty okay with the bin Laden thing. He wasn't even a U.S. citizen and we still managed to make an attempt to capture him.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:44 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


What is ridiculous is the complete and utter disregard for the rule of law.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:45 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The "what if I become involved in a number of international terror plots over the course of decades? Then it could be ME TOO and being born in the US wouldn't help me!" slippery slope argument is pretty ridiculous though.

I mean, we've already heard a lot of stories about people being hassled at airport security because due to a typo or name similarity or weirdo donation they've been put on the no-fly list. And I don't think it's ridiculous to imagine a point where extrajudicial killing of suspected terrorists intersects with this sort of bureaucratic mixup. I'm not saying al-Awlaki was just some cool guy from the neighborhood pool, but the only way a system of justice works is if it's applied in all circumstances.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:50 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


"No president since George H.W. Bush has had more foreign-policy successes happen under his watch than President Obama. The death of bin Laden. The dismantling of al Qaeda. The ouster of Khaddafy. And the end of combat operations in Iraq." -First Read
posted by Mick at 7:52 AM on September 30, 2011


"It's not a real war"

What would make it a real war would be a "declaration of war". But Bush didn't feel the need to get one of those for Iraq or Afghanistan, and before that Kuwait/Iraq. Saying we are fighting a "War On Terror" doesn't constitutionally put us at war. It's a scam all the way down.
posted by Windopaene at 7:56 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


This isn't a slippery slope, this is a long yellow sheet of plastic on which we're spraying water and shouting "WHOOOO!" as we slide to the end.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:58 AM on September 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


Well, if you're going to cry for Bin Laden you're going to cry for this idiot. *Shrugs*.

Actually, what I "cry" about is the fact that bin Laden/al Qaeda has suckered us into pissing away trillions of dollars and shredding the essential rights that we base our society on.

If we were the country we are so convinced we are -- the land of freedom, etc, etc -- we wouldn't have taken the bait. Instead, we would have taken the tougher road of bringing these criminals (and they are criminals, nothing more) to justice while holding steadfastly to our principles. But apparently that is too sophisticated a concept for most people, certainly for most politicians.

Basically, bin Laden pretty much accomplished what he set out to do, with the assistance of the US government and a fair fraction of the citizenry.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 8:03 AM on September 30, 2011 [19 favorites]


It should be noted that this was a "CIA-directed strike".

As the Washington Post reported in June:
Because it operates under different legal authorities than the military, the CIA may have greater latitude to carry out strikes if the political climate shifts in Yemen and cooperation with American forces is diminished or cut off. ...

The new tasking for the agency marks a major escalation of the clandestine American war in Yemen, as well as a substantial expansion of the CIA’s drone war.
posted by Trurl at 8:07 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another American killed in the attack was Samir Khan, who helped produce the Al Qaeda magazine featured in this MeFi post two days ago.
posted by Trurl at 8:18 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The funny thing about slopes is that they don't necessarily have to be slippery for one to move down them. If the gradient of a slope is small enough it's not possible for one to distinguish if one is even on a slope. On long enough time scales movement down a slope isn't really noticed by the majority of people.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:23 AM on September 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


jedicus: "For starters we could take the wind out his sails. How about getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Or giving foreign aid to Israel and Palestine on an equal (per capita) basis? Or stopping the drone attacks"

Yeah, the best way to take the "wind out his sails" is to do a compromised version of what he wants done. Why don't we help him establish the Caliphate from the Maghreb all the way to Bangladesh, leaving Europe out of it - you know, a negotiated solution. And instead of killing *all* Jews, maybe we should just kill the loud, annoying ones. I bet when he's got that it would "take the wind out his sails".
posted by falameufilho at 8:29 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can see how this provokes angst on the part of people upset about the due process violations, but this seems like a pretty practical approach to domestic safety and is a pretty bright line. Minimal troop involvement, an apparent interest in operational safety regarding civilians, and the elimination of someone that has gone to great lengths to show an unyielding interest in killing in the name of fundamentalism.
At a time where we have institutionalized racism leading to executions of innocents in our prisons I can't find it in me to be anything but glad that we have our focus on a more streamlined approach to eliminating these idiots before they have a chance to foment a real movement. Good luck to the next jackass that steps up to the plate for Al Qaeda.
posted by docpops at 8:30 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


where government forces have been engaged in a brutal struggle against pro-democracy and separatist forces.

Yemen's Unhappy Ending: Sometimes, the bad guys win.
posted by homunculus at 8:34 AM on September 30, 2011


Prove it, is the point. That's what a legal system is for.

Are you asserting that there was some doubt about who this gentleman was and what he was doing?
posted by Aquaman at 8:40 AM on September 30, 2011


Legally, yes.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:45 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the best way to take the "wind out his sails" is to do a compromised version of what he wants done. Why don't we help him establish the Caliphate from the Maghreb all the way to Bangladesh, leaving Europe out of it - you know, a negotiated solution. And instead of killing *all* Jews, maybe we should just kill the loud, annoying ones. I bet when he's got that it would "take the wind out his sails".

Do you oppose withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan and humanitarian aid for Palestine because they are bad ideas...or because that's what the terrorists are fighting for? With all this talk of wind you should probably consider the consequences of blowback.

Are you asserting that there was some doubt about who this gentleman was and what he was doing?

You should probably assume that people talking about due process are considering him innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:48 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The United States government has decided that it can imprison people, including American citizens, for as long as it wants.

The Unites States government has decided that it can eavesdrop on anyone, with the cooperation of corporations, and there's nothing you can do about it because it's a state secret.

The Unites States government has decided that it can assassinate anyone, including American citizens, without a trial, whenever it likes.

The United States government has decided that it can abduct citizens of any country, from anywhere, and place them in secret prisons where no one knows where they are, and where they can be tortured, without recourse to any law.

Forget about "I'm glad this guy is gone." Think about the four statements above, which are facts. Think about what these facts mean. If your reaction to this is "I'm glad this guy is gone" before you think about the four facts above you have thoroughly and completely missed the important point here. The point is, there is nothing constraining the US government's actions but its own will.

And that's a scary thought.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:49 AM on September 30, 2011 [50 favorites]


I don't get metafilter sometimes.

If a person robs a bank and starts killing customers and shoots at a cop... and the cop shoots back and kills the criminal, wasn't his "constitutional right to a fair trial" denied?

The idea that you can do ANYTHING and the govt. is required to shuffle its feet and ask that an offender be kind enough to allow due process to take its course is ludicrous, and not even required by the constitution.

The piracy issues of the late 1700s and early 1800s demonstrate this I believe.

Its not our responsibility to send wave after wave of soldiers to die to attempt to capture someone actively planning to harm the US.
posted by rosswald at 9:18 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


There doesn't seem to be any proof that Al-Awlaki was anything more than a cheerleader. Did he advocate violent jihad according to Al-Qaeda's militant interpretation? Yes. Did he give fatwas or justifications to suspects of violent crimes? Probably. Did he actually aid or abet anyone in any kind of discernible operational way? Doesn't seem like any proof has been provided. So, if you're glad that the US has made yet another extra-judicial assassination (with collateral damage) while building up its military presence in yet another troubled nation, then maybe you're taking your opinions unchecked from the Pentagon mouthpiece that is the popular media.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:20 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Its not our responsibility to send wave after wave of soldiers to die to attempt to capture someone actively planning to harm the US.

It's more like Awlaki was used as a justification for the US to intervene in Yemen's burgeoning civil war, though. He wasn't really part of Al Qaeda's command structure.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2011


In 2010 it was announced that U.S. President Barack Obama had ordered the extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. The Islamic cleric resides in Yemen, but was born in New Mexico. The U.S. President issued the order, approved by the National Security Council, after it became evident that al-Awlaki was directly involved with the 2009 Fort Hood Massacre and with the 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot, the attempted destruction of a Detroit-bound passenger-plane. With this evidence, it was decided that al-Awlaki's normal legal rights as a citizen should be suspended and his death should be imposed, as he had effectively taken up arms against the United States and was a threat to its citizens.
posted by rosswald at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2011


Well, when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:28 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


If a person robs a bank and starts killing customers and shoots at a cop... and the cop shoots back and kills the criminal, wasn't his "constitutional right to a fair trial" denied?

Umm, obviously it wasn't. There is no similarity between your example and the case at issue here.

The U.S. President issued the order, approved by the National Security Council, after it became evident that al-Awlaki was directly involved with the 2009 Fort Hood Massacre and with the 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot, the attempted destruction of a Detroit-bound passenger-plane. With this evidence,

Trial by Wikipedia! Great. Maybe we can pass a law saying that whenever anyone edits a wikipedia entry to say that somebody was involved with something bad then the U.S. government gets to kill him.

FYI, the involvement Al-Awlaki had with the Fort Hood massacre was exchanging emails with the perpetrator.
posted by zipadee at 9:30 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


In hindsight, there were likely opportunities to kill OBL on several occasions that weren't taken for reasons of political, legal, and technological reasons. Frankly it's refreshing to see this handled in a matter-of-fact way instead of Bush's style of calling a press conference every time he did something to distract from his dismal failures domestically and abroad.
posted by docpops at 9:31 AM on September 30, 2011


If a person robs a bank and starts killing customers and shoots at a cop... and the cop shoots back and kills the criminal, wasn't his "constitutional right to a fair trial" denied?

No, but you will probably need a trial if you want to kill the guy who inspired him to rob the bank.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:31 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the US government claimed he was "directly involved" then someone puts that on Wikipedia and then GUILTY!

He was unsavory and his followers were unsavory. Drone attacks are 1000x more unsavory.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:31 AM on September 30, 2011


FYI, the involvement Al-Awlaki had with the Fort Hood massacre was exchanging emails with the perpetrator.

And you know this from how many briefings with intelligence services?
posted by docpops at 9:32 AM on September 30, 2011


And you know this from how many briefings with intelligence services?

If we have evidence about a dude's guilt such that the government kills him, couldn't that evidence be presented to a jury? Isn't that how the whole fucking thing is supposed to work?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:34 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


> And you know this from how many briefings with intelligence services?

If there's something more substantial, then why don't they release it? Maybe it could compromise HUMINT assets? Maybe not. But I'm certainly not going to take the CIA or Pentagon's word about this at face value, nor trust them to propagate more attacks based on their best guesses.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:34 AM on September 30, 2011


And you know this from how many briefings with intelligence services?

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the level of irony here.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:35 AM on September 30, 2011


I guess it boils down to this: How do we know this guy needed to be killed? We have mechanisms set up to discover whether that is the case. These mechanisms were ignored. That is a problem, isn't it?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2011


How many jury trials do you want going on at any given time? How many operational disasters do you want to risk to go into hostile territory to extract these people? It must be wonderful to exist in such a zone of moral clarity without any regard to the practical implications of your hand-wringing and cries for justice.
posted by docpops at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean it wasn't approved by the Security Council and signed off by a federal judge?
posted by rosswald at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2011


How many jury trials do you want going on at any given time?

AT LEAST ONE, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE
posted by shakespeherian at 9:41 AM on September 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


How many jury trials do you want going on at any given time? How many operational disasters do you want to risk to go into hostile territory to extract these people? It must be wonderful to exist in such a zone of moral clarity without any regard to the practical implications of your hand-wringing and cries for justice.

Exactly how many American citizens do you think we have on targeted killing lists? I should hope you don't think it's common enough to be a problem to get trial scheduling done, or else the case for the killings is even weaker.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:43 AM on September 30, 2011


Hell, it's not like all those civilians that get shot up by nervous US soldiers at checkpoints in Iraq had a trial. Let's just start killing more people because the occasional trial or even hearing about a high profile suspect is too damned inconvenient. Kill em all! There's yer moral clarity!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:43 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It must be wonderful to exist in such a zone of moral clarity without any regard to the practical implications of your hand-wringing and cries for justice.

And the irony gets thicker. Look, you're the one who's defending the assassination, and you accuse others of unwarranted moral clarity? Seriously? We're the one's saying that the situation might be more ambiguous, and he might not have deserved to die.

The point of a justice system is that we live in an ambiguous world, not because it serves our "moral clarity".
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:43 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I guess it boils down to this: How do we know this guy needed to be killed? We have mechanisms set up to discover whether that is the case. These mechanisms were ignored. That is a problem, isn't it?

I think that is a really good question. I guess the litmus test is perhaps as clear as a leadership role in an organization that has it's focus on establishing a muslim caliphate through means of unmitigated violence. I mean, you don't join the Klan because you enjoy male bonding.
posted by docpops at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2011


Why did this guy need to die in the last 24 hours? Can someone answer that?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2011


> I mean, you don't join the Klan because you enjoy male bonding.

Jesus, man. How many mid-level KKK members did the US assassinate? You're really grasping.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:47 AM on September 30, 2011


He's been a MEFi cause celebre for for some time, with a reference to him popping up in every political thread asd evidence of the evils of Obama for a while.

My reaction then is pretty much the same then as it is now. The subsequent foiled cargo planes attack did not exactly make my feelings towards him any warmer.
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on September 30, 2011


Hell, it's not like all those civilians that get shot up by nervous US soldiers at checkpoints in Iraq had a trial. Let's just start killing more people because the occasional trial or even hearing about a high profile suspect is too damned inconvenient. Kill em all! There's yer moral clarity!

Which is another good reason to deal with things on a more singular basis with less troop involvement.

I don't have moral clarity on this. I just don't have the adolescent weltschmerz necessary to elevate this to the same level as the daily bullshit that comes out of the TSA or the average cop in red state territory or any fundie politician. If I wake up in a police state someday it won't be because of targeted assassinations of terrorists.
posted by docpops at 9:49 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jesus, man. How many mid-level KKK members did the US assassinate? You're really grasping.

And you are being obtuse. Membership in the clan implies an alignment with their ideology to even the most dense observer. And holding a top leadership position in Al Qaeda makes you every bit a target as the last ones that came before you, no different than OBL.
posted by docpops at 9:51 AM on September 30, 2011


> And holding a top leadership position in Al Qaeda makes you every bit a target as the last ones that came before you, no different than OBL.

He wasn't a top leader in AQ, though. He was a clerical figurehead in the AQAP, but there has been no evidence shown that he was involved in any kind of planning. It's really easy for the Pentagon to make up whatever justifications it wants to, then execute targets.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:54 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess it boils down to this: How do we know this guy needed to be killed?

Again, I ask, are you actually asserting that there was some doubt about who this person was and what he was doing?

I appreciate your somewhat roundabout point about due process, but you seem to be trying to establish that perhaps we were mistaken, and that's why due process is good. Am I misinterpreting your statements?
posted by Aquaman at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2011


If I wake up in a police state someday it won't be because of targeted assassinations of terrorists.

Without getting all hand-wavy paranoid and conspiratorial, this is actually exactly how you'd wake up in a police state, the only difference is that the metric for deciding what a terrorist is will have kept getting broader and broader until it can encompass nearly anyone.

I'm not saying that this is what is happening, but it certainly is something to worry about if the world's history of how to vilify and silence certain segments of the population is any kind of predictor.
posted by quin at 9:57 AM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


There doesn't seem to be any proof that Al-Awlaki was anything more than a cheerleader. Did he advocate violent jihad according to Al-Qaeda's militant interpretation? Yes. Did he give fatwas or justifications to suspects of violent crimes? Probably. Did he actually aid or abet anyone in any kind of discernible operational way?

He met with some of the 9-11 bombers prior to their attacks and provided them with support. He corresponded with the Ft. Hood Shooter giving him advice and had prior knowledge of the attack. He directly participated in briefing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber" and helped draw up the plan to bomb the jet. He also took credit for the plan ship packages with bombs hidden in computers.

He was not added to the target list until he took an operational role in the organization. He knew he was a wanted man, and had the right to surrender peacefully at any point.
posted by humanfont at 9:57 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


If due process can be skipped because it's uncomfortable or inconvenient, then it doesn't really exist.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:57 AM on September 30, 2011


> Again, I ask, are you actually asserting that there was some doubt about who this person was and what he was doing?

The argument is mainly about him voicing disgusting opinions. Is it any different than someone like John Hagee advocating US bombing of Iran? Would the Iranians be exucsed for sending drones to kill Hagee if he was sheltering in a foreign country?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:58 AM on September 30, 2011


Operation Citizen Rights for Suspect Terrorists;

Sept 30th, at 1:00 PM EST - Washington D.C. - Today congress passed a bill under President Obama's direction that will allow the government to put what it believes to be suspected international terrorist whom are U.S. citizens under trail by court of law. The trial will be publicly broadcast in 30 languages. The government will start by sending a subpoena to the suspected terrorist and upon compliance will be transferred to the United States for due process. The suspected citizen will have 30 days to comply or will be forcibly removed and held in contempt until cooperation is secured. The citizen will be granted a federal defense attorney if suspect in unable to comply. If citizen does not have a postal address, a military drone will drop a court order where suspected citizen was last seen. The 30 day period starts after drone has verified the court order was successfully deployed. If citizen threatens any U.S. official during process, the United States will charge the citizen as subject to U.S. law. If citizen is found to be guilty, then punishment is as follows:

Killing of any U.S. citizen = life in prison or death penalty
Terrorist activities (including distributing Nickelback CDs) = 40 - life
Treason against the state = 20 years to life
Participant in inciting violence = 15 – 30 years

All fees will be paid by the U.S. tax payer after liquidation of suspects assets. If they are found innocent, the suspected citizen will be flown back to their destination of choice and receive a “Opps, Our Bad” letter from the president himself.
posted by amazingstill at 9:59 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I appreciate your somewhat roundabout point about due process, but you seem to be trying to establish that perhaps we were mistaken, and that's why due process is good. Am I misinterpreting your statements?

No, you are not. The reason we have due process is that because legally speaking there is a presumption of innocence until evidence is presented which removes reasonable doubt. This has never occurred; therefore, it seems to me, that there is still a presumption of innocence.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:00 AM on September 30, 2011


Killing a suspected or alleged criminal in an attempt to capture them for trial is one thing. Cold-blooded murder to avoid that inconvenience is still cold-blooded murder.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:00 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The piracy issues of the late 1700s and early 1800s demonstrate this I believe.

Letters of marque were issued to deal with pirates. Article 1, section 8, an enumerated power of Congress. There are mechanisms in the Constitution to deal with things like terrorism; they may need some updating, but they are there.

If you really want to live in a free and principled society then you don't get to ignore the Constitution just because it makes things hard. See, the principles enshrined in the Constitution are what makes "us" different from "them" -- not chanting "USA, USA" or slapping an American flag on everything.

If it has to be easy/convenient is the bar then why not just burn the damn document and be done with it. But you don't get to whine when they kick down your door in the middle of the night.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 10:03 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


> He met with some of the 9-11 bombers prior to their attacks and provided them with support. He corresponded with the Ft. Hood Shooter giving him advice and had prior knowledge of the attack. He directly participated in briefing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber" and helped draw up the plan to bomb the jet. He also took credit for the plan ship packages with bombs hidden in computers.

Again, where is the actual proof or even sworn statements of this? The most that we can deduce is that he encouraged these people to make violent jihad and provided them with the excuse to kill civilians in the name of Islam. That isn't the same as actively planning operations. It's certainly deserving of punishment, but not extra judicial drone attacks.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:04 AM on September 30, 2011


...but you seem to be trying to establish that perhaps we were mistaken, and that's why due process is good.

I think that's a good observation. I think we should all agree that due process is good because my due process is good and your due process is good. It is a first principle, not a theorem.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2011


>The point is, there is nothing constraining the US government's actions but its own will.

Can't favorite this comment enough. It seems that we've slipped a little further down the slope then most people really want to admit. Hell most days I just try and ignore the obvious and go about my day like everything is ok. The truth, as Philosopher Dirtbike has so eloquently pointed out, is that shit is not ok. Furthermore, the shit that is not ok is being continued and codified by a democratic president. Even I never thought Obama would go further than Bush and normalize extrajudicial assassinations and the prosecution of shadow wars.

But again this is nothing new. Torture, assassinations, and shadow wars have been our modus operandi since the end of WWII. During the Vietnam war the populace didn't stand for it. Now we applaud it. The truth is that all of the things that Philosopher Dirtbike mentions above were true before 911, but they just weren't so obvious and in your face. The govenment had to hide them behind walls of plausible deniability. For me it is telling that they are now being so open about these things. They know their citizens better than the citizens know themselves. They know that we won't push back. We can't because any third party or peace movement in this country has been neutered. Sure we protested in the streets before the Iraq invasion, but then what did we do? We went back to work and consumption because it was the path of least resistance.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:06 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just my two cents:

For the folks arguing the constitutionality of the planned assassination and lack of due process of an American citizen, I should point out that al-Awlaki was no longer a U.S. citizen (and hadn't been for some time), according to United States Code title 8,1481, which states that naturalized citizens lose their nationality when "committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States." Moreover. the fact that he had taken up arms against the United States as an enemy combatant during a time of war means his ordinary legal rights as a citizen were suspended, in accordance with the Military Commissions Act, which states "a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents ... has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant." al-Awlaki lost his right to due process years ago, and was only cleared for assassination after a year-long review and approval by the U.S. National Security Council to ensure the act was in accordance with the above laws. Meanwhile, he's known about his target status for more than a year, failed to surrender and instead continued terror campaigns against the U.S.

I appreciate the discussion and debate here - there's a lot of good arguments being made on both sides that have really left me conflicted on this issue - but it appears that 1) al-Awlaki lost right to due process as a U.S. citizen according to U.S. law years ago. 2) al-Awlaki had been implicated in at least 3 attacks against American soil and has admitted to them (and was not bound to due process in this implication due to #1 ) and 3) you can't set up U.S. jury trials for every non-U.S. citizen enemy combatant (which he is, again, see #1) in a time of war, and no code conducts of war we've signed onto (Geneva or non) obligates us to do so.
posted by tiger yang at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


He met with some of the 9-11 bombers prior to their attacks and provided them with support. He corresponded with the Ft. Hood Shooter giving him advice and had prior knowledge of the attack. He directly participated in briefing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber" and helped draw up the plan to bomb the jet. He also took credit for the plan ship packages with bombs hidden in computers.

You see, we have trials with juries to establish facts such as this, instead of relying on newspaper reports and government statements. I'm astonished at some who would substitute the latter for the former.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:08 AM on September 30, 2011


It's certainly deserving of punishment, but not extra judicial drone attacks.

I find this phrasing hilarious because it implies the possibility of judicial drone attacks, in my imagination the defendant is found guilty and then the judge says:

"The sentence of the court shall be as follows, 18 months incarceration, all suspended, 3 years supervised probation, conditions of probation to include all standard conditions, special conditions of probation shall be...DRONE ATTACK"

followed by a drone killing the defendant in the courtroom.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:08 AM on September 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Heh, if drone attacks are cheaper than maintaining a lethal injection facility...
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:10 AM on September 30, 2011


The DRONE puts them on trial!
posted by amazingstill at 10:11 AM on September 30, 2011


But again this is nothing new. Torture, assassinations, and shadow wars have been our modus operandi since the end of WWII.

Pff. Since the Spanish American war at least.
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on September 30, 2011


iI should point out that al-Awlaki was no longer a U.S. citizen (and hadn't been for some time), according to United States Code title 8,1481, which states that naturalized citizens lose their nationality when "committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States."

When was he convicted of these things? Never? Then he died a U.S. citizen.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:13 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


The DRONE puts them on trial!

lol
posted by rosswald at 10:18 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


'It's an assassination, what about due process and a fair trial.'
'That's no fair trial, it's a sham trial and the court totally ignored the law.'
'It may have been legal, but the laws are unfair, the whole system is rigged.'
'The system is OK in principle but anyone with enough money can manipulate it.'
'Give me my torch and pitchfork, up against the wall motherfuckers.'

So many claims, so few citations. Anyone who actually feels at risk of an extralegal drone strike should try the time-honored method of going to the embassy of some neutral country and seeking political asylum, while unambiguously eschewing support for violence or terrorism.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:28 AM on September 30, 2011


> So many claims, so few citations.

The only claims made here were the first of your list. The rest are pretty specious.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:30 AM on September 30, 2011


When was he convicted of these things? Never? Then he died a U.S. citizen.

My understanding was that sentenced in absentia in Yemen in 2010. How this translates to U.S. action against him during a time of war, I don't know. I do know he had a year to turn him over to a consulate to serve his sentence or thereby argue his citizenship status which we're debating here.
posted by tiger yang at 10:47 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since he was not indicted or charged with anything in the U.S. criminal system he was never given the option of a fair trial.

..so far as you know. The FISA Court seems to have extended itself to cover anything the Feds want to conduct under cover. It is entirely plausible that the Government made a motion to revoke his citizenship to resolve any ambiguity in his status for FISA surveillance.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:47 AM on September 30, 2011


A Yemeni judge ordered police on Saturday to capture "dead or alive" a radical Muslim cleric who has been linked to several terror plots in the U.S.

Lawyers win right to aid US target

"But there are no judicially manageable standards by which courts can endeavor to assess the President's interpretation of military intelligence and his resulting decision -- based on that intelligence -- whether to use military force against a terrorist target overseas."
posted by anigbrowl at 10:50 AM on September 30, 2011


It's important to keep in mind that this very question was actually adjudicated. While the case (filed by al-Awlaki's father) was thrown out because the federal judge said his court lacked jurisdiction, the judge also said a couple of other interesting things, likening this case to the bombing of the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant during the Clinton Administration, and ultimately declining to make judicial rulings on the use of military force by the Executive Branch in service of "national security." Link to decision (.pdf).
Although the "foreign target" happens to be a U.S. citizen, the same reasons that counseled against judicial resolution of the plaintiffs' claims in El-Shifa apply with equal force here. Just as in El-Shifa, any judicial determination as to the propriety of a military attack on Anwar Al-Aulaqi would "'require this court to elucidate the . . . standards that are to guide a President when he evaluates the veracity of military intelligence.'"

...

Nor are there judicially manageable standards by which courts may determine the nature and magnitude of the national security threat posed by a particular individual. In fact, the D.C. Circuit has expressly held that the question whether an organization's alleged "terrorist activity" threatens "the national security of the United States" is "nonjusticiable."
Given that courts may not undertake to assess whether a particular organization's alleged terrorist activities threaten national security, it would seem axiomatic that courts must also decline to assess whether a particular individual's alleged terrorist activities threaten national security. But absent such a judicial determination as to the nature and extent of the alleged national security threat that Anwar Al-Aulaqi poses to the United States, this Court cannot possibly determine whether the government's alleged use of lethal force against Anwar Al-Aulaqi would be "justified or well-founded."
The Court went on to say:
Rather, the Court only concludes that it lacks the capacity to determine whether a specific individual in hiding overseas, whom the Director of National Intelligence has stated is an "operational" member of AQAP, presents such a threat to national security that the United States may authorize the use of lethal force against him. This Court readily acknowledges that it is a "drastic measure" for the United States to employ lethal force against one of its own citizens abroad, even if that citizen is currently playing an operational role in a "terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against Saudi, Korean, Yemeni, and U.S. targets since January 2009". But as the D.C. Circuit explained in Schneider, a determination as to whether "drastic measures should be taken in matters of foreign policy and national security is not the stuff of adjudication, but of policymaking."
...citations and other legal artifacts removed from text quoted above...
posted by BobbyVan at 10:51 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Note that it's also a crime to provide legal representation to anyone with the superterrorist label, which hampers efforts to mount a Constitutional challenge to this policy. This contrasts with officials' statements that this was done in "strict accord with the law" -- sure, a law that cannot be challenged or questioned.

I could give two fucks about Anwar, but civil society suffered a serious blow today. Keep in mind that less than ten years ago we were debating for months the constitutional issues surrounding Guantanamo, so much so that it influenced a presidential election.

Today, we will read a few blog posts that ask meekly "was this really constitutional?" and on Monday most of us will have forgotten.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you 'charlie don't surf'!

I was straining to remember the court system setup for things like this!
posted by rosswald at 11:00 AM on September 30, 2011


Nor are there judicially manageable standards by which courts may determine the nature and magnitude of the national security threat posed by a particular individual.

I look forward to Gaddafi citing this precedent at his war crimes trial.
posted by Trurl at 11:00 AM on September 30, 2011


The only claims made here were the first of your list. The rest are pretty specious.

And yet I see claims of exactly that type regularly in MetaFilter debates about law, the criminal justice system, and politics in general. I am not suggesting that they've been made in this thread or any particular thread about al-Awlaki, but that this mode of reasoning typifies a certain style of argument here.

Just above, I've provided some examples of al-Awlaki's treatment by the judicial systems of both Yemen (where he also held citizenship) and the US. So it looks to me like his interests have been considered with at least some due process of law. I presume the man's defenders consider that process flawed, so perhaps we could talk about the specific deficiencies of the actual legal actions instead of handwaving.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:00 AM on September 30, 2011


What is this "perfect world" nonsense? It was perfectly possible to put al-Awlaki on trial, either by doing it in absentia or by capturing him.

I am not a military operations planner, but it doesn't seem like speculation to posit that planning a ground operation with the goal of capture is probably orders of magnitude more difficult and risky (in terms of both chances of failure and risk to personnel and equipment).

Similarly, IANAL, but it's my understanding that an in absentia trial would have raised civil liberties flags in the same way a unilateral executive decision seems to have.

I actually completely agree that an absentee trial would have been the right thing to do here on a purely philosophical level -- or some other form of judicial review. Somehow change the system so it's allowed in circumstances like this one (again, giving the courts a chance to rule on the executive's claim that any given situation is in fact such a situation).

But I also have my doubts that any such option is actually available right now. As far as I can tell, the American judicial system is fundamentally hostile to the idea of such a trial, with good reason for most cases. And as much as I respect the concern that civil libertarians have for constraints on the State's ability to take life and liberty, I think that a lot of them are pretty much as capable of helping the discussion along as your average boilingly-red-blooded idiot patriot who thinks that national security excuses anything.

So to my mind, it looks like someone who's charged with addressing the security issues someone like al-Awlaki represents had four options:

1) Mount an intense political and legal effort to allow trial in absentia very selectively, likely finding among their opposition most of the same cast of characters who are happy to criticize the administration for not capturing or trying al-Awlaki in absentia
2) Mount a more extensive, complicated, and risky boots-on-the-ground operation committed to typical law-enforcement capture in an area of the world where business is fundamentally extralegal by nature right now.
3) Do nothing.
4) Fall back on a legal justification involving the President's broad constitutional power to conduct military, foreign policy, and security affairs as he sees fit, probably along with a dose of war powers act, and use a targeted airstrike.

If you think that #1 was the right thing to do, I respect that, particularly if you're asking yourself what exactly you can do to help that option along. At the same time, I think it'd probably help a lot of people could understand that even someone who isn't an evil oppressor might justifiably chose #4 over #1-3.
posted by weston at 11:01 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Note that it's also a crime to provide legal representation to anyone with the superterrorist label, which hampers efforts to mount a Constitutional challenge to this policy. This contrasts with officials' statements that this was done in "strict accord with the law" -- sure, a law that cannot be challenged or questioned.

No. It's a crime to do so without having requested and been granted permission - as your linked article itself says. Did you even read it properly? The permission in this case was granted, as documented in my second link above.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:06 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


2) Mount a more extensive, complicated, and risky boots-on-the-ground operation committed to typical law-enforcement capture in an area of the world where business is fundamentally extralegal by nature right now.

If he's not worth the risk to our troops, he probably isn't worth the risk to Yemeni civilians either.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:08 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The permission in this case was granted, as documented in my second link above.

And then what happened?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:08 AM on September 30, 2011


And then what happened?

They lost the case. Read anigbrowl's third link (or my summation of it right below).
posted by BobbyVan at 11:11 AM on September 30, 2011


You have to read the third link to find out.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:12 AM on September 30, 2011


The problem, and I'd like the defenders of this blatantly illegal and unconstitutional assassination to address it, is where does it end?

You can argue that this particular person really was a bad person who needed killing. But ultimately the problem is that to defend us against the possible abuse by our government we've decided, and encoded into the Constitution, the idea that the government has to **PROVE** that the person in question really is a bad person who needs killing. We don't just take the government's word for it.

Consider how suspicious you'd be if this had been George W. Bush ordering the murder of a US citizen based solely on his own assertion that said citizens was a bad guy who needed killing. I'm guessing you'd be a mite more skeptical.

We demand the government to prove that the people it intends to kill are really in need of killing, this doesn't seem controversial.

Comparing this targeted assassination with other radically different sorts of killing by government agents is purely silly.

A bank robber shooting at the police is a threat to the police and when they shoot back they aren't trying to assassinate him for robbing banks, they're trying to defend themselves. You'll note that when the police can track down a bank robber at his home they don't simply shoot him with a sniper rifle. For that matter even when initially confronting an armed bank robber in the process of committing a crime the police don't simply shoot him out of hand, but instead stand off under cover and demand he drop his weapon and surrender.

Similarly a solder, on a battlefield, attacking a US soldier and being killed by return fire, as all those dead Nazis did, isn't the same thing as sniping a US citizen hanging around a non-battlefield and saying that you thought he was a Nazi.

The answer to the question "well what should have been done then" is simple. They should have tried to arrest him. Send a unit out to his compound, demand his surrender, and if he surrenders give him a fair trial, if he attacks then (and only then) would I say killing him sans trial is justifiable.

Ya'll have been watching too many Rambo movies if you think the proper and appropriate way to deal with criminals is to blow them up with missiles. You arrest them, and then you give them a fair trial.

The problem is that once the US government decides it's ok to simply kill US citizens on mere suspicion of being bad, then it'll tend to snowball.

Remember the assurances back when the USA PATRIOT act was passed that it was strictly something that would be used against the Evil Terrorists? Remember that it has since been demonstrated that the USA PATRIOT act has almost never been used against terrorists but has been used in a lot of drug cases (over 1,500 uses for drug cases vs. less than 20 uses for terrorism)?

Do you honestly think the next Republican president won't take this newfound ability to simply kill inconvenient citizens without any due process at all and expand it and abuse it?

The people organizing the Occupy Wall Street movement, for example, you think it might not be possible that the next Republican president might simply declare them to be terrorists, no need for a trial, and have the CIA assassinate them?

A nation where the political elites can simply have people murdered at a whim is not a nation I think you or I want to live in.
posted by sotonohito at 11:21 AM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


The people organizing the Occupy Wall Street movement, for example, you think it might not be possible that the next Republican president might simply declare them to be terrorists, no need for a trial, and have the CIA assassinate them?

I really don't have a comment here. I just wanted to quote this precious line so I could relish in its utter insanity one more time.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:32 AM on September 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


The people organizing the Occupy Wall Street movement, for example, you think it might not be possible that the next Republican president might simply declare them to be terrorists, no need for a trial, and have the CIA assassinate them?

yes, this is definitely, certainly going to happen, in the same way that assisted suicide has led to mass self-extermination.
posted by docpops at 11:33 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


yes, this is definitely, certainly going to happen, in the same way that assisted suicide has led to mass self-extermination

Once your position goes from "The president would be committing legal murder by having me killed" to "The president has no conceivable interest in killing me", you have gone from being a citizen with rights before the law to a serf who keeps his life only at the sufferance of his hopefully-benevolent master.

I doubt this was what the Founding Fathers had in mind.
posted by Trurl at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


So you've got no problem whatsoever with President Palin having the legal authority to order the CIA to assassinate US citizens? No judicial oversight needed, no trials, no charges, just Palin wants someone dead and the CIA kills them. You're fine with that? Really?
posted by sotonohito at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


imagine that for whatever reason while you're gallivanting around Europe the US government labels you a terrorist. What stops them from shooting you in the face? International law? The US Constitution? The Geneva Convention? Every single one of these things has been ignored in the 'fight against Terrorism' because apparently terrorism is so so bad that they are obsolete. But you are labeled a terrorist and you are not a terrorist, what do you do?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:27 AM on September 30


This is not difficult to imagine. Worse is when this increasing paranoia becomes a wonderful manipulative tool by silly people who aren't clever enough to realize the full implications of their petty power games.
posted by infini at 11:56 AM on September 30, 2011


I've got an idea that should please everyone. It turns out that Ron Paul has condemned al-Awlaki's killing for much the same reasons that people here are objecting to it, although he too has skipped over the questions of whether such executive actions are subject to review or the significance of the Yemeni court's general warrant for his capture or death. Ron Paul is also against Wall Street and fractional reserve banking and the whole concept of the Federal Reserve, and I hear he can easily be researched via Google.

I know many of you have been looking for a candidate you can feel good about supporting, and now you have one. Throw your weight behind him, ensure he gets the Republican nomination or does well enough to be selected as VP, and your concerns will be fully aired on the national stage. You'll have to make some compromises over his less savory aspects, but if you think that this issue overrides all else then Ron Paul is your guy. I am not saying this to be snarky or make fun of people's concerns. I genuinely think that those MeFites who consider Obama the representative of a corpocratic or fascist government, or something worryingly close to it, should be supporting Ron Paul if they aren't already. He's the candidate most closely aligned with your outlook and even if you don't fully agree with his platform, giving him your votes and/or dollars will gain you the most political leverage on the issues that you say you care most about.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2011


Which is why we have impeachment in this country.

Both Presidents Bush and Obama have used this authority relatively sparingly against individuals who have been deemed extraordinary threats to national security. If Obama, or a future President, were seen to have abused this power or exercised it negligently, I think impeachment would be the proper remedy (as well as prosecution for lower-ranking officials if they also behaved illegally).
posted by BobbyVan at 11:58 AM on September 30, 2011


my comment is referring to sotonohito's above.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2011


While al-Awlaki was very likely an active and severe threat due to his running a terrorist network, he's also been doing so for several years. It's not like they just figured out "Hey, this al-Awlaki guy is bad, and he's going to kill people right now!"

They've known about him and his activity for years. Plenty long enough to conduct a trial in absentia. And plenty enough to reach a verdict on whether he is guilty of the charges they put to him. After that point, if he is unable to be captured, a drone dropping something on him to make him dead would be, as far as I'm concerned, completely legitimate.

However, I've never heard of a trial, and the killing of a US citizen when the government has had YEARS of awareness of his activities means that even though he's an active threat, this isn't a case of critical, emergent exigency.

The constitution is not a guarantee of our freedoms, it is a document that binds the government from infringing upon them. I know that's a subtle difference, but the constitution isn't for us. It's a restriction on the government. What the government is not allowed to do is deprive anyone of life, liberty or property without due process of the law. A trial in absentia is the least they should have done before executing an American citizen who is unable to be captured.
posted by chimaera at 12:03 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Would it have been better for him to be brought to the US to stand trial for his roles in inciting murder and other criminal and terrorist acts? Yes. That wasn't going to happen.

The world is a better place without this man.


This is bullshit post facto reasoning, and you had better hope like hell the government doesn't one day decide to come after you, when it suits their purposes.

Today, it's enough to voice opposition to the United States, whilst wearing a turban. Tomorrow, they may come for you and your loved ones over something much more innocuous.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:03 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would definitely vote for Paul over Obama. Don't forget Gary Johnson too. On the issues I feel most strongly about I've always been closer to social libertarians than Democrats, but all the anger at Bush from Democrats (like over the Padilla thing) that it is clear now were really just opportunistic political games convinced me working with them was a better compromise.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:06 PM on September 30, 2011


More likely Blazecock is that it is enough to voice support (and much more) for a man to go on a shooting rampage at a military base.

But your USAISTEHRASCIST!! routine is amusing.
posted by rosswald at 12:07 PM on September 30, 2011


Today, it's enough to voice opposition to the United States, whilst wearing a turban. Tomorrow, they may come for you and your loved ones over something much more innocuous.

I love how you euphemize calling for the murder of American civilians as "voicing opposition to the United States."
posted by BobbyVan at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2011


He's the major party candidate most closely aligned with your outlook

FTFY
posted by Trurl at 12:09 PM on September 30, 2011


I love how you euphemize calling for the murder of American civilians exercising your freedom as speech as "voicing opposition to the United States."


FTFY
posted by Trurl at 12:16 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Recognized Exceptions to the First Amendment
posted by rosswald at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2011


Metafilter: its ok to yell 'Kill all US Military servicemen and Jews' in a crowded theater
posted by rosswald at 12:22 PM on September 30, 2011


Targeted killing & assasination: the US legal framework

major party candidate

I don't know who this 'FTFY' person is. Perhaps you'd care to identify your preferred minor party or independent candidate, otherwise I will have to conclude that you're just trolling.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:25 PM on September 30, 2011


They've known about him and his activity for years. Plenty long enough to conduct a trial in absentia

...except for the minor sticking point that the US doesn't allow trials in absentia.

AFAIK (and unless things have changed since the late 80s), the closest you can get is that a trial can continue, but not begin, if the defendant stops showing up, and that a defendant can be barred from his or her own trial on account of misbehavior in the courtroom.

If you don't have the defendant physically present in the courtroom on the first day of the trial, at least until his or her behavior becomes intolerable, then there just isn't a trial.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:25 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: its ok to yell 'Kill all US Military servicemen and Jews' in a crowded theater

Brandenburg v Ohio: That's prohibited as an "imminent threat". Inspiring people on YouTube is not an imminent threat.
posted by Trurl at 12:26 PM on September 30, 2011


Metafilter: its ok to yell 'Kill all US Military servicemen and Jews' in a crowded theater

I guess this issue is not important for you to represent the views in this thread accurately. Thanks for adding noise to the conversation.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:26 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


...except for the minor sticking point that the US doesn't allow trials in absentia.

Oh, well we wouldn't want to bend the Constitution.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:27 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


However, I've never heard of a trial, and the killing of a US citizen when the government has had YEARS of awareness of his activities means that even though he's an active threat, this isn't a case of critical, emergent exigency.

Most people seem to have overlooked the fact that al-Awlaki was tried in absentia by a Yemeni court, and that he held dual US-Yemeni citizenship. After failing to appear, a Yemeni judge issued a warrant for him 'dead or alive.' This took place after Obama had authorized his killing by US forces, and thus does not serve as a justification of it from a US legal standpoint; I'm just mentioning it (again) because the fact that the guy was a fugitive from justice within Yemen as well seems to have been largely overlooked.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2011


the fact that the guy was a fugitive from justice within Yemen as well seems to have been largely overlooked

It has no bearing on whether the U.S. can legally assassinate one of its own citizens.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:32 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


'Inspiring people on YouTube is not an imminent threat"

So the US Gov.t compiled a list of non-imminent threats on youtube (probably hundreds of thousands), and pulled al-Awlaki's name out of a hat?
posted by rosswald at 12:35 PM on September 30, 2011


It is an interesting question (or at least one I don't know the answer to): If another country declares someone to be a fugitive from justice, under the constitution and legal precedent, what action can the USA take in response to that country's request for action to be taken as a result of that declaration?
posted by ambient2 at 12:38 PM on September 30, 2011


So the US Gov.t compiled a list of non-imminent threats on youtube (probably hundreds of thousands), and pulled al-Awlaki's name out of a hat?

History suggests that they will have felt that they had the very best of reasons for killing him.

But "The president really wants this guy dead" does not count as due process for depriving someone of life.
posted by Trurl at 12:42 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, Obama can kill anyone he doesn't like? His MIL must be terrified...
posted by rosswald at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sex and the Single Drone: The Latest in Guarding the Empire
posted by homunculus at 12:46 PM on September 30, 2011


OK, I think we all know where each other stands on this issue. Let's get practical for a moment.

As linked above, the US courts have taken a pass on this issue, stating in essence that the targeted killing of al-Awlaki, and other actions taken by the President in the name of national security, are fundamentally political in nature, and not subject to judicial review.

Therefore, the only remedy in this instance is to seek political redress -- i.e., impeachment.

All in favor of impeaching President Barack Obama, say "aye!"
posted by BobbyVan at 12:50 PM on September 30, 2011


All in favor of impeaching President Barack Obama, say "aye!"

It is clearly crossing a line to murder a citizen for exercising his Constitutional rights, without a trial that establishes his guilt for involvement in anything else. Yes, President Barack Obama should be impeached for ordering an illegal, extrajudicial hit.

I'm not surprised that right-wingers who regularly mouth off about the Constitution when it comes to healthcare or taxation, etc. are so quick to abandon their own First Amendment rights when it suits their cultural agenda. Hypocrisy of the first order.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:55 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brandenburg v Ohio: That's prohibited as an "imminent threat". Inspiring people on YouTube is not an imminent threat.

What if someone is watching the youtube video on their smartphone in a crowded theater?
posted by Aquaman at 12:58 PM on September 30, 2011


I'm not surprised that right-wingers who regularly mouth off about the Constitution when it comes to healthcare or taxation, etc. are so quick to abandon their own First Amendment rights when it suits their cultural agenda.

Can you explain what you mean by "cultural agenda"? Are you still hung up on the "turbans"?
posted by BobbyVan at 1:04 PM on September 30, 2011


...except for the minor sticking point that the US doesn't allow trials in absentia.

I expect that is more likely to be a statutory limitation than a constitutional one. The fifth amendment guarantees the accused to confront the accuser, but at the same time, if a person can be a fugitive from capture for more than a specified period of time, and they have reasonable knowledge that they are wanted (both of which would apply to al-Awlaki), then I think the SCOTUS would likely allow that that person would have been said to have waived their right to confront their accuser by remaining at large for some period of years, and a trial in absentia would be permitted.
posted by chimaera at 1:04 PM on September 30, 2011


Once your position goes from "The president would be committing legal murder by having me killed" to "The president has no conceivable interest in killing me"

So you've got no problem whatsoever with President Palin having the legal authority to order the CIA to assassinate US citizens?


The precedent at this point is that the President may choose to use military force without apparent judicial review against a US citizen who is:

1) outside of US jurisdiction
2) outside the effective jurisdiction of any sovereign likely to cooperate with the US
3) visibly and publicly agitating for violent action against not just the territorial US but US citizens
4) has credibly participated in existing terrorist attempts

If your concern is that you'd like to make sure cases like this are comfortable formalized and subject to judicial review or some other separation of power check, that's perfectly reasonable.

If your concern is that the targeting of Awlaki represents a categorical precedent for the president to kill any US citizen he chooses, I think you need to do some serious recalibrating.
posted by weston at 1:06 PM on September 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Well said weston
posted by rosswald at 1:09 PM on September 30, 2011


If your concern is that you'd like to make sure cases like this are comfortable formalized and subject to judicial review or some other separation of power check, that's perfectly reasonable.

If your concern is that the targeting of Awlaki represents a categorical precedent for the president to kill any US citizen he chooses, I think you need to do some serious recalibrating.


I would like to make sure cases like this are comfortable formalized and subject to judicial review or some other separation of power check so that the targeting of Awlaki will not represent a categorical precedent for the president to kill any US citizen he chooses.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your concern is that you'd like to make sure cases like this are comfortable formalized and subject to judicial review or some other separation of power check, that's perfectly reasonable.

So now we're calling for death panels after all.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:13 PM on September 30, 2011


FWIW, a little more information about trial in absentia:

"For a fugitive who has never been in custody, such as Osama Bin Laden, odds are slim to none that any U.S. court would permit his trial in absentia, regardless of the strength of the evidence."
When Can a Defendant Be Tried in Absentia?

In absentia Under US Law.
posted by weston at 1:14 PM on September 30, 2011


But "The president really wants this guy dead" does not count as due process for depriving someone of life.

Insofar as al-Awlaki was connected with the events of September 11th 2001, it does. The AUMF explicitly grants the authority to make and act upon such determinations to the executive. Read it, it's only a few paragraphs long. Al-Awlaki (or Al-Aulaki) is a designee of Executive Order 13224. Again, you may wish to study the legal framework for such uses of executive power. whether or not you agree with policy is one thing, but to assert that it has no legal basis whatsoever is factually incorrect.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:16 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


So now we're calling for death panels after all.

In states where the death penalty is allowed, they're often called "juries". And they are subject to "laws".
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:16 PM on September 30, 2011


It seems to me that there are several separate arguments here. On one hand, there's the argument that the US should never, ever kill a US citizen in a targeted attack. On the other hand, there's the argument that Anwar al-Awlaki was nothing more than a mouthpiece and that the US trumped up accusations that he was involved in terrorist attacks so that they could murder him. To me these are very, very different arguments. (Of course there's also a third argument that there's no way for us to know which is which without a trial).
posted by Bookhouse at 1:17 PM on September 30, 2011


Can you establish that Yemen is unlikely to cooperate with the US? Or that he was outside their jurisdiction? Can you link the public evidence that proves he was involved with attacks? It seems to be that during his time in the West the FBI had ample time to try and make a case against him and just couldn't do it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


In states where the death penalty is allowed, they're often called "juries". And they are subject to "laws".

I take your point, but it seems to me that because this is national security-related, we're talking about something more along the lines of the FISA court.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:20 PM on September 30, 2011


See guys, this was all good and legal because a court of law in Saleh's murderous dictatorship ordered him killed in absentia. But he couldn't be tried in the US that way, because it would be unconstitutional, which is no doubt the only reason why he wasn't indicted either. But it was clear he was guilty of something worthy of death, otherwise our glorious leader wouldn't have decreed he be killed.
posted by [citation needed] at 1:20 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


weston: thanks for the link. I do still think, though, that were this specific case to come before the court, that they'd find the precedents insufficiently analogous, and move from a strict bar on initiating trials in absentia, to doing so under exceptional circumstances, where the alternative would be, for example, a military strike against said individual.
posted by chimaera at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2011


The AUMF explicitly grants the authority to make and act upon such determinations to the executive.

These acts of Congress cannot and do not override the Fifth Amendment.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:24 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to make sure cases like this are comfortable formalized and subject to judicial review or some other separation of power check so that the targeting of Awlaki will not represent a categorical precedent for the president to kill any US citizen he chooses.

Well said.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:26 PM on September 30, 2011


I love how you euphemize calling for the murder of American civilians as "voicing opposition to the United States."

I love how you euphamize politically-motivated extrajudicial murder as "national security", despite such an act being illegal since 1976.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:29 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Executive Orders are not laws.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:34 PM on September 30, 2011


Executive Orders are not laws.

Feel free to explain what is unclear about this language:

"No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination."

The CIA directed its staff to operate drones which killed al-Awlaki. If the argument is now to redefine what constitutes "assassination", I guess we're entering the realm of semantics.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:38 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Executive Orders are not laws.

Last time I checked executive orders had the full force of law.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:39 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would like to make sure cases like this are comfortable formalized and subject to judicial review or some other separation of power check so that the targeting of Awlaki will not represent a categorical precedent for the president to kill any US citizen he chooses.

But neither you nor any other opponent of this decision has shown the least interest in addressing the actual judicial findings:
Anwar AlAulaqi, however, has given no indication that he believes it is in his interest to take legal action to stop the United States from killing him. Not only has he failed to bring suit on his own behalf at any point over the past ten months -- despite the fact that his life is allegedly at stake -- but he has made numerous public statements condemning the U.S. judicial system, see, e.g., Defs.' Reply, Exs. 1-2, and has publicly announced that he has no intention of "surrendering" to the Americans. See Wizner Decl., Ex. V (quoting Anwar Al-Aulaqi as remarking, "[a]s for the Americans, I will never surrender to them"); see also Clapper Decl. ¶ 16; Defs.' Mem. at 14 n.5. Taken together, Anwar Al-Aulaqi's actions and statements strongly suggest that his interests do not include litigating in U.S. courts.
You say you want judicial review, but from here it looks like you actually want judicial agreement with your own opinion. Where a federal judge says something that doesn't suit your position, you just ignore it. So far I've offered a federal judge's opinion, statute law, a valid and current executive order, and an extensive law review article, all of which bear on the question of whether the President has the authority to order someone killed or not, but nobody has shown any interest in discussing these.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:40 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Explain to me how he was supposed to file suit against the government when it was illegal for anyone to be retained as his legal counsel.

Not that "specially designated global terrorist" has any meaning, especially with respect to a U.S. citizen, under the Constitution, but we've clearly drifted into might-makes-right territory.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:47 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well hell many things have been legal over the years that weren't moral. Slavery, women not being full citizens, our Native American policy, racial discrimination, the internment of the Japanese Americans during WWII, and on and on.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2011


So far I've offered a federal judge's opinion, statute law, a valid and current executive order, and an extensive law review article, all of which bear on the question of whether the President has the authority to order someone killed or not, but nobody has shown any interest in discussing these.

What you offered was a court decision in which it was decided that the court couldn't even ask the question. Page 4: "Because these questions of justiciability require dismissal of this case at the outset, the serious issues regarding the merits of the alleged authorization of the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen overseas must await another day or another (non-judicial) forum."

So, no, the case you've cited is not relevant to any of the questions here. You're free to post another case which "which bear[s] on the question of whether the President has the authority to order someone killed or not" if you want to discuss it, but don't post something and claim it's something it's not, and then wonder why we're not discussing it.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:49 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Last time I checked executive orders had the full force of law.

In the sense that the President's interpretation of the law carries full force in terms of how that law is implemented... yes, they have the force of law.

But Presidents are not bound by executive orders, only the laws passed by Congress and the interpretations of those laws handed down by the Judiciary.

Explain to me how he was supposed to file suit against the government when it was illegal for anyone to be retained as his legal counsel.


Ugh. Please read the second link here.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:50 PM on September 30, 2011


Not only has he failed to bring suit on his own behalf at any point over the past ten months

How do you defend yourself in a courtroom, when there is no trial?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:50 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


These acts of Congress cannot and do not override the Fifth Amendment.

No, but Congress is authorized to pass laws on such topics under article 1, section 8. The fifth amendment does not abridge these powers. there's more to the Constitution than just the Bill of Rights, you know.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:53 PM on September 30, 2011


No, but Congress is authorized to pass laws on such topics under article 1, section 8. The fifth amendment does not abridge these powers. there's more to the Constitution than just the Bill of Rights, you know.

The powers in Article 1 Section 8 must be interpreted in light of the Bill of Rights, since the bill of rights does not actually grant rights, it merely recognizes rights that exist prior to the Constitution. There's more to rights than just the Bill of Rights, you know.

Now, you may not believe in Natural Rights, but it to argue that the Bill of Rights shouldn't affect the way the rest of the Constitution is interpreted is to ignore the history of the document.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even if I agreed that Obama can and should be trusted with the power to dish out, on his own and with absolutely no oversight of any sort, the death penalty, I think the defenders of this action are being dangerously short sighted.

Any power Obama claims will be claimed, **and expanded on** by future Republican presidents. And there will be future Republican presidents, perhaps not in 2012, but sooner or later they'll win and/or steal a presidential election.

What you argue, however much I disagree, is a reasonable and proper exercise of legitimate power from Obama, I think you could agree that it's likely that future Republican presidents will push the boundaries of that power? Extend the cases in which the president can simply sentence someone to death with no oversight? Or do you actually think President Perry, or Bachmann, or whoever, will be content to never expand the power Obama has given them to unilaterally sentence American citizens to death?

Yes, I am explicitly making a slippery slope argument here. Republican Presidents tend to be power mad nutbags who push every boundary they can find. Bush Jr, Reagan, and Nixon demonstrated that rather conclusively. It is, therefore, completely reasonable to assume that future Republican presidents will expand the power Obama has just given them. Just as it is reasonable to assume, since the Democrats did nothing to reduce it, that future Republican presidents will use their power to imprison (without charges or trials) people forever. Give 'em a centimeter and they'll take a kilometer, it's what they do.

Personally I don't think that's a power Obama should have. I don't think it's a power anyone should have. When it comes to the cold blooded killing of another person I think we need as much oversight and review as we can get. Heat of the moment stuff (combat, people resisting arrest with guns, etc) is different. But undertaking the calculated and deliberate killing of another person is not something to be done lightly or without a lot of supervision.

It isn't as if he was a supervillain or flying towards NYC with a nuke or anything. He was just a nut putting videos out on youtube. I hardly see how that constitutes a sufficient emergency that we need to abandon both the Fifth and Sixth amendments.

Again, why was murdering him a better choice than trying to arrest him? if he'd shot at the people trying to take him into custody they, of course, could have shot back. As a nation we have sent people to the moon and they came back alive, we have eradicated diseases, we have harnessed the power of atomic fission, it is not beyond our capability to arrest a single radical cleric even if he did have bodyguards.

@BobbyVan I really don't think the situation was so desperate that we really needed, as a nation, to establish the idea that the president can simply order the CIA to assassinate US citizens. Relying on impeachment to keep that sort of presidential power in check is a bit like arguing that we don't need brakes on cars because airbags will hopefully save us when we ram into things.
posted by sotonohito at 2:06 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Insofar as al-Awlaki was connected with the events of September 11th 2001...

As was established at trial after due process?
posted by Trurl at 2:11 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any power Obama claims will be claimed, **and expanded on** by future Republican presidents. And there will be future Republican presidents, perhaps not in 2012, but sooner or later they'll win and/or steal a presidential election.

The anti-Republican rhetoric looks a bit silly while we're discussing what some feel is a terrible expansion of Executive powers under a *Democratic* president.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2011


What you offered was a court decision in which it was decided that the court couldn't even ask the question.

...because the President does, in fact, have the authority to designate people as military targets using the powers lawfully delegated to him by Congress. See pages 69-80, and 78 in particular:
To be sure, this Court recognizes the somewhat unsettling nature of its conclusion -- that there are circumstances in which the Executive's unilateral decision to kill a U.S. citizen overseas is "constitutionally committed to the political branches" and judicially unreviewable. But this case squarely presents such a circumstance.
What do you think 'constitutionally committed to the political branches' means? I take it to read that the Constitution confers such authority on the Legislature and the Executive.

Not only has he failed to bring suit on his own behalf at any point over the past ten months

How do you defend yourself in a courtroom, when there is no trial?


The answer to your question is staring you in the face: you file a suit. It's possible to do this by mail, or even begin the process by making a video affidavit and nominating someone as your designated legal representative. Your assumption that a criminal trial is the only available or appropriate legal process here is simply not correct.

Explain to me how he was supposed to file suit against the government when it was illegal for anyone to be retained as his legal counsel.

As already pointed out out, it is not illegal for someone designated as a terrorist to retain counsel. It requires permission from the Treasury, which the ACLU sought and received. I personally know some lawyers who have defended terrorists in US courts.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:19 PM on September 30, 2011


Yeah, he was involved with 9/11 but leading a prayer service at the U.S. Capitol in 2002. You know what the FBI was planning to get him on before he left? The friggin Mann Act. They just didn't have anything to back up their beliefs, not enough to bring to court anyway.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


@BobbyVan I really don't think the situation was so desperate that we really needed, as a nation, to establish the idea that the president can simply order the CIA to assassinate US citizens. Relying on impeachment to keep that sort of presidential power in check is a bit like arguing that we don't need brakes on cars because airbags will hopefully save us when we ram into things.

The threat of impeachment can act as a pretty good brake when the President gets out of line. In this case, Obama announced his intention to kill al-Awlaki well over a year ago. The Judicial Branch weighed in, and the Congress barely peeped. Seems to me that the representatives of the people and the courts assented to this operation.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:23 PM on September 30, 2011


The anti-Republican rhetoric looks a bit silly while we're discussing what some feel is a terrible expansion of Executive powers under a *Democratic* president.

Washington Post - October 2001

Drawing on two classified legal memoranda, one written for President Bill Clinton in 1998 and one since the attacks of Sept. 11, the Bush administration has concluded that executive orders banning assassination do not prevent the president from lawfully singling out a terrorist for death by covert action.
posted by Trurl at 2:26 PM on September 30, 2011


a terrible expansion of Executive powers under a *Democratic* president

What al-Awlaki said is pretty much immaterial — what happens is that the next extrajudicial killing against the next US citizen for saying the wrong thing — whatever that is — gets just that much easier.

Of course, this kind of thinking seems to have escaped every single apologist for Obama, especially from his supporters on the right.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:29 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


...because the President does, in fact, have the authority to designate people as military targets using the powers lawfully delegated to him by Congress.

And those powers cannot and do not abrogate the Constitution.

This is not hard. Sometimes courts get the law wrong, and lay an egg à la Dred Scott or Kelo. Nobody seems to be willing to fix it, though.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 2:33 PM on September 30, 2011


Yeah, he was involved with 9/11 but leading a prayer service at the U.S. Capitol in 2002.

The transformation of Anwar al-Awlaki

What changed over the last decade that caused such a profound transformation in Awlaki? Does that question even need to be asked? Awlaki unwittingly provided the answer ten years ago when explaining his opposition to the war in Afghanistan in his 2001 Post chat:
Also our government could have dealt with the terrorist attacks as a crime against America rather than a war against America. So the guilty would be tried and only them would be punished rather than bombing an already destroyed country. I do not restrict myself to US media. I check out Aljazeerah and European media such as the BBC. I am seeing something that you are not seeing because of the one-sidedness of the US media. I see the carnage of Afghanistan. I see the innocent civilian deaths. That is why my opinion is different.

posted by Trurl at 2:43 PM on September 30, 2011


Can't Obama revoke his citizenship? Isn't there a form he can fill out or something?
posted by banshee at 2:50 PM on September 30, 2011


@Philosopher Dirtbike I think, rather, it's an indicator at just how amazingly good at shifting the Overton window the conservatives have gotten.

I'm not bringing up Republicans to claim that Obama or the Democrats are particularly good, but rather becuase of the fact that from a liberal/progressive viewpoint, despite the flaws of the Democrats, the Republicans are worse. That takes quite a bit of doing, but they've accomplished it.

@BobbyVan I think you underestimate the party unity of the Republicans. It takes, per the US Constitution, a two thirds majority in the Senate to convict an impeached President. That is 66 Senate votes for impeachment.

I'm pretty sure that, even if a Republican president went completely off the rails and started actually and blatantly sending the CIA to assassinate prominent liberal activists, the Republicans in the Senate would not vote to convict. For that matter I'm pretty sure that a sizable chunk of the conservative base would be very much in favor of such a thing, right wing talk radio hosts with millions of listeners advocate daily for the murder of liberals and they're rewarded with loyal listeners.

Perhaps I'm wrong and in the face of actual deaths the expressed bloodthirst of the far right would fail. Perhaps I'm wrong and in the face of actual, blatant, political assassinations the Senate Republicans really would be willing to convict a sitting Republican president.

But I see no reason why we should risk that. I don't understand why Obama would want to establish the precedent that a president can simply order the CIA to assassinate a citizen. It seems not merely very dangerous, but pointlessly dangerous.

We're risking a great deal (ie: possible Republican expansions), and there doesn't seem to have been the need for that risk. If Awlaki had been flying a nuke to NYC I could see the argument that we needed to stop him regardless of whether such action might have bad political consequences down the line.

But he was just a nutter posting videos to youtube. We knew where he was, we could have sent in a large enough group of soldiers to try and arrest him. There wasn't any need to send the CIA to assassinate him, and that's part of what bugs me so much. Obama just handed the next Republican president power I don't want to see anyone have, and for what?

Establishing and maintaining a tradition of rule of law is hard. Breaking that tradition is easy, and once broken rebuilding such a tradition is extremely difficult. I worry that Obama has started us down a path we will not be able to easily change, and I see no compelling reason why he has done so.
posted by sotonohito at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


The powers in Article 1 Section 8 must be interpreted in light of the Bill of Rights, since the bill of rights does not actually grant rights, it merely recognizes rights that exist prior to the Constitution. There's more to rights than just the Bill of Rights, you know.

Congress did not see fit to adopt all the proposal's in Madison's speech which introduced the various amendments, and in any case it's arguable that this, by its very anture, is a case arising out of the military exceptions within the 5th amendment.

Insofar as al-Awlaki was connected with the events of September 11th 2001...

As was established at trial after due process?


No, as determined by the president under Congress' delegation of its constitutional authority:
SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
The determination of liability (specifically, for Al-Aulaki's having sworn allegiance to the head of AQAP) was made in 2010.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:14 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you underestimate the party unity of the Republicans. It takes, per the US Constitution, a two thirds majority in the Senate to convict an impeached President. That is 66 Senate votes for impeachment.

Arguing that Obama probably won't be impeached for this isn't an argument against impeachment as a remedy per se. It just means that what Obama did wasn't seen as unconstitutional by the public at large.

right wing talk radio hosts with millions of listeners advocate daily for the murder of liberals and they're rewarded with loyal listeners.

Again, this is so unhinged from reality that I'm just going to quote this so I can remind myself that people really believe this stuff.

But he was just a nutter posting videos to youtube.

This is false. He was a charismatic/inspirational figure who, according to US intelligence, had connections with the Ft. Hood shooter, Christmas day underwear bomber, and possibly the Times Square bomber. He was a highly effective recruiter for Al Qaeda.

We knew where he was, we could have sent in a large enough group of soldiers to try and arrest him.

Are you some kind of expert on the subject? Let's get you into the Situation Room.
posted by BobbyVan at 3:26 PM on September 30, 2011


[Awlaki's connection with 9/11 was] determined by the president under Congress' delegation of its constitutional authority

The Congress has no Constitutional authority to strip persons of their Fifth Amendment right to due process. So it can not delegate any such authority to the President.
posted by Trurl at 3:36 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Good.

I eagerly await the day when the CIA hooks this up to the NSA's wonderful dragnet surveillance system, and any semantic match whenever a citizen calls for the violence against the US, or another US citizen, automatically launches the drones.

I know what you're thinking, that's fucking absurd conspiracy thinking right there.

Yeah, tell somebody 100 years ago we'd have robotic drones roaming the skies, hunting our enemies and sending "video" thousands of miles across the ocean instantaneously.

Tell them every one of our conversations would be recorded and analyzed in realtime.

Tell them "associating with" bad people is enough to get yourself killed.

This is the future you're building and cheering. Be ready for it it when it comes, because you seem to want it really bad.
posted by formless at 3:41 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am reminded of Pericles final speech not because it reflects where we are but seems an obvious precursor of where we might end.

Somewhat independent of questions of whether or not the targeted assassination of an American citizen is constitutional, legal, justifiable, is whether we have, as a nation and people, the authority -- the legitimacy -- despite having, obviously, the capability. America once was, or had pretensions to, a nation restrained by laws and principles which conferred the cultural, even moral authority to act for the benefit of those less fortunate and less powerful.

After 9/11 we had world's worth of compassion and support to defend ourselves and pursue our attackers. But slowly, as we have enlarged and continued our global war on terror we are losing that legitimacy, and while that may not be very important while we remain the hegemony, if (or when) we lose our place at the top the resulting repercussions ought to give us pause, if only for our children's sake if not for our own.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:45 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also killed in today's raid, American Citizen, Jihadi Journalist and Inspire Magazine Editor, Samir Khan

The CIA assassinated an American journalist who edited a hostile publication.

And I feel ok with it.
posted by humanfont at 3:57 PM on September 30, 2011


Seems like both sides in this argument are yelling past each other. I think there is a new and novel question, given vastly increased communication and travel abilities:

Can arrest and trial effectively deal with people who attack the US from havens in foreign countries, either with governments supporting the haven (ie Afghanistan under the Taliban, arguably North Waziristan today) or in areas not under control of the foreign govt (Yemen)?

What about people like Awlaki who are either willing martyrs or who make clear that they will never surrender? Are you saying that we need to invade Yemen to try to bring him to trial -- which would certainly result in thousands of deaths -- to save his? Or that we just have to let him attack us?

There must be some precedent for bandits or rebels across borders, etc.
posted by msalt at 3:58 PM on September 30, 2011


This is the future you're building and cheering. Be ready for it it when it comes, because you seem to want it really bad.

It Can't Happen Here.

Actually, it already did. Now dangerous Americans are just rationalizing the end result.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:00 PM on September 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I am reminded of Pericles final speech

Brilliant.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:10 PM on September 30, 2011


The CIA assassinated an American journalist who edited a hostile publication.

And I feel ok with it.


Good to know.

I heard there's some hostile journalists that work for an organization called Al Jahzeerah. You may want to pass that along to the people you serve. I think they actually have hot lines for this sort of thing nowadays. Possibly even a website on the intertubes.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:14 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or that we just have to let him attack us?

Your evidence that he did more than exercise his free speech right to call for violence against the United States?

Prove that he's guilty before you ask me to decide the preferred method for killing him.
posted by Trurl at 4:15 PM on September 30, 2011


WaPo: Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Khan grew up in Queens before moving with his family to North Carolina in 2004. When he decided to travel to Yemen in October 2009, he did so with little difficulty, which he wrote surprised him: “I mean, I was quiet [sic] open about my beliefs online and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out I was al-Qaeda to the core,” he wrote.

And like Al Awlaki, he was in the US and law enforcement didn't get him on anything. Why can we not arrest these people when they are in the US if they are so obviously guilty?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:17 PM on September 30, 2011


What about people like Awlaki who are either willing martyrs or who make clear that they will never surrender? Are you saying that we need to invade Yemen to try to bring him to trial -- which would certainly result in thousands of deaths -- to save his? Or that we just have to let him attack us?

There must be some precedent for bandits or rebels across borders, etc.


Before considering invasion as the only option, consider this precedent.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:18 PM on September 30, 2011


The Congress has no Constitutional authority to strip persons of their Fifth Amendment right to due process. So it can not delegate any such authority to the President.

Would you please stop reading the constitution through a drink straw?

I've already pointed out the continuing existence of Article 1, ssection 8, which states in pertinent parts:
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
...
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
Like it or not, the Constitution grants Congress rather broad powers of defense against threats to the United States, and allows congress to delegate those powers to the Executive as it sees fit. 'Offenses against the law of nations' are not the kind of crimes contemplated by the 5th amendment, and this is one reason that the 5th amendment itself contains an exception for cases arising out of military action.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:29 PM on September 30, 2011


Your evidence that he did more than exercise his free speech right to call for violence against the United States?

There are emails, recordings and confessions from people who carried out terrorist attacks saying that they plotted with Awlaki -- the underwear bomber, Fort Hood, Times Square, etc. Not an expert but I believe chunks of these have been entered as evidence in various legal proceedings. Also, he posts videos to the Internet claiming credit and urging others on. What do you want? Are you claiming he's innocent and being framed?

Also: there's no free speech right to urge people to murder innocent civilians.
posted by msalt at 4:40 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

It seems rather clear that the bill of rights amends the constitution and supersedes what was written prior.

As for the fifth amendment:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

It is, of course, somewhat unclear as to how to fully parse this one, long sentence.

posted by Shit Parade at 4:42 PM on September 30, 2011


ICC has provisions to try individuals in absentia, but we as a nation are too good to join it.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:44 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you claiming he's innocent...

Never having been convicted at trial after due process, yes, I believe that would be the technical term.

Also: there's no free speech right to urge people to murder innocent civilians.

9 Supreme Court judges disagree with you.
posted by Trurl at 5:31 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you claiming he's innocent? Never having been convicted at trial after due process, yes, I believe that would be the technical term.

Who cares about technical terms? We're talking someone who is publicly bragging that he is involved in plots killing Americans. Brags supported by evidence entered into American courts.

Are you saying that, even if he was sending RC bomb-planes that killed Americans daily, from some foreign haven, we still should not kill him? That we would simply have to grin and bear it until such time as he could be properly arrested?
posted by msalt at 5:47 PM on September 30, 2011


Could you link me to his brags about being part of attacks?

Are you saying that, even if he was sending RC bomb-planes that killed Americans daily, from some foreign haven, we still should not kill him? That we would simply have to grin and bear it until such time as he could be properly arrested?

If we had a choice between arresting him or killing him, it would probably be best to arrest him if possible. What if he provided the RC Bomb plane plans to someone else? In fact, if we do arrest him and we think he might have done that and he isn't talking...well I mean he publicly bragged so...ticking time bomb ya know...Is it too late for everyone to go back and vote for Bush?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:59 PM on September 30, 2011


Are you saying that, even if he was sending RC bomb-planes that killed Americans daily, from some foreign haven, we still should not kill him?

I'm not interested in fantasized supervillainy. I'm interested in having the government's claims of Awlaki's material involvement with terrorism [claims that, as furiousxgeorge reminds us, come suspiciously late in the day] put to trial with due process. And I don't care how inconvenient the government finds it. After telling us Guantanamo housed "the worst of the worst", it is not owed the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Trurl at 6:01 PM on September 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Tell the people I serve? Chatting with homeless guys while I ladle out soup slows down the line. Slowing the line down is bad. Are you trying to start a riot? Some homeless guy trying to get his shit together doesn't need your crazy talk about Al Jazeera. Besides those guys at AJZ are ok. AElfwine, I will not be a part of your evil plan to slow down the line.
posted by humanfont at 6:13 PM on September 30, 2011


It seems rather clear that the bill of rights amends the constitution and supersedes what was written prior.

Look, I don't want to be snarky, but if you're going to make this kind of claim you'll have to explain why this isn't mentioned in any of my constitutional law textbooks or acknowledged by the federal judge whose opinion I have quoted and linked to above. I'm not saying that you're wrong, but that just breezily declaring 'it's rather clear' is nonsense. If it was so simple people wouldn't need to write dense, closely argued books on constitutional law. The 5th Amendment does not repeal section 8 of article 1 as you seem to think. If it did, someone in the world of legal scholarship would have noticed by now.

I understand that it's not immediately obvious to you. It's not obvious to a lot of people. And maybe the law should be different. I applaud the ACLU for going to bat for Al-Awlaki, even though I didn't think they had a very strong case. I would have no hangups about defending someone like this. I would have no hangups about prosecuting such a person either, though that's not likely to happen since I'd have trouble getting the necessary security clearance, not to mention that level of legal responsibility. But I'll say this: the brief for the government would be vastly easier to write.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:43 PM on September 30, 2011


The Justice Department wrote a secret memorandum authorizing the lethal targeting of Anwar al-Aulaqi, the American-born radical cleric who was killed by a U.S. drone strike Friday, according to administration officials.

They'd totes write one up for President Palin authorising strikes on Occupy Wall Street, no problemo.
posted by Artw at 6:48 PM on September 30, 2011


Probably not, but they would write one up authorizing torture of terrorists, right?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:49 PM on September 30, 2011


If we had a choice between arresting him or killing him, it would probably be best to arrest him if possible.

Absolutely, and I think the Obama administration would agree. (To their credit, they were at least public about their plans to kill him, allowing legal review which took place.) But we have not had that choice. That's the precise problem.

If you can't arrest him, do you have to let someone keep attacking you? I don't think it's an easy answer.
posted by msalt at 7:10 PM on September 30, 2011


The bin Laden raid is what I have in mind for an attempted arrest. We certainly had the option to try that again.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:20 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I quoted from the preamble which makes it clear the bill of rights was written after the constitution, that the bill contains amendments (go ahead, look up what the word amendment means), logically it could nothing other than the fact that as far as "due process" is concerned the 5th amendment is the guiding text and not some section from earlier in the constitution.

Now it is indeed a separate question as to whether or not the 5th grants due process to someone in the situation of Anwar-alAwlaki, but which I wrote, it is unclear.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:36 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


..., except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;

sadly the punctuation is rather important, but if any clause would except Anwar from due process this would be it. However it seems the courts have generally read "in the land or naval forces, or in the Milita" etc as pertaining to those in military service, i.e. marines, which is why we have a separate military court, court marshals etc, and Anwar, afaik, was not a member of any of the US armed forces. If anyone can find cases when that cause was interpreted otherwise I'd be interested in knowing of them.
posted by Shit Parade at 8:14 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


From Reid_v._Covert: (full decision)

Justice Black declared: “neither the cases nor their reasoning should be given any further expansion. The concept that the Bill of Rights and other constitutional protections against arbitrary government are inoperant when they become inconvenient or when expediency dictates otherwise is a very dangerous doctrine and if allowed to flourish would destroy the benefit of a written Constitution and undermine the basis of our government”.[2]

1. When the United States acts against its citizens abroad, it can do so only in accordance with all the limitations imposed by the Constitution, including Art. III, § 2, and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Pp. 354 U. S. 5-14.

4. Under our Constitution, courts of law alone are given power to try civilians for their offenses against the United States. Pp. 354 U. S. 40-41.

The more I look into it the more obvious it becomes that Anwar was denied due process.
posted by Shit Parade at 8:31 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


But we have not had that choice.

If we have the capability to launch a multi-million dollar piece of weaponry at one human being thousands of miles away, we have the technology to capture a human being and give him a fair trial.

Our leaders simply do not respect the Constitution, and no one in a position to do so will call them on it. Like Bush the Younger said so eloquently, it's just a damn piece of paper.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:06 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like Bush the Younger said so eloquently, it's just a damn piece of paper.

Debunked.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:09 PM on September 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"From an authoritarian perspective, that's the genius of America's political culture. It not only finds ways to obliterate the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power (such as extinguishing the lives of citizens without due process). It actually gets its citizens to stand up and clap and even celebrate the destruction of those safeguards."
posted by IvoShandor at 10:39 PM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


From Reid_v._Covert: (full decision)

Oh good grief. Mrs. Covert wasn't a declared enemy of the United States. And that case was about the supremacy of the Constitution over a treaty to which the US was a signatory. By your logic, because the treaty was signed after the Bill of rights was added to the Constitution, it should have superseded it and taken precedence.

Try Ex Parte Quirin.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:27 AM on October 1, 2011


If we have the capability to launch a multi-million dollar piece of weaponry at one human being thousands of miles away, we have the technology to capture a human being and give him a fair trial.

Those two skill sets are not even remotely similar and to pretend that they are makes zero sense.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:02 AM on October 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The bin Laden raid is what I have in mind for an attempted arrest. We certainly had the option to try that again.

Ok, fair enough. But the Bin Laden raid was a very high risk operation in a very developed city in a safe part of Pakistan, an ostensibly friendly and relatively organized country, As suspect as their commitment might be, the government of Pakistan was also at least publicly committed to arresting Bin Laden and in control of the area where he was.

Awlaki was hiding in essentially an outlaw part of a failed state, protected by his own large tribe, which had vowed never to let him be captured and to wage war to the death on anyone who tried. It was as if Bin Laden was on the move in North Waziristan.

A drone can get to places like that. The countries of Pakistan and Yemen themselves can't. It would literally take an army invasion to get there and arrest him, and many hundreds at least would die. It just seems to me that arrest is impractical in these very unuusal situations.
posted by msalt at 6:10 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the families of Alawlaki and Khan could pursue wrongful death lawsuits against Obama and others.
posted by humanfont at 6:25 AM on October 1, 2011


furiousgeorge: Could you link me to his brags about being part of attacks?

OK, I stand corrected. I thought I had read (probably on TPM) that he had done so. His actual stance, acc. to Wikipedia is slightly more nuanced. He urged all Muslims to kill Americans and said it was their duty, no fatwa required, and in at least one case urged that a particular individual (Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris) be killed.

He bragged about talking to or emailing several people involved in attacks on the US during their planning stages and encouraging them generally in jihad, but denied direct involvement in any particular attack. But his denials were pretty thin, and strategic, unless you believe he was the Zelig of anti-American terrorism, a guy who by amazing coincidence just keeps showing up right before attacks.
posted by msalt at 6:27 AM on October 1, 2011


Those two skill sets are not even remotely similar

If they launched a drone to kill him, they knew where he was. To claim that he couldn't be caught is plainly wrong. Basically, we're at the stage of post facto rationalization of an illegal act, by denying what was clearly and logistically possible.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:49 AM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


If they launched a drone to kill him, they knew where he was. To claim that he couldn't be caught is plainly wrong.

That's absurd. He was in hostile territory surrounded by heavily armed kinsmen who vowed death to anyone who tried to capture him. How many deaths of US police or soldiers (and Yemenis kinsmen) do you think would it would have been worth to avoid killing Awlaki?
posted by msalt at 7:00 AM on October 1, 2011


How many civilians is it worth killing with air strikes?

As suspect as their commitment might be, the government of Pakistan was also at least publicly committed to arresting Bin Laden and in control of the area where he was.

Yemen was, as has been discussed already, publicly committed to bringing him in dead or alive. I think it's fair to doubt their ability to do that in al-Jawf province but that just means we have to work together like we do in Waziristan.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:04 AM on October 1, 2011


If they launched a drone to kill him, they knew where he was. To claim that he couldn't be caught is plainly wrong.

Do you know where the nearest special ops unit is based? The flight time from that location to the strike zone? al-Awlaki's destination? What if he was nearing a populated village where he might have melted into a crowd, and civilian casualties would have been likely if US boots hit the ground? Would you have been happier having Navy Seals going room to room in a multifamily compound?
posted by BobbyVan at 7:18 AM on October 1, 2011


Again, you are rationalizing an illegal political assassination with what-ifs. The fact remains that we knew where he was.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:22 AM on October 1, 2011


It's not like we just fly drones around randomly looking for his car. We knew where he was before he left enough to track him on the way out. Compound, town, whatever it was.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:35 AM on October 1, 2011


The fact remains that we knew where he was.

At a moment in time, yes, we knew who he was. But it does not follow that a snatch-and-grab operation was practical, so don't pretend as if we had the option.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:37 AM on October 1, 2011


A three week moment. Now we can still debate if an arrest attempt was feasible, but we certainly had time to move in the assets if that was the plan.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:40 AM on October 1, 2011


Fair enough, furiousxgeorge -- time may not have been the deciding factor. But there are plenty of other reasons why we shouldn't be putting boots on the ground in Yemen right now, including risks to our troops and risks of further destabilizing the country.

I've just got to quote this passage from Al Jazeera (aka, the Fox News of the Middle East) from the same article furiousxgeorge linked:

"His numerous video sermons, circulated on YouTube and other websites, offered a measured political argument, interspersed with religious lessons, that the US must be fought for waging wars against Muslims."
posted by BobbyVan at 7:53 AM on October 1, 2011


LA Times: “It was good to see the Yemen government actually allow us to go in,” the official said on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. “Allowing us to go on the property and get fingerprint analysis was a nice gesture of cooperation by the Yemeni government.”
--
Mohammed Albasha, spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, confirmed that Yemeni intelligence recently located Awlaki at a hideout in the town of Khashef, near the border with Saudi Arabia.

It sounds like both Yemeni and American forces feel some on the ground presence is okay.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:56 AM on October 1, 2011


There's kind of a difference between sending in a forensic team after the fact and sending Navy Seals in to kick down doors to look for the guy.

Notice also the statement of gratitude, "It was good to see the Yemen government actually allow us to go in..." Sounds like that wasn't usually the case. And remember the Wikileaks cables on Yemen's cooperation w/ the US, where President Saleh said that he would publicly deny that air strikes in Yemen had been conducted by the US. There are lots of political sensitivities here, and US ground operations in Yemen may well be a "red line" with the government (to the extent that it exists today in Yemen, admittedly).
posted by BobbyVan at 8:09 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"His numerous video sermons, circulated on YouTube and other websites, offered a measured political argument, interspersed with religious lessons, that the US must be fought for waging wars against Muslims."

So we were executing him for something not punishable under U.S. law?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:12 AM on October 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


He bragged about talking to or emailing several people involved in attacks on the US during their planning stages and encouraging them generally in jihad, but denied direct involvement in any particular attack.

In other words, he specifically denied the charge of material support for terrorism that you have cited as the justification for imposing the death penalty.

I don't know how you feel about the death penalty in general. But I hope you would agree that this ultimate and uncorrectable remedy calls for more diligence - not less - in the administration of justice.

Yet here is no diligence whatsoever. Not a single scrap of evidence was put before a trial judge. Accusation proceeded directly to execution.

In other contexts, when dark-skinned people are put to death in this manner, it is known as "lynching".
posted by Trurl at 8:16 AM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


So we were executing him for something not punishable under U.S. law?

I was pointing out the gross understatement of calling al-Awlaki's rhetoric "measured."

In other contexts, when dark-skinned people are put to death in this manner, it is known as "lynching".

Metafilter: We should impeach President Barack Obama for ordering a lynching.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:35 AM on October 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Notice also the statement of gratitude, "It was good to see the Yemen government actually allow us to go in..."

I did note that, but more in context of the questions of Yemeni "effective jurisdiction" raised above.

Our involvement in Yemen is not really that secret. I've linked some on that above. There is a lot of praise and gratitude for the Yemeni government going around today.

There's kind of a difference between sending in a forensic team after the fact and sending Navy Seals in to kick down doors to look for the guy.

Sure, but what I am establishing here is that this is not exactly an inaccessible hinterland. It's a dangerous area full of tribal disputes but the Yemeni government can gain access and bring Americans along for the ride if they want.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:53 AM on October 1, 2011


It's a dangerous area full of tribal disputes but the Yemeni government can gain access and bring Americans along for the ride if they want.

The Yemeni government has its own problems right now, as I've linked above too. I'm sure they're glad to be rid of al-Awlaki, but if I were in their shoes, I'd be telling the Americans: "why should we be diverting our best men for a risky lynching capture mission when your CIA can just fire a few missiles?"
posted by BobbyVan at 9:00 AM on October 1, 2011


I'm sure you can make an argument that it is easier this way. Politically, militarily, legally...but there are also moral, ethical, and practical reasons why doing it the easy way isn't always the best option.

I think we agree now it was quite likely possible to mount a capture attempt, and in that context I think the justification for the bombing takes a real hit.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:06 AM on October 1, 2011


doing it the easy way isn't always the best option.

The lives of our soldiers aren't things to sniff at. Nor are the lives of innocent American civilians who were put at risk by al-Awlaki's former students. I think in that context, the justification for the bombing is sound.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:41 AM on October 1, 2011


"His numerous video sermons, circulated on YouTube and other websites, offered a measured political argument, interspersed with religious lessons, that the US must be fought for waging wars against Muslims."

I was pointing out the gross understatement of calling al-Awlaki's rhetoric "measured."

Could you point to some of his videos that don't fit this description? (But wait -- is your concern really whether or not his rhetoric is "measured"? Or is it really that you feel AJ's description is defending his speech as "political -- and thus explicitly protected?)
posted by nobody at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2011


The lives of our soldiers aren't things to sniff at.

What are they putting their lives on the line to defend?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:45 AM on October 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The lives of our soldiers aren't things to sniff at. Nor are the lives of innocent American civilians who were put at risk by al-Awlaki's former students.

Nor are Yemeni civilians or anyone else that ends up as collateral damage of airstrikes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:50 AM on October 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The lives of our soldiers aren't things to sniff at. Nor are the lives of innocent American civilians who were put at risk by al-Awlaki's former students. I think in that context, the justification for the bombing is sound.

You're arguing as though these bombings have no repercussions for anyone but the targets, which is either dishonest or ignorant. Or perhaps you don't think the lives of foreign civilians have enough value to consider them in this conversation?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:09 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could you point to some of his videos that don't fit this description? (But wait -- is your concern really whether or not his rhetoric is "measured"? Or is it really that you feel AJ's description is defending his speech as "political -- and thus explicitly protected?)

Do you think that calling for the murder of American civilians is in any way "measured"? I was simply pointing out how laughably biased AJ is. Of course, if all al-Awlaki was doing was putting videos on the Internet, taking him out with a drone would be an overreaction.

al-Awlaki has been connected to the Blind Sheik, two of the 9/11 hijackers, the underwear bomber, Major Nidal Hasan, and the attempt to destroy aircraft carrying printer cartridges as cargo. He was an absolutely legitimate target under the AUMF passed by the US Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. Don't like it? Impeach him. That's our system.

Per the Obama Administration today:
“As a general matter, it would be entirely lawful for the United States to target high-level leaders of enemy forces, regardless of their nationality, who are plotting to kill Americans both under the authority provided by Congress in its use of military force in the armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces as well as established international law that recognizes our right of self-defense,” an administration official said in a statement Friday.
Nor are Yemeni civilians or anyone else that ends up as collateral damage of airstrikes.

Hitting a two-vehicle convoy carrying two of AQ's top leaders would seem to have little risk of collateral damage. Much less risk to US soldiers or Yemeni civilians than a raid on a compound would have. And it lessens the very real risk to US civilians who have been killed (or nearly killed) in the string of attacks I referenced in this comment above.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:14 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you for real? The risk is you have misidentified the vehicles and he isn't actually in them. But when you calculate this you don't just look at the one incident, you also look at the tens of thousands of civilians dead as a result of the War on Terror and ask if adding to that number any more is really worthwhile. Our death toll dwarfs that of any Al Qaeda attacks.

Think of Iraq, for one thing. When you are doing considering all those dead civilians, think of how ironclad certain the government claimed the evidence was for the necessity of the invasion.

Home raids aren't perfect, even in the U.S. innocent people end up shot, but it's insane to think putting a human on the ground that can identify targets up close is worse at protecting civilians than a bomb from the sky.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:26 AM on October 1, 2011


*done considering.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:26 AM on October 1, 2011


In an article you quoted above, you showed that we'd been tracking him for 3 weeks. I think that probably gave Obama sufficient certainty that we had the right target (and we in fact did). I wonder why someone who was so opposed to the Iraq invasion, for some of the reasons you suggest, felt it necessary to take out al-Awlaki this week. Perhaps you should consider it a bit more.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:30 AM on October 1, 2011


You would think it would always be correct on the drone targeting yes, but we aren't. It's been messed up in the past and could have been this time. I think it's hard to believe SEALS or Yemeni troops couldn't handle two cars worth of guys out in the open.

Perhaps you should consider the point I was making instead of trying to shift the subject, you can't trust the government to promise you their evidence is as good as they say it is. It is entirely problematic to allow disastrous abuse of power like Iraq and just go, "Welp! Nobody impeached him so it's all good!"

That is the sign of a system that is not working according to design when the enforcers of the law have decided not to enforce it on major issues.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:39 AM on October 1, 2011


The lives of our soldiers aren't things to sniff at.

If this were a true statement then we would have never invaded Iraq. We would have never committed to the tragedy of the Vietnam War. BTW, don't you think your 20+ comments in this thread is enough self-moderation? We know what you think already.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:51 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's adding to the discussion with interesting comments, it's not moderation.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:17 AM on October 1, 2011


Fine. I think I need to step away from the thread. It's got me all riled up and I cannot think straight about it anymore.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:28 AM on October 1, 2011


Letters of marque were issued to deal with pirates. Article 1, section 8, an enumerated power of Congress. There are mechanisms in the Constitution to deal with things like terrorism; they may need some updating, but they are there.
I could be wrong, but first, I believe that letters of marque and reprisal are specifically against foreign governments or subjects.

Second, I believe that the US has agreed to international law banning letters of marque and reprisal.
posted by Flunkie at 11:35 AM on October 1, 2011


“They got due process,” Gingrich said. “The president signed an order to kill them. That was due process.”

posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:31 PM on October 1, 2011


Before I read through the comments here, I want to say that this scares me. Not that Al-Awlaki is dead, he's not someone I will be holding candlelight vigils for, and if we have to choose targets for fiery death from above, he would have been among the first targets on my list. What scares me is that our government now has that choice. Now, we have that precedent. I mean, think about this - how many times have you heard people say, "Why don't they just send in a special forces squad and assassinate him?" Because a) it doesn't work, and b) it can make things worse by removing a cohesive force with which we can negotiate. Well, now, this is actually the easier option. Rather than the 10,000 man army tramping through Mexico looking for Pancho Villa, we can just send in a remote control plane and cap him.

The previous barriers to targeted assassinations were a major deterrent to their use. If we were going to do it, we would have to be very judicious. We used to have laws in this country preventing it, did we not? And now? Great. Now the US can declare a fatwah on any foreign citizen and blow him up.

I don't care how crazy or how dangerous he was. We're supposed to be the greatest, most powerful country on earth. That means we should choose the harder options, the ones to deradicalize and neutralize without violence and death. And with Al-Qaida, we seem to be making that choice a lot less than we did in previous conflicts. We should have arrested him, extradited him, and put him on trial for the world to see, no matter how hard it was. Yes he would have been hard to catch, and yes the trial would have been long and arduous, but that's exactly the message we should be sending to the world: we give our enemies a chance to make their case, and we make the effort to treat them well, which is why we are powerful, and which is why we are better than they are. Instead, they have their suicide bombers, brainwashed damaged individuals incapable of thought, and we have our drones, machines incapable of thought, and that level of "dialogue", well, it disgusts me.
posted by saysthis at 1:11 PM on October 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Do you think that calling for the murder of American civilians is in any way "measured"? I was simply pointing out how laughably biased AJ is. Of course, if all al-Awlaki was doing was putting videos on the Internet, taking him out with a drone would be an overreaction.

I should have kept the editorializing out of it because my request was in earnest: do you have a link to one of his videos where what he's saying is unambiguously beyond the pale?
posted by nobody at 2:00 PM on October 1, 2011


This is pretty beyond the pale...
posted by BobbyVan at 2:41 PM on October 1, 2011


What about the whole Molly Norris situation? Were his actions beyond the pale there?
posted by humanfont at 2:50 PM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Remember the Patriot Act? A decade ago it was pushed as a tool that would be used to catch terrorists and keep America safe.

This chart by Good shows what the Patriot Act has been used for. I'll give you a hint, it mostly hasn't been used to catch foreign terrorists. There have been 15 uses of it for terrorism.

And over 1500 for use in our domestic war on drugs.

Many of us warned this would happen a decade ago, and we were told it was going to be used to catch the "bad guys". "You don't like bad people, do you?"

The tools, policy and infrastructure being put in place now are going to be redirected against our own population. They will be used to stifle dissent and control valid new political movements that seek to change what is increasingly becoming a corrupt system.

The CIA assassinated an American journalist who edited a hostile publication.

I have to think you're trolling, because honestly, journalism isn't journalism unless it's hostile. It's supposed to be hostile to those in power. You could have said, like others, he was inciting people to violence, but you used "hostile".

But if we've reached the point where assassinating journalists of "hostile" publications is ok, then we're really screwed.
posted by formless at 3:02 PM on October 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Perry: Send U.S. troops to Mexico to fight drug wars

But President Perry...I have another option, why put the lives of our troops at risk?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:52 PM on October 1, 2011


Perry: Send U.S. troops to Mexico to fight drug wars

IIRC, Tom Clancy's novel Clear and Present Danger is set in motion by the President declaring the drug war a national security threat - thus justifying covert military operations in a Latin country.

Came to mind.
posted by Trurl at 4:21 PM on October 1, 2011


As the West Celebrates a Cleric’s Death, the Mideast Shrugs
posted by homunculus at 5:19 PM on October 1, 2011


we have our drones, machines incapable of thought, and that level of "dialogue"

What the apologists for assassination don't realize is how dangerous they are to the civil rights of everyday Americans. These people supporting illegal political assassination are the real danger to America, not al-Awlaki.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:11 PM on October 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


We should have arrested him, extradited him, and put him on trial for the world to see, no matter how hard it was. Yes he would have been hard to catch, ... but that's exactly the message we should be sending to the world: ... we make the effort to treat them well, which is why we are powerful, and which is why we are better than they are

But how? Arresting him would have required the invasion of an outlaw region of an ally that was also trying to capture him, and couldn't -- despite having the entire army and police of Yemen at their disposal, knowing the territory and language, etc.

You think we should have had English-speaking, American soldiers invade Yemen -- at the cost of hundreds of deaths, Yemeni and American, at a minimum -- to arrest Awlaki? Really?

I just don't see the logic there. We're attacking them to be nice to them and show that we're superior? I don't think that our efforts would persuade anybody of these assertions. Including me.
posted by msalt at 11:18 PM on October 2, 2011


Here's the thing: drones are a total game-changer, especially in terms of assassination. Our monopoly on drones will be short-lived, if it's even still a monopoly. Clearly this requires a lot of new thinking and ethical work.

But to just say "No, never" -- what makes you think that China, and Israel, and Russia, and Syria, and Iran will ever agree to your rules? And what is the calculus by which an invasion that kills hundreds or thousands is morally superior to a drone that kills 1, or 2, or 7?
posted by msalt at 11:22 PM on October 2, 2011


The funny thing about it is that the guy was probably marked for death by the US's new drone umbrella system that can blanket an entire area and identify and kill individuals within a few minutes of them going outside. Even if Awlaki was on his way to the embassy to surrender he would've been spotted and bombed before anyone knew where he was going. That sounds a bit paranoid, I know, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:26 PM on October 2, 2011


@msalt "But how? Arresting him would have required the invasion of an outlaw region of an ally that was also trying to capture him, and couldn't -- despite having the entire army and police of Yemen at their disposal, knowing the territory and language, etc."

Well, that's the thing. Requiring that we follow laws has a multitude of benefits. Including a built in sanity check on how much trouble it is worth to do something.

If, as you claim, arresting Al Awlaki would simply have been too much trouble, then I suggest that he wasn't dangerous enough to need to be assassinated. If he really was that big a problem then the cost of arresting him would be fully justified, no?

"But to just say "No, never" -- what makes you think that China, and Israel, and Russia, and Syria, and Iran will ever agree to your rules? And what is the calculus by which an invasion that kills hundreds or thousands is morally superior to a drone that kills 1, or 2, or 7?"

As with torture, there's a degree of reciprocity involved. If we refrain from using drones to assassinate random people than that will produce a global culture in which that sort of behavior is less likely to happen. Terrorist groups are, rather by definition, not going to abide by any standards, but national bodies will probably follow our lead.

More to the point, the problem is not the drones per se.

The problem is the completely unaccountable and extrajudicial use of the drones to assassinate a US citizen who may, or may not, have been guilty of any crimes.

If Al Awlaki had been tried, in absentia if that's the only way it could be done, and found guilty of a crime that merited the death penalty then you could argue that using the drones might have been justified.

But as it is all that happened was that the government (in the person of President Obama) declared that Al Awlaki was a person who needed to be killed, and then the government killed him. The government was not required to prove that Al Awlaki needed killing, and that's the really disturbing part.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to have my government empowered to randomly kill people without proving that they actually need to be killed. Again, think of how this power will be used, abused, and expanded, by President Perry, or President Bachmann.

As for drones, I'm sure they will change the face of war completely. Very soon it'll be possible to build much smaller drones, look at the rise in consumer grade remote control helicopters equipped to send back live video. Add on an airgun that fires cyanide envenomed darts and you've got a shockingly deadly little murder machine. Or an explosive charge, or a container of chlorine gas if you're feeling particularly evil.

Give it even 5 years of R&D and you'll be able to cram a few hundred (or a few thousand) into a cruise missile, deliver them to an area, and have 'em sniff out and kill anyone with gunpowder or other explosive residue on their hands (of course, the logical step for unpleasant people to take in that situation would be to force children to do the assembly of the bombs).

All of which brings up new and deep quandaries in terms of how or if such things should be deployed.

But none of which has much to do with the question of whether the President should have the power to unilaterally and with no oversight whatsoever simply declare a US citizen to be an enemy and have them killed whether by drone or by a sniper's bullet.

I argue that the whole point of our country is that the President is not a king, and that the President simply does not and should not be able to order the assassination of a US citizen.

I also find it bizarre that people are objecting to the very idea of a trial in absentia, but have no problem with the president simply declaring that a person is bad and having that person killed with no oversight. Really? A trial in absentia is horrible and unconstitutional, but simply killing a citizen with no oversight, no trial, just the word of a politician is fine?
posted by sotonohito at 7:51 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Welcome to the new realities of modern warfare.
posted by amazingstill at 7:58 AM on October 3, 2011


The Secret Memo That Explains Why Obama Can Kill Americans
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:56 AM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Secret Memo That Explains Why Obama Can Kill Americans

Jesus. So much for a transparent, honest presidency. We can't vote this asshole out soon enough.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:07 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have any actual details about the drone strike emerged yet? Was in a moving car? Residential compound?
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:15 AM on October 3, 2011


We can't vote this asshole out soon enough.

There's not a better alternative for 2012.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:18 AM on October 3, 2011


We can't vote this asshole out soon enough.

Because Rick Perry will be so much more respecting of civil liberties? Or was it Michelle Bachman, I forget. You tell me who's better.
posted by msalt at 12:59 PM on October 3, 2011


If, as you claim, arresting Al Awlaki would simply have been too much trouble, then I suggest that he wasn't dangerous enough to need to be assassinated. If he really was that big a problem then the cost of arresting him would be fully justified, no?

How lightly you dismiss the hundreds or thousands who would die in an invasion required to capture an outlaw in a lawless, heavily armed territory. "Too much trouble?" No, too much death. The families of the dead would not be assuaged by the scrupulous adherence to the legal procedure of a foreign country.

Your argument about "the cost of arresting him" makes no sense to me. It would merely encourage hostage taking and the use of human shields by anyone who wants to avoid arrest. As long as you can increase the cost of death beyond your value, you go free, right?
posted by msalt at 1:35 PM on October 3, 2011


This was not assassination. Assassination is the targeted killing of the leader of an enemy nation. This was the killing of an outlaw fleeing justice who vowed never to be captured alive, who was attacking the U.S. repeatedly from his lawless sanctuary. Better analogies would be outlaws who fled into Mexico but kept raiding the US, the Barbary pirates, and modern Somali pirates.
posted by msalt at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


@msalt "Assassination is the targeted killing of the leader of an enemy nation."

That's a very idiosyncratic definition of assassination.

Webster defines it thusly: "to murder (a usually prominent person) by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons"


"who was attacking the U.S. repeatedly from his lawless sanctuary"

????

He made youtube videos.

"How lightly you dismiss the hundreds or thousands who would die in an invasion required to capture an outlaw in a lawless, heavily armed territory."

And how lightly you dismiss the entire US Constitution and the very concept of rule of law.

Also, how lightly you dismiss the deaths of the thousands of protesters who are right this second being attacked by the security forces of the dictator of Yemen who is now getting the praise and friendship of the US government. One lawless government loves another I suppose.

Point is we had a US citizen making youtube videos. The President of the US decided, purely on his own and with no oversight of any sort whatsoever, to order the CIA to assassinate that US citizen.

"Your argument about "the cost of arresting him" makes no sense to me."

So why bother ever making an arrest?

Why not apply the Awlaki doctrine to every other accused criminal? Some random cop or politician says they're dangerous so we send out a sniper team to shoot them in the head.

Actually going to the fuss and bother of arresting and trying accused criminals so that the government is forced to prove it's case against them is too much work. Besides, a cop could get shot serving an arrest warrant, right? What would you say to the family of a cop who got shot trying to serve a warrant?

If you're going to argue that in this case it was just too much work to follow the law, then can't you see that makes the case for never following the law?

And, again, do you want President Perry, or Bachmann, or whatever Republican boogieman you can name, having the power you're willing to give Obama?

Once something is done it becomes much easier to do it again, and again, and again. Awlaki is just the first, and you can bet if this isn't met with an immediate and politically crippling backlash (and it won't be) that we will see it happening more and more as time passes.
posted by sotonohito at 2:01 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


He made youtube videos.

It seems pretty clear it was more than that.
posted by rosswald at 7:05 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


How lightly you dismiss the hundreds or thousands who would die in an invasion required to capture an outlaw in a lawless, heavily armed territory.

How lightly you dismiss the fact that we had no problem getting people in to do fingerprinting, showing we don't need an entire invasion force to operate in the country.

Wait, is that dismiss or intentionally ignore because it makes your case for assassination harder?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:13 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


La Times: It's almost a classic case of the Stockholm syndrome, in which a hostage bonds with his captor despite the obvious threat to his existence. Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama's position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:57 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


How lightly you dismiss the fact that we had no problem getting people in to do fingerprinting, showing we don't need an entire invasion force to operate in the country.

I have no idea what you are talking about. Can you please explain?
posted by msalt at 10:15 PM on October 3, 2011


http://www.metafilter.com/107918/Anwar-alAwlaki-killed-in-Yemen#3950698

It would not have required an invasion force to attempt a capture. The area is not that out of control. Like with bin Laden there would be significant risks, but we aren't talking about invading the country at all.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:26 PM on October 3, 2011


He made youtube videos.

You are being disingenuous. By his own admission, Awlaki called on all Muslims to kill Americans, corresponded with several individuals while they planned violent attacks on Americans, and congratulated them publicly after they did so, claiming them as his "students." This was all done publicly. There is no dispute about any of these facts.

It is true that he obfuscated the question of whether he had a direct operational role in these attacks. I hold that this was part of his strategy, his manipulation, because by your standards, this simple denial makes it very difficult to convict him in absentia. You may disagree.

I would have preferred that the US try him in absentia anway. Yemen did, and convicted him. But it is not simply unconstitutional, extralegal action by Obama. He declared this publicly, courts reviewed it and did not hold it unconstitutional. There are precedents for this under our legal system, such as Ex parte Quinn. Clearly it's a difficult call, an edge case, but good liberals such as Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo share my opinion. So please consider dismounting your high horse and acknowledging the complexity of this situation.
posted by msalt at 10:31 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Should Americans be arrested for calling for the mass death of Muslims?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:49 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Should Americans be arrested for calling for the mass death of Muslims?

Interesting question. I generally support hate crime legislation, with some reservations, and if there were also actions in furtherance of attacks, I think it would apply.

But the issue here is not simply calling for mass death of Americans. Awlaki by his own description was a top offical of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which took credit for attacks that killed Americans. (And much evidence supports those claims.) So, yes, I think someone who, say, was an officer of a neo-Nazi organization that killed Muslims should be arrested.
posted by msalt at 11:08 PM on October 3, 2011


You are being disingenuous.

Okay. One more time:

"If ballots don't work bullets will." - Joyce Kaufman

"I hope Obama fails." - Rush Limbaugh

Obama should launch a drone or two at right-wing media who advocate (violent) overthrow of the US government. After all, if we're at war, then what these people are saying is seditious — treasonous — especially because they make repeated attempts to incite their followers. All of which is punishable by death without due process, for the very same reasons that al-Awlaki was killed.

And why stop there? Throw a few drones at seditious FreeSpeechZones outside political rallies, while we're at it. They are just inciting others to join in being FreeSpeechZoned.

Once you follow your twisted logic to its final solution, it becomes obvious why people like you are a threat to the civil rights of Americans.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:18 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Awlaki by his own description was a top offical of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

It's a long thread, I may have missed that one, can you link his admission that he is a top official of Al Qaeda?

So, yes, I think someone who, say, was an officer of a neo-Nazi organization that killed Muslims should be arrested.

But straight up, all the people who have said stuff like "nuke Mecca!" (I can link millions), that is legal as long as nobody does it?

The Klan is okay too, because most of their murders are in the past?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:22 PM on October 3, 2011


can you link his admission that he is a top official of Al Qaeda?

I dunno, without spending a ton of time, his declaration that he would never surrender to the US legal system was in an AQAP video in May of 2010 (p 6 of the decision in Nasser Al-Aulaki v. Obama). And in that court case, his father never disputed the government's statement that Awlaki was an AQAP official.

I think that decision makes a reasonable point; "All U.S. citizens may avail themselves of the U.S. judicial system if they present themselves peacefully, and no U.S. citizen may
simultaneously avail himself of the U.S. judicial system and evade U.S. law enforcement
authorities."
(p18-19). There would have been no discussion of targeted killing if Awlaki had been willing to abide by the US (or even the Yemeni) judicial system, to have his day in court; the decision to avoid the system and be an outlaw was his, and his alone.
posted by msalt at 11:41 PM on October 3, 2011


can you link his admission that he is a top official of Al Qaeda?

I dunno, without spending a ton of time, his declaration that he would never surrender to the US legal system was in an AQAP video


I think if you want to make the claim he admitted he is a top official in Al Qaeda and use it as justification for his execution you are going to have to spend the time to provide me with that admission, especially considering that you have been caught up in making some assumptions already ITT.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:46 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


And as for his day in court, a rational innocent man in this situation would not turn themselves in to face potentially being killed on site by US Forces in Yemen, or locked up forever in Gitmo without charge, or even tortured by U.S. forces or under rendition.

Once you abandon, as a nation, the pretense of giving fair trials to terrorists you don't get to whine that they won't turn themselves in for your fair trials.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:50 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


*sight
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:50 PM on October 3, 2011


Awlaki is first hit for new drone base

I wonder which country houses the base?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 2:07 AM on October 4, 2011


BP: Once you follow your twisted logic to its final solution, it becomes obvious why people like you are a threat to the civil rights of Americans.

Sweet ad hominem, dude. What you're forgetting is that I'm rubber and you're glue, so whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

Still, it's hard not to admire your moral and logical gymnastics that make me "a threat to civil rights of Americans" for civilly stating an opinion, and Awlaki -- whose death threats forced Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris into protective custody -- a free speech hero.
posted by msalt at 6:47 AM on October 4, 2011


Still, it's hard not to admire your moral and logical gymnastics

You condemned al-Awlaki for the kind of speech that wouldn't be out-of-place coming from a right-wing talk radio host. So I'd love to hear from you why Obama shouldn't launch a few drones at right-wing media hosts. Particularly the two I quoted, who regularly issue violent, seditious speech. We've seen the consequences of their speech with the Gifford shooting, most recently, after all. Can you afford to be logically consistent?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:18 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


@msalt So will you tell me why you think this new and dangerous power you're so ardently defending won't be misused by the next Republican president?

Can you please tell me why we shouldn't just shoot all accused criminals in the head since you don't think a trial is necessary in this particular case?

I'm not trying to be snarky, its just that your position doesn't make much sense to me and I'd like you to clarify.
posted by sotonohito at 7:19 AM on October 4, 2011


condemned al-Awlaki for the kind of speech that wouldn't be out-of-place coming from a right-wing talk radio host

I am not sure what doe-eyed liberal enclave/bubble you hail from, but I think your sense of what makes a valid comparison has been corrupted.

Comparing Rush to al-Awlaki is pretty disgusting. And I hate Rush.
posted by rosswald at 7:44 AM on October 4, 2011


U.S. Establishes New Drone Bases for African Shadow Wars
posted by homunculus at 9:00 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not sure what doe-eyed liberal enclave/bubble you hail from, but I think your sense of what makes a valid comparison has been corrupted.

I could quote other right-wing media hosts, if you like. These people incite violence, so let's throw a few drones at them. That's the argument you folks have been making this entire thread. Just be consistent, ffs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2011


These people incite violence

That is a pretty serious charge, and if true it is actually a crime. I assume you have evidence of cases of incitement?
posted by rosswald at 9:57 AM on October 4, 2011


If you know of cases where Rush Limbaugh urged right-wing extremists to kill, corresponded with them through their planning stages and then publicly congratulated them after they killed people, please share that information. Rush will be arrested in a second, unless he flees to a lawless, heavily armed foreign land to continue his nurturing of terrorist attacks from there. And if he does, I expect and hope he will be killed by a drone attack, too.
posted by msalt at 10:42 AM on October 4, 2011


Defeating Al Qaeda With Pizza, Cookies, and the Koran
posted by homunculus at 10:49 AM on October 4, 2011


sotonhito: Can you please tell me why we shouldn't just shoot all accused criminals in the head since you don't think a trial is necessary in this particular case? I'm not trying to be snarky, its just that your position doesn't make much sense to me and I'd like you to clarify.

Please don't misstate my comments. I've repeatedly said I wished the US had tried Awlaki in absentia (as Yemen did). I haven't seen any direct discussion in the news of why they didn't. It's a weird omission, on both sides of the issue.

Why shouldn't we just shoot all accused criminals in the head? Because we have the ability to arrest them and put them on trial. Unlike Awlaki.
posted by msalt at 10:54 AM on October 4, 2011


Speaking of weird omissions, I'm still waiting for any of the pro-execution contingent to address the repeatedly brought up question of what their plan is when the next Republican president inherits this power.

Or were they counting on successfully electing Democratic presidents for as long as the country endures?

Any takers?
posted by Trurl at 11:10 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Its a pretty pathetic straw-man.

"What if count-Chocula is the next president!? Aren't you worried he will misuse his powers to rain cocoa-puffs of death on good god-fearing Americans?!!?!?"

The number of cases like this is just going to grow, and it seems like a a process (albeit a secret one) was setup. Future presidents will have to work within that frame-works.

Also, my opinion of the powers of the President (or any office) doesn't change because of the letter in front of their name.
posted by rosswald at 11:20 AM on October 4, 2011


It's a new situation that needs a better legal framework. Terrorists have only recently gained the ability to strike at a great distance, from sanctuaries in failed states pretty much anywhere in the world. The US government has only recently gained the ability to strike back in those sanctuaries from a distance. This is all unprecedented. In the past, an outlaw might hide in a foreign land but wouldn't be able to continue attacks.

One thing that makes the question so complicated is that drones have gotten so much more accurate. Awlaki was in a 10-car caravan, outside of his normal stomping grounds, and the drone hit his precise car and I think only one other. Even 2 years ago, mistaken attacks were much more common. Does anyone dispute that a force large enough to arrest Awlaki would have ended up killing more than 2 people, even if they managed to capture him? I think that complicates the moral calculus greatly.

As I said before, we should look to distant precedents such as pirates, outlaws who launch raids across borders, and such. This would be be addressed through the UN or ICC but that will be difficult at best.
posted by msalt at 11:35 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


*be best addressed, not be be addressed
posted by msalt at 11:38 AM on October 4, 2011


In both this thread and that thread people are just talking past each other at this point.

Anwar's father, with the help of the ACLU, tried to have a day in court for his son. Read the decision in which the judge rationalizes, repeatedly, why the court can't hear the case. There are some amazing pull quotes:
Given that courts may not undertake to assess whether a particular organization's alleged terrorist activities threaten national security, it would seem axiomatic that courts must also decline to assess whether a particular individual's alleged terrorist activities threaten national security. But absent such a judicial determination as to the nature and extent of the alleged national security threat that Anwar Al-Aulaqi poses to the United States, this Court cannot possibly determine whether the government's alleged use of lethal force against Anwar Al-Aulaqi would be "justified or well-founded." See El-Shifa, 607 F.3d at 844. Thus, the second Baker factor -- a "lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards" for resolving the dispute -- strongly counsels against judicial review of plaintiff's claims. (pg.71)

Stark, and perplexing, questions readily come to mind, including the following: How is it that judicial approval is required when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for electronic surveillance, but that, according to defendants, judicial scrutiny is prohibited when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for death? (pg.2)

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? (ibid)

Because these questions of justiciability require dismissal of this case at the outset, the serious issues regarding the merits of the alleged authorization of the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen overseas must await another day or another (non-judicial) forum. (pg.4)

The current policy, from what I can piece together, is the following: the President determines someone to be a threat to national security, the evidence is secret and unavailable for review. To ensure it is "lawful" there is a process through the National Security Council (note that every member of that council is a part of the executive branch) this is also a secret process. Once on the kill list, CIA or similar group is given the go ahead to kill said person on list.

Think about this for a minute, where is the due process, where is the separation of powers, how is this different from a king shouting "off with his head"?
posted by Shit Parade at 11:43 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


For Washington, the rationale for new bases is clear. “We do not know enough about the leaders of the Al Qaeda affiliates in Africa,” a senior U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal. “Is there a guy out there saying, ‘I am the future of Al Qaeda’? Who is the next Osama bin Laden?” If finding and killing the next bin Laden means breaking a promise over African bases, the U.S. seems content with going back on its word.

I remember coming across an interview from a few years ago that was done with the guys who monitor internet traffic and then pinpoint people to watch and follow and what not as potential suspects. The guy actually said that it was reaching the point where they'd end up trying to track 6 billion people and they just didn't have the manpower or the bandwidth to do it. (otoh, it would employ a lot of people wouldn't it?)
posted by infini at 11:45 AM on October 4, 2011


Its a pretty pathetic straw-man.

Unless you really are hoping for nothing but Democratic presidents in the future, the question of what happens when a Republican wields this power is not a strawman. It is an inevitability.

You say that you will respect their authority to execute American citizens without trial. But you do not address the question of whether you will trust them not to abuse that power.

The omission is understandable. If you say that you will trust President Perry - to use the bogeyperson du jour - not to abuse this ultimate power, you will seem naive. And if you say that you will not trust him, you are forced to admit that the "secret process" you've endorsed leaves with you with jack shit you can do about it.
posted by Trurl at 11:47 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


If we're being consistent about the justification for why al-Awlaki was killed, how about launching a drone at Sarah Palin for putting crosshairs on a map of Democratic politicians? That's a pretty violent statement which connects with a shooting incident that took several lives (and ruined others).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:58 AM on October 4, 2011


Abusing power isn't limited to Republicans. Or Presidents. Or Americans.

Your question amounts to "aren't you afraid someone else will take this to its illegal-extreme." Which you can argue about anything.

If something is done that is illegal or an "abuse" of power, then it is illegal and an abuse of power. You answer your own question in your comment.
posted by rosswald at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


First Blazecock, your timeline of the Crosshairs map and Giffords shooting is backward chronologically, and unconnected in any other sense. And I am generally loathe to defend Palin, but your attempt to connect her to the Giffords shooter is basically slanderous.

And second, if you want to trot out gross but legal things people have said its fine. But your insistence that you are comparing "apples to apples" is just wrong.
posted by rosswald at 12:05 PM on October 4, 2011


I really do not understand this attitude:

If something is done that is illegal or an "abuse" of power, then it is illegal and an abuse of power. You answer your own question in your comment.

It is like children arguing:
sam: It's illegal what you are doing!
pam: No it's not!
sam: Yes it is!
pam: NONO
sam: YES!

and so on, if only we had a way of discussing the legality of something beyond the mere assertion one way or another. What sort of bizarro world do we live in when people have a slavish adherence to words without any grasp of what they actually mean.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:08 PM on October 4, 2011


My point was that Obama has to create and/or defend his position in a legal-framework and win. If a Republican does the same thing, then what can I say?

Obama either wins or looses a specific argument/case. Or his Republican successor does. Or Kucinich does. Whatever.
posted by rosswald at 12:20 PM on October 4, 2011


My point was that Obama has to create and/or defend his position in a legal-framework and win. If a Republican does the same thing, then what can I say?

When a Republican does the same thing - unilaterally declare someone an enemy of the state with no evidence and no judicial review and then have them executed - there will indeed be nothing for you to say.

Whether you will approve of his choice of victim remains to be seen.
posted by Trurl at 1:00 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


unilaterally... no evidence... no judicial review

This is contradicted by facts already established in this thread.
posted by rosswald at 1:07 PM on October 4, 2011


The difference between secret evidence and no evidence seems rather pedantic to me.

Unilaterally: please go look up the word before trying to engage in thoughtful conversation.

no judicial review: Because these questions of justiciability require dismissal of this case at the outset,

are you even trying? Sorry if some of my posts have been too long, this is, after all, a forum made up of words. Perhaps an image board would more your speed?
posted by Shit Parade at 1:18 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think part of the problem is that in the USA right now "legal" has been so stretched, so abused, that really we're not so much arguing whether or not the strikes were "legal" in the eyes of a corrupt and cowed judiciary branch, but whether or not this sort of thing is right.

There are two separate issues involved, and I think it might be helpful to untangle things a bit.

Issue One:

The use of drones and other remote killing devices, the morality and legality thereof, etc.

Issue Two:

The rightness, not necessarily the strict legality, of a system under which a President can order a US citizen to be killed without any real oversight or requirement that he prove his case.

************************

I think the second is the more immediately worrying issue, though the first is certainly an interesting thing to chew the fat about.

But the second issue, the question of whether it is right, desirable, and otherwise good and proper, for a President to have what seems to amount to unilateral authority to order executions is what seems to be the thing that involves the most virulent objections.

Whether our current legal system has been sufficiently twisted and otherwise abused that vesting the President with the power to be judge, jury, and executioner is currently legal is a secondary issue. I'd say it seems to violate the 5th and 6th Amendments, not to mention the general idea of separation of powers, but I'm not a lawyer so my opinion on such matters is pretty much worthless.

I do think that from a moral and philosophic standpoint it is an overwhelmingly bad idea to vest a single individual with that sort of power. Even if someone were to argue that the particular individual currently vested with that power is possessed of the right virtues and therefore will not not abuse it, others will later have the power who are not so virtuous.

That's why we, as a nation, are theoretically devoted to the idea of a system of laws rather than a monarch type figure who can simply order executions.

As for arguments that there is a system in place, my objection is that the system is secret, oversight is limited to people appointed by the President, and that there is no way for the citizenry to know that the people being assassinated truly are deserving of that penalty.

We do, as it happens, have a system in place that accomplishes the goals of removing secrecy, holding the government accountable, preventing the power of life and death from being held by one fallible person, etc. I speak of the court system.

The whole point of that system, from my POV, is that it is a way of forcing the government to prove it's case before we impose official sanctions of any sort on any individual. The most important component is that we are not required to assume that any person in the government is possessed of whatever virtues we imagine are necessary for them to be permitted to unilaterally execute citizens, but rather that we have an open process which removes such power from any single individual.

My entire objection to this affair is rooted in my distrust of the idea that we must, or should, rely on the individual virtue of any person in matters of the government dishing out death. Nor should we rely on the laughable and transparently false "oversight" of a star chamber appointed by the person who wishes to claim the power of life and death over the citizens of the USA.

I do not claim that Awlaki was a good person. I do not claim that there is any inherent immorality, wrongness, or problem with the use of drones in either warfare or counterterrorism.

I **DO** claim that there is an extremely large problem of ultimate importance to our survival as a free people with giving any individual the power of life and death over us. We have a court system for things like that. Shifting such matters away from the judicial branch and to the executive branch seems like a very dangerous action to take.
posted by sotonohito at 2:53 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


If we're being consistent about the justification for why al-Awlaki was killed, how about launching a drone at Sarah Palin for putting crosshairs on a map of Democratic politicians? That's a pretty violent statement which connects with a shooting incident that took several lives (and ruined others).

Congress has not authorized military force against the Republican or Tea Parties.
posted by humanfont at 4:23 PM on October 4, 2011


Because these questions of justiciability require dismissal of this case at the outset...

I know that sounds like the issues weren't addressed, but if you read the decision, I think the judge makes a very reasonable point. Awlaki's dad was making the extraordinary claim that he has the right to file a lawsuit on behalf of his son, without a power of attorney. Generally, adults have to speak for themselves in court.

The judge said, paraphrasing, "Awlaki is perfectly capable of filing his own lawsuit. If he's worried about his safety, he could even appear by video link or Skype to plead his case, which others have done. Instead, he has sworn to never be captured alive, and literally said (on youtube) "I have no intention of turning myself in to the Americans. If they want me, they can come and get me." Ruling: the dad does not have the right to overturn his son's decision to repudiate the courts and be an outlaw.

This is not about the President just skipping a trial because he didn't wanna do one. Nor is it about punishing Awlaki for what he had already done. It's about, what do you do with an outlaw who you can't arrest, but is somehow able to keep attacking you from a haven? Is it OK to kill him to prevent continued attacks?
posted by msalt at 5:31 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


somehow able to keep attacking you from a haven

There is literally zero evidence of Awlaki providing material support for terrorism.

Have they even claimed what specific terrorist act he is supposed to have provided material support for?

Or is that also a secret they need to keep in the interest of national security?
posted by Trurl at 6:07 PM on October 4, 2011


Congress has not authorized military force against the Republican or Tea Parties.

You can't say this illegal action doesn't give precedent for it, though. Just wait until they throw a drone at you for saying the "wrong" things.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:18 PM on October 4, 2011


Have they even claimed what specific terrorist act he is supposed to have provided material support for?


Yes, multiple acts. You are clearly not reading this thread if you suggest otherwise.

You can't say this illegal action doesn't give precedent for it, though

The action wasn't illegal and provides no precedent for bombing Sarah Palin or domestic political opposition.
posted by humanfont at 7:41 PM on October 4, 2011


The action wasn't illegal

That must be why there is no discussion about it across the entire political spectrum.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:23 PM on October 4, 2011


> The action wasn't illegal

John Yoo or Alberto Gonzales, anyone? It's really easy for a presidential administration to use all sorts of memos and legal mechanisms to make their murderous behavior "legal".
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:26 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


The judge said, paraphrasing, "Awlaki is perfectly capable of filing his own lawsuit. If he's worried about his safety, he could even appear by video link or Skype to plead his case, which others have done.

And in so doing would have made himself easier to find by a nation that is hunting him. A nation that doesn't give people such as him trials, has been known to torture them, and may execute them at any time anywhere in the world.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:39 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


No nation was hunting him until he made himself an outlaw and began coaching and congratulating a long succession of terrorists who all attacked America. He walked about America freely as recently as 2007. Entirely his choice.

A nation that doesn't give people such as him trials, has been known to torture them, and may execute them at any time anywhere in the world.

Yeah, and he better not go to Germany! They execute millions of citizens and try to take over the world. Or anywhere on earth, because they practice slavery. And have human sacrifices. I mean, did, do, what's the difference, right?
posted by msalt at 10:27 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a serious, non-hypothetical question. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton sent missiles to kill Osama Bin Laden, and narrowly missed. him. Are you happy the missles missed him? Would it have been wrong to kill OBL, even if it would have prevented 9/11?

By the logic many here are using, it was worth 3,000 deaths to uphold the principle of no killing without trial.
posted by msalt at 10:50 PM on October 4, 2011


Would it have been wrong to kill OBL, even if it would have prevented 9/11?

Would it be wrong to have let Sarah Palin live, even if sending a drone her way could have helped prevent the Gifford tragedy?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:32 PM on October 4, 2011


I don't think we've gotten your point yet. Perhaps you need to hammer it home more forcefully.
posted by msalt at 11:50 PM on October 4, 2011


I'm just pointing out that your hypothetical is, well, hypothetical. At best.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:57 PM on October 4, 2011


No, it's not hypothetical. It's an historical event. Clinton launched cruise missiles at Osama Bin Laden on August 20, 1998, and was criticized for that by Republicans. The missiles were fired from submarines, also unmanned and long distance, just not as accurate as drones, and they missed OBL. You will at least concede that, right?

So, no. Not hypothetical. Do you think this attack was wrong? Are your legal principles more important than stopping 9/11? By your logic, they are. You seem to agree with Prof. James Hathaway of the U. Michigan, who said in the NYT on 8/23/98, 3 years before 9/11, "President Clinton’s bald assertion that the U.S. bombing was justifiable because the Sudan and Afghanistan have consistently failed to heed U.S. demands to eject Osama bin Laden and others is extraordinary...The real victim [of the missile attacks] was a world in which rules matter and those responsible for acts of violence are brought to justice, not simply killed.''

If I'm wrong, please educate me.
posted by msalt at 12:26 AM on October 5, 2011


Yes, this is a hypothetical: "Would it have been wrong to kill OBL, even if it would have prevented 9/11?" It is not a historical event, it is a supposition that makes no sense. Clinton didn't launch missiles at OBL because of "9/11", which wouldn't happen until three years into the future. You might ask if it was okay to let Sarah Palin live, even though launching a drone attack at her would have prevented her from printing an ad that advocated violence against politicians, and it might have theoretically deterred Giffords' shooter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:53 AM on October 5, 2011


Clinton launched missiles at OBL because he felt he was a threat to commit future terrorist attacks, based on his involvement in the Kenya and Tanzania attacks. And he was right. You are splitting hairs to avoid answering the question. Though really, it doesn't matter what happened in the future.

Was it wrong for Clinton to launch missiles at Osama Bin Laden in 1998? Will you concede the fact that Clinton launched missiles on August 20, 1998 at Osama Bin Laden? Or do you have further word games to avoid that difficult question?
posted by msalt at 1:18 AM on October 5, 2011


You might ask if it was okay to let Sarah Palin live, even though launching a drone attack at her would have prevented her from printing an ad that advocated violence against politicians, and it might have theoretically deterred Giffords' shooter.

OBL and Awlaki were not available for arrest. Sarah Palin is, and remains in the US, publicly, so a preemptive attack would not be acceptable. I do in fact think her "target" on Giffords was reprehensible. If she can be shown to have corresponded with and coached Gifford's attacker during her planning stage, and if she praises him for his actions and calls him her student -- as Awlaki did with multiple terrorists -- then I absolutely think she should be arrested, and I think she would be. But of course those are not the facts.

A closer analog might be Randall Terry, the anti-abortion crusader who has praised the killing of abortion doctors. Then again, he has remained in the US and has been arrested more than 40 times. Again, no evidence that he directly counseled or coached the killers.
posted by msalt at 1:30 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would it be wrong to have let Sarah Palin live, even if sending a drone her way could have helped prevent the Gifford tragedy?

I'm unaware of any writings by Sarah Palin in the aftermath of that tragedy that would indicate she supported such a violent act. I'm also unaware of any published reports of correspondence between her and the shooter prior to the attack. Nor am I aware of any public declaration by a US government official declaring Sarah Palin to be a member of an organization which Congress has authorized force against.
posted by humanfont at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2011


Would it have been wrong to kill OBL, even if it would have prevented 9/11?

I assume this falls under the jurisdiction of the Precrimes Division.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:52 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


1998_United_States_embassy_bombings
posted by rosswald at 7:09 AM on October 5, 2011


@msalt You keep ignoring the point: this isn't about drones, or missiles or what have you. It's about the question of whether you want to give one single individual (the President) the power and authority to order that people be killed without any sort of meaningful oversight.

The entire judicial branch of the government exists specifically to prevent the power of life and death from being vested in a single individual. That's the point of having a court system.

Why are you OK with giving the president unsupervised power to kill people?

As for OBL, in the first place he isn't a citizen and the courts have ruled that the US government is more restricted in dealing with citizens than non-citizens, so your comparison isn't really all that apt. In the second place yes, I do think it should take more than Presidential say so to order the assassination of any person, citizen or not.

The important question is why you think it is acceptable to bypass the courts and simply start killing people because the President says they're bad people? Surely you can see the enormous potential for abuse such a system has? Surely you can see that we have a court system specifically to prevent those abuses? So why are you arguing that it is ok to go around the courts and vest a single individual with life and death powers?

I don't want anyone to have the power to say, with no oversight and in secret, "I think this person is bad, go kill him". I don't trust **ME** to have that power, and by definition I trust everyone else less than I trust myself. You apparently think it's ok for presidents to have that power, and I'd like to know why.
posted by sotonohito at 7:56 AM on October 5, 2011


The US president DOES have that power and always has. He or she can go to war at any time and order that thousands of people be killed, without meaningful oversight. Yes, presidents are more restricted in dealing with citizens than non-citizens, but there are precedents for that too. In Ex Parte Quinn (1942), one of the saboteurs (Haupt) was a US citizen.

You are portraying this as Obama randomly picking a citizen and saying "Die!" and suggesting this will lead to Stalinesque purges where thousands are arbitrarily executed. I see it as a difficult edge case, a rare set of circumstances where a citizen decides to become an outlaw terrorist and attack the US from a foreign haven we could reach but only remotely, via drone.

This has happened literally twice in history -- Osama Bin Laden, and Awlaki. Even then, they made a passing effort to capture OBL -- it would have been much easier and safer to bomb him then send in special forces, but then again he was in a very developed part of Pakistan, not a lawless area surrounded by heavily armed kin who vowed to protect him.

I would have preferred for Awlaki to have been tried in absentia, and I still haven't seen any informed discussion of why he wasn't or whether that was considered or not. But he was leading jihad against the US by his own description. He chose to avoid the courts, he repudiated them, vowed not to be taken alive, armed himself in a foreign sanctuary and dared the US to come and get him as he led attacks against the US.

When you do all that, in my view, you have waived your right to due process. Otherwise, we are rewarding the strategy of any outlaw who just makes it difficult to arrest them, by taking hostages, arming bunkers, etc.
posted by msalt at 8:47 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


@msalt "He or she can go to war at any time"

Er, no actually, he can't.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the US Constitution specifically provides that Congress, not the President, must declare wars.

And yes, I do see this as an existential problem. Powers, once taken, tend not to be given back and tend to expand.

Note that back during Obama's campaign he, and the Democrats in general, were outraged that Bush would so much as wiretap people (not even US citizens, just anyone) without a court order.

But now you, and Obama, and a lot of Democrats, argue that the President can simply kill people without so much as a court order, much less a trial? And this doesn't seem like a worrying trip down the beginning of a slippery slope to you?

Like Obama's usurpation of the ability to declare war (Libya), this represents a dangerous trend in turning what was once a controversial position taken only by Republicans into a normative position taken by members of both parties.

Edge cases are what define things, and often the people who are involved are pretty loathesome. Ernesto Arturo Miranda, to pick an example, was a genuinely terrible person. But the right decision was made, even though the right decision set free a genuinely bad person who almost certainly was a kidnapper and rapist.

Here the wrong decision was made even though (as you argue) the result was good in that a bad and dangerous person was killed.

You're looking at the result and saying that since the result, in this particular instance, wasn't terrible then the process which produced the result isn't especially bad either.

I'm looking at the process and I'm terrified. To a large extent I'm not concerned with the result, I'm much more concerned with the process and the question of whether or no that process will in the long run do good things for our nation, or bad things.

And yes, a system of laws makes it more difficult for criminals to be arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned. That's not a bug, that's a feature. It's supposed to be difficult. The government is supposed to have to jump through hoops and make its case to a skeptical and indeed hostile public.

If, as you claim, the evidence against Awlaki was so airtight, then why do you think it wasn't necessary for the government to present that evidence and get a conviction from a court?

And no, the fact that this has happened exactly twice in the history of our nation isn't very reassuring. Both instances happened in the last year, after no instances ever happening for hundreds of years, and the second instance didn't involve even the pretense of making an arrest, just a straight assassination. To me that looks like things are getting worse, not better, and we're accelerating down a slippery slope.

We won't know, of course, until the powers you're so willing to grant a President (and no, this is nothing even faintly resembling war powers, this is new and unique), are in place for a few more years and we've seen how the Republicans handle things.

Personally, I'm betting we'll see a steady trickle of such assassinations under Obama, all things you and other Democrats won't much object to, and a slow expansion of such assassinations under the Republicans, nothing too outrageous at first, just a slow and steady creep of the idea that it's ok for the President to order people killed, no trial or even charges necessary. But I think we'll see such killings accelerate, and eventually start targeting political enemies.

I think we are doing something extremely dangerous by allowing the President to become judge, jury, and executioner, and it worries me that we're doing so with such carefree abandon and utter unconcern.

Seriously, what makes you think this won't accelerate? That the claimed powers won't be expanded on? You obviously think I"m wrong, and probably paranoid, for being worried, so please explain why you aren't worried.

This isn't like people dying in war. You can't tell me that this isn't new and unusual because there have been wars in the past. Why are you so unworried?
posted by sotonohito at 9:29 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Obama waives penalties on countries that employ child soldiers – again!
President Barack Obama has decided to waive almost all the legally mandated penalties for countries that use child soldiers and provide those countries U.S. military assistance, just like he did last year.

The White House is expected to soon announce its decision to issue a series of waivers for the Child Soldiers Protection Act, a 2008 law that is meant to stop the United States from giving military aid to countries that recruit soldiers under the age of 15 and use them to fight wars. The administration has laid out a range of justifications for waiving penalties on Yemen, South Sudan, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all of which amount to a gutting of the law for the second year in a row.

...

For Yemen, the administration's argument is simply that counterterrorism cooperation with that country is too important to suspend. Yemen is set to receive $35 million from the United States in foreign military financing. What stunned activists in the room, however, was State Department officials' admission that they don't know who actually controls the Yemeni military these days.
posted by homunculus at 9:39 AM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


sotonhito: If, as you claim, the evidence against Awlaki was so airtight, then why do you think it wasn't necessary for the government to present that evidence and get a conviction from a court?

You're not reading what I write, apparently. If you want to save time, do a CTRL+F for "in absentia."

the fact that this has happened exactly twice in the history of our nation isn't very reassuring. Both instances happened in the last year, after no instances ever happening for hundreds of years, and the second instance didn't involve even the pretense of making an arrest, just a straight assassination.

As I've said before in this thread, this is a new situation -- both terrorists and the US govt. are able to attack at a distance in a way that was simply not possible before. I think we need to evolve new legal procedures to cover the situation. Until such procedures are in place, we need to look at earlier analogies -- pirates based outside of any governmental authority, raiders who attack from foreign havens, wild west outlaws. I don't think Obama's actions are out of line in that tradition, but I'm not an expert on the history of these situations.

If you are worried about the government executing people without judicial review, there are many more worrisome incidents in recent history, starting with the response to the anti-war protestors and Black Panthers in the 1960s, the LAPD, etc. For that matter, I'm a lot more concerned about the application of the death penalty in Texas and Florida, with all the judicial review you are advocating, than I am about the legal rights of people attacking the US from lawless foreign havens.
posted by msalt at 10:09 AM on October 5, 2011


@msalt You expressed a vague preference that a trial in absentia had been conducted. But at the same time you have said multiple times that Awlaki really needed killing so you're fine with there not being a trial.

The problem, my problem, is that no one has actually proven in any meaningful sense of the word that Awlaki needed killing.

We've got assertions from the government that he needed killing. We've got assertions from you that he was a very bad person who needed killing. But no one has actually conducted a trial and given us any assurance that there is any truth to those assertions.

Perhaps it's that I'm fundamentally less trusting than you. When the government says that someone is a bad person who needs to be killed I expect, at an absolute rock bottom minimum, that the government present its evidence for that to a court and have that evidence subjected to aggressive analysis by a defense team. "Everybody knows" doesn't count.

For you, apparently, the bar is much lower. All that needs to happen is that the President simply asserts, no evidence presented, that a person is bad and needs to be killed and, while you'll express a vague preference for a trial if pressed, you seem to have no fundamental problem with the government simply killing someone without ever presenting any evidence of necessity.

Why should we trust the government to get this right? As you point out, there is ample evidence that even when the government is forced to present its evidence things often go wrong. So why, when the government went to court expressly to avoid showing evidence, should we believe that they're right now?

As for Awlaki's claims of being a big bad Al Qaeda panjandrum, so what? I can take you to mental hospitals where there are people who claim to be the big bad agents of space monsters, or Adolf Hitler.

I'm saying it is morally wrong, and horribly dangerous for the survival of ourselves as free people, to permit the government to kill anyone without presenting its evidence to hostile defenders. It looks like the start of a bad precedent.

You, like Obama and the Republican hyperventilators, seem eager to claim that the situation is so unique, so new, and so dangerous, that we simply had no choice but to completely abandon any pretense of rule of law and let the President start killing people on a whim.

I find that claim laughable to say the least. In case you haven't noticed, we don't have any piles of bodies due to Awlaki's "attacks" on the country. No buildings have been toppled becuase of his "attacks", no people killed. He was not a supervillain. He had no superpowers. Youtube videos are not some existential threat to America, not even if he says really mean things in them.

If your claims are correct, if he really was so dangerous, then why the hell didn't Obama have a trial? You'd think it'd be easy to prove the need to kill him if, as you claim, he really was so evil and dangerous. Obama, like Bush before him, seems monomaniacaly devoted to increasing the already bloated power of the Executive branch. You, for reasons that are a complete mystery to me, seem ok with that.

Why are you so dead set on defending a siezure of power by the President that looks like the first steps down a slippery slope?

Again I must ask: what specific process exists that I'm apparently unaware of that will prevent future presidents from using the power you want to give them for evil ends?

See, with the court system we have a process. It's imperfect, but it's there, it's public, and we can see what's going on, we can see where it fails, we can know who to blame if it fails. With the system you endorse, while occasionally saying a trial might be preferable, there is no process anyone can see. It's hidden, secret, concealed. It seems, in fact, pretty much designed to facilitate easy abuse.

I cannot agree that we are not witnessing the beginning of the end of our status as even nominally free people until you can show me the specific mechanisms you believe will prevent this new and completely unprecedented power from being abused.
posted by sotonohito at 1:51 PM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


sotonohito: To my eye, you are personalizing this discussion to an odd degree ("You, like Obama and the Republican hyperventilators, seem eager to claim... Why are you so dead set on defending a siezure of power...") and not really addressing points I'm making, so I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one.
posted by msalt at 2:28 PM on October 5, 2011


No nation was hunting him until he made himself an outlaw and began coaching and congratulating a long succession of terrorists who all attacked America. He walked about America freely as recently as 2007. Entirely his choice.

He was free to walk around America because despite the best efforts of the FBI they could find no fucking evidence to prove the things that have been claimed about his involvement in terrorism. They should thank their lucky stars he left because under the law they had absolutely nothing on him.

Here's a serious, non-hypothetical question. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton sent missiles to kill Osama Bin Laden, and narrowly missed. him. Are you happy the missles missed him? Would it have been wrong to kill OBL, even if it would have prevented 9/11?

That seems like a deeply un-serious question in light of my repeatedly stated support for the bin Laden raid as a model operation. Cruise missiles would have been fine with me too, he wasn't an American citizen. I am generally supportive of drone strikes when sufficient care is taken to minimize civilian casualties. In the case of using them to, IMO, avoid a difficult political/legal situation in regards to constitutional rights, I'm not so happy with the idea.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:44 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


@msalt No, I simply don't buy your framing that a) Awlaki represented some supervillain level threat, and b) that youtube and whatnot have so completely changed the world that we have to give Presidents the power to kill people with no oversight.

Not only do I disagree with that, I just don't think it's relevant to the subject at hand.

It isn't as if the existence of youtube somehow makes it impossible to use the courts. It isn't as if Obama had to claim the power to kill people at a whim. We've been having jury trials for centuries, even as technology changes. I see nothing about the current technological environment that makes having a system with proper oversight either impossible or even a terrible burden.

Yet you argue that this isn't bad. That while you've got a preference for trials you aren't really upset that there wasn't a trial.

Why?

What mechanisms exist that you think will stop this from becoming horribly abused?

From my POV there are two core positions here:

1) This is awful and will result in abuse.

2) This isn't a big problem because X will stop it from being abused.

You seem to have taken the second position, and I'm asking you to identify X.

Your explanations as to why you think the technological changes of the past decades have rendered the courts obsolete is a side issue. The core issue is that we have here a massive, huge, terrifying, potential for abuses that render America a completely different nation. You seem to be arguing that it isn't a big deal. I'd like to know why not.

What specific mechanisms exist that make you so confident we aren't looking at the end of freedom?
posted by sotonohito at 3:01 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge: Fair enough. Unlike you, many here have been stating that it is always wrong for a US president to try to kill someone with drones (or, presumably, cruise missiles) short of a trial and conviction. So the attack on Osama Bin Laden seems like a good situation to test that theory. I'm glad we agree on that.

As for Awlaki pre-2007, he does not appear to have been as radical then, only after he was convicted in 2007 by a Yemeni court for kidnapping and being part of an al-Qaeda plot. According to wikipedia, he condemned the 9/11 attacks before his conviction, and began his jihadi activities after his release from Yemeni prison in Dec. 2007.

(Rereading that page, he actually left the US in 2002, was in the UK until 2004, and in Yemen after that. In 2007 he was interviewed by 2 FBI agents but in Yemen; I misread that as him being in the US. But even then, the US didn't object to his release from jail. It was only after he kept turning up in later terror plots that the US pursued him.)
posted by msalt at 3:15 PM on October 5, 2011


The US already believed he was involved with terrorism while he was still here. They were trying to bring him in under Mann Act charges because they had no proof of the terrorism.

This goes back before 2007, I really think you need to get the facts right here if you are going to argue in favor of execution.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:39 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


What mechanisms exist that you think will stop this from becoming horribly abused?

Drone strikes against self described leaders of our Enemies who openly and notoriously call for our death. That's the end of freedom? The guy who put out a hit on Mollly Norris, Seattle cartoonist in response to her comments.

We can't shoot our enemies now? Even when they've declared war on us?
posted by humanfont at 6:29 PM on October 5, 2011


You don't appear to have answered the question.
posted by Trurl at 6:34 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pretty deep in the thread to be over-simplifying it. The bottom line is we have recently witnessed a President lying (at worst) and manipulating the presentation of evidence (at best) to convince the nation to go to war. This is a much bigger commitment to get than one missile strike. I think the burden is on the supporters here to prove this process can't be abused.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:35 PM on October 5, 2011


furiousxgeorge: This goes back before 2007, I really think you need to get the facts right here if you are going to argue in favor of execution.

But apparently you don't need to, because you're on the side of truth and justice? At least I admit mistakes and correct myself.

The facts, both on wiki and on the link you just gave, show that there was only circumstantial evidence of his involvement with terrorism before 2007. Awklaki publicly denounced the 9/11 attack, though his phone number was found in the Hamburg apartment of 9/11 planner Ramzi bin al-Shibh and he preached to 2 of the 9/11 hijackers. US authorities did and do have an arrest warrant out for him -- for passport fraud, not the Mann Act (read your link again.) They were unable to arrest him on his last visit in Oct. 2002 due to a technicality, and he fled the US, and has not returned.

The crux of the issue is the terrorist plots where Awlaki -- by his own admission -- publicly called for attacks on the US beforehand, corresponded with the attackers during their planning phase, and publicly praised them afterwards. This activity was all during 2008, 2009 and 2010, though he may have met with the underwear bomber as early as 2005 in Yemen. He threatened Molly Norris with death in 2010, for example.

It looks a lot like he was radicalized during the 18 months he spent in Yemeni prison, and took a sharp turn toward involvement with a remarkable number of terrorist plots (between 7 and 16, depending on how direct of a link you require).
posted by msalt at 7:24 PM on October 5, 2011


Honestly, without this evidence being admitted into a court of law, aggressively challenged by a defending lawyer, and viewed by an impartial jury of the alleged criminal's peers, it is so much hearsay and utter bullshit. This is exactly why we have due process of law. I always thought we'd lived in a country that didn't kill it's own citizens and leave it up to internet forums to debate the merits of said execution.
posted by Shit Parade at 7:41 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is no possible way you can look at that Wkipedia article and come to the conclusion that he was only radicalized later. As far back as 1996 he was encouraging Jihad in his followers. He had was alleged to be fundraising for Hamas and Al Qaeda by 1999. He is alleged to have had close contact with people involved in the Cole attacks who ended up participating in the 9/11 attacks. It goes on and on. The thing is, none of this could be proved even though it was the same type of accusations they think they claim they can now prove even though he was on the other side of the world. Just like what they had before, it doesn't look like it could ever come to trial in the US.

I don't know why you are playing games here with the passport fraud, just like the Mann Act thing it was another attempt to skirt around the fact they could not prove the terrorism so they were desperately looking for some way to Capone him.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:42 PM on October 5, 2011


Fugitives from justice forfeit the benefits of justice. Especially when they refuse to defend themselves, and attack from exile. Outlaws are outside the law, by definition. This is a principal of law -- you have to play by the rules to enjoy its benefits.

That's why, for example, statutes of limitation don't run while you're evading arrest. And why the president has the authority to send armed forces into battle without a declaration of war by Congress, or an evidentiary hearing. Because sometimes people attack who don't submit themselves to judicial review.

None of that is new. What's new is the ability of both sides to attack from a long distance. But the law is no different for someone leading raids from hideouts just across the Mexican border.
posted by msalt at 8:06 PM on October 5, 2011


Fugitives from justice forfeit the benefits of justice.

And we swing back around to the fact that he could be tortured, or held without charge, or killed on sight if he tried to get actual justice.

An innocent man would clearly desire to leave and not come back when they were desperately trying to pin anything they could on him, like the Mann Act or the passport fraud you mention that was thrown out by a federal judge.

The bottom line is they did everything they could to try and arrest him but couldn't prove anything in court, this time around they just didn't bother to try for whatever reason.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:19 PM on October 5, 2011


So your evidence that he is not guilty is the fact that he was released from US custody in October of 2002, many years before any of these terrorist plots, due to a technical defect in the arrest warrant.

And you conclude that he would be tortured or killed on sight if he did show up in court why? Because we released him 9 years ago, which shows that we "were desperately trying to pin anything they could on him"?

All you've established is that he was in fact treated fairly by the US legal system. Which of course doesn't make him innocent of crimes he committed 7 years later - some of which, including an al Qaeda plot against the US, he was tried on and convicted in the country he was living in at the time.
posted by msalt at 10:20 PM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reuters: Secret panel can put Americans on 'kill list'
posted by msalt at 11:08 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


From your link:

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel... Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

"No law establishing its existence".

Think about that for a moment and then tell me with a staight face that Anwar al-Awlaki was not murdered.
posted by Trurl at 7:04 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


@msalt "So your evidence that he is not guilty"

I think you have that backward.

I don't need evidence that he is not guilty, the government needs to produce evidence that he is. Innocent until proven guilty is kind of the cornerstone of our system of justice, no? I might have my own personal opinion, as might you and as might Obama, but personal opinions aren't binding. Except, now, thanks to Obama, the President's personal belief in a person's guilt is now grounds to kill that person without any explanation or oversight. Guilty until the President believes otherwise seems to be the new standard.

If the government wants to kill people there's a well established procedure for doing so, one that involves a presumption of innocence and the government putting forth evidence to demonstrate guilt.

You seem obsessed with the idea that somehow the technology of the modern era has completely and radically changed things, that Awlaki and his alleged crimes are so new, so unique, and so dangerous that former methods of dealing with alleged criminals simply aren't sufficient and we have to just let the President start killing people on a whim. You say you'd prefer a trial, but you don't seem to actually care one way or another as long as the person the government says is the bad guy gets killed you're happy and not worried.

I'm not happy, and I am worried. Because this isn't new. This isn't unique. We had no need to cast aside the very core and foundation of our system of justice, but we did anyway and almost no one seems worried about that.

Perhaps I'm being overly worried, but I do see this sort of thing as the first steps down a path that will ultimately lead to politicians simply having the non-elite people who irritate them killed. I doubt we'll be seeing a Republican President ordering the death of a Democratic presidential contender, but I can easily see a Republican President ordering the death of activists, and the AM screamers and FOX news praising the order as tough but necessary.

Again and again I ask: what is the mechanism that will stop this from being abused.

So far the only answer has been that Presidents won't abuse this power because if they do they might be impeached. That seems woefully insufficient.

The link you posted seems to back my position (that this is a horrible and dangerous new power) much more than yours (that this is a safe and non-controversial power).

You seem quite confident that you are right and I am wrong. Can you please explain the source of your confidence? Apparently you have information I don't, information that makes you sure that while in cases like this trials might be nice, but ultimately aren't all that necessary to avoid abuses. What makes you so sure?
posted by sotonohito at 7:35 AM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


We had no need to cast aside the very core and foundation of our system of justice, but we did anyway...

I think we just keep going round and round, in part because of the idea behind this sentence.

Much like wiretapping laws, RICO, etc. the law is often playing catch-up with the criminals.

Of course I wish that a very clear framework was put in place before the Awlaki killing, but I also realize that letting this US citizen off the hook because he effectively put himself in a blind spot of our justice system is also damaging to our system of laws. The hole has to be plugged one way or another.

And I am confident that this won't result in the random droning of US citizens, but will instead just end up creating a whole new raft of laws and procedures.

My .02
posted by rosswald at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2011


Trurl: Anwar Awlaki was not murdered. He was engaged in attacks on the US, from a foreign country (Yemen). He was also tried in absentia in that country for these acts of war, since he was on the run, and convicted and sentenced to death, a fact that you keep ignoring.

He was not tried and sentenced in America, because he fled this country to avoid trial. Also because he was living in Yemen, launched his attacks from there, and was convicted by Yemeni courts. (It arguably would have been double jeopardy for the US to re-convict.) But countries including the US have always responded to raids and attacks from outside the country with deadly force. This does not, and never has, required a trial.

The US worked with his country (he had dual citizenship) to pursue him. We have better technology and were able to kill him with much less collateral damage than Yemen would have needed. I really don't see anything novel here except the technology that allows both sides to attack at a distance.

(As I've mentioned several times, and you also keep ignoring, the fact that he is a US citizen does not necessarily require civilian trial for acts of war, under Ex Parte Quinn (1942).)
posted by msalt at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


people continue to bring up ex parte quinn when it really has very little to do with Anwar:

All the petitioners were born in Germany; all have lived in the United States. All returned to Germany between 1933 and 1941. All except petitioner Haupt are admittedly citizens of the German Reich, with which the United States is at war. Haupt came to this country with his parents when he was five years old; it is contended that he became a citizen of the United States by virtue of the naturalization of his parents during his minority and that he has not since lost his citizenship. The Government, however, takes the position that on attaining his majority he elected to maintain German allegiance and citizenship or in any case that he has by his conduct renounced or abandoned his United States citizenship.

note, the court assumed that Haupt had renounced his US citizenship. The state department said that Anwar was an american citizen at the time of his assassination.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:20 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


@rosswald "And I am confident that this won't result in the random droning of US citizens, but will instead just end up creating a whole new raft of laws and procedures"

I'm puzzled as to where that confidence comes from. Past performance of the US government in similar areas tends to be the exact opposite of what you predict.

Take, for example, warrantless wiretapping. The government did it, using exactly your claim that the situation was so radically new and different that the law just plain didn't apply, and did we get a raft of new laws and procedures?

Nope. We got the Executive simply asserting it had the power to wiretap without warrants, the Legislative did nothing that really changed anything, a secret court issued a heavily redacted statement saying it was all perfectly legal, FOX and the AM screamers said that anyone who objected was a terrorist loving anti-American dirty fucking hippie, and now the Executive simply wiretaps wherever it wants and doesn't bother with warrants.

Warrantless wiretapping has become normative, Obama does it, Bush Jr did it, Democrats do it, Republicans do it, no one minds but the dirty fucking hippies and who cares about them?

Or take detention, forever, with neither trials nor charges. Back in the day Democrats objected to that, at least the non-elected Democrats did (including some "liberals" here who are now such fervent defenders of Obama that now they've changed their tune since Obama decided just putting people in cages forever at his whim was a good idea, they even go so far as to say that we DFH's who object are out to destroy Obama and America). Elected Democrats waffled and wimped, and the Bush administration got away with it.

Just like the warrantless wiretapping, once Candidate Obama became President Obama he reversed his position and became a huge fan of the idea that the President can simply declare that someone is an "enemy combatant" and put them in prison until the "war" is over. Which means "forever" because the War on Terror will never end.

It's become so normative that only the evil Dirty Fucking Hippies who hate Obama and America would ever dream of being so uncivil as to point out that it's pretty vile to put people in prison, forever, without even having charges brought against them much less without a trial. There are plenty of "liberals" right here on Metafilter who have become total converts to the idea that indefinite detention is a completely right, proper, and necessary thing.

So why do you think this will be any different?

Obama has endorsed the idea that the President can simply have people he doesn't like killed. Perhaps he will use this new power with restraint. But the new Presidential power to simply have the CIA assassinate anyone he deems to be a bad person won't vanish when Obama leaves office.

The next Republican President is flat out guaranteed to expand and abuse any power Obama leaves him, already we are guaranteed by Obama's cowardly "look forward, not backward" BS that the next Republican will wiretap more, will imprison without charges more, and will torture more than Bush did. Now, on top of all that, Obama has given the next Republican President bipartisan support for having the CIA kill people without even an attempt at charges or a trial.

Yet you are confident that I'm wrong. Please explain why.
posted by sotonohito at 11:40 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


He was engaged in attacks on the US

Says you. Prove it.

He was also tried in absentia in that country for these acts of war, since he was on the run, and convicted and sentenced to death, a fact that you keep ignoring.

The CIA is not an arm of the Yemeni justice system.

He was not tried and sentenced in America, because he fled this country to avoid trial.

You can not avoid trial for acts you have never been charged with.
posted by Trurl at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


ACTUAL Death Panel Approves US Kill List
posted by homunculus at 12:21 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


So your evidence that he is not guilty is the fact that he was released from US custody in October of 2002, many years before any of these terrorist plots, due to a technical defect in the arrest warrant.

No, this is my evidence that despite the government claiming he was guilty before they could not prove it and resorted to trying to charge him with other random crimes. You will note that plots he was alleged to be involved with started in the 90s and included 9/11.

Now, you are telling me that I have to believe they really do have enough evidence this time, but they are only willing to present it to a secret panel in secret. Not good enough.

And you conclude that he would be tortured or killed on sight if he did show up in court why? Because we released him 9 years ago, which shows that we "were desperately trying to pin anything they could on him"?

Because now it has been publicly revealed that we torture prisoners and hold them without charge and execute them without trial.

All you've established is that he was in fact treated fairly by the US legal system. Which of course doesn't make him innocent of crimes he committed 7 years later - some of which, including an al Qaeda plot against the US, he was tried on and convicted in the country he was living in at the time.

What we have established is that despite claiming that he was guilty it could not actually be proved in court and now the government is going without the court instead.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


He was not tried and sentenced in America, because he fled this country to avoid trial.

He left the country after an attempt to charge him with passport fraud was thrown out by a federal judge. There was no other trial to flee at the time, by the time there were new accusations we had established a torture regime and indefinite detention.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2011


To second furiousxgeorge, I think that at this point in history the single most rational thing a person accused of terrorism by the USA can do is hide and avoid capture by the USA at all costs up to and including the use of lethal force against anyone who attempts to take them into custody.

Under George W. Bush it was established that being accused of terrorism by the USA would result in torture (both via extraordinary rendition and by actual Americans), being tossed into a cage, forever, without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom, etc.

Arguing that somehow it was strange, or wrong, for Awlaki to do whatever he could to avoid capture by the USA or to declare that he would never allow himself to be taken by the USA is a position that makes no sense.

No sane person when accused of terrorism by the government of the USA will allow themselves to be taken into US custody. It's all but guaranteed to result in indefinite detention and torture.

You can thank Bush for starting that, and Obama for allowing it to go unpunished [1] thus guaranteeing that it will start back up when the next Republican takes office.

Anyone arguing that Awlaki should have turned himself in is arguing that he should have chosen to be tortured.

[1] And possibly continuing to permit torture during his own presidency, the recently revealed secret prison in Somalia has evidence of US ordered/permitted torture during the Obama administration.
posted by sotonohito at 1:53 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a fundamental difference in worldview underlying this disagreement. I think most of the people objecting to the US attack are seeing this as punishment without a trial for crimes Awlaki had (allegedly) committed.

That is not why he was killed. He was killed because he was continuing to launch attacks on the US from a haven where he could not be arrested or otherwise stopped. Not punishment for previous acts; stopping him from ongoing attacks. An analogy would be the Pancho Villa Expedition after Villa's Columbus raid, or the anti-piracy expedition of 1870. Of course, no one considered demanding a trial before those expeditions.
posted by msalt at 4:00 PM on October 6, 2011


That is not why he was killed. He was killed because he was continuing to launch attacks on the US from a haven where he could not be arrested or otherwise stopped.

Allegedly continuing, keeping in mind that what he was allegedly continuing could not be proven while he was in the US and his alleged involvement had already been alleged. Regardless, I dispute the idea that an arrest attempt was impossible. Further, the issue of his citizenship distinguishes him from people like bin Laden and Pancho Villa.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:09 PM on October 6, 2011


Not allleged; he was convicted by a Yemeni court, and on the UN's list of individuals associated with al Qaeda.

could not be proven while he was in the US and his alleged involvement had already been alleged

Despite your bizarre insistence that he was an al Qaeda sleeper agent back into the 1990s, the Obama administration has never claimed that. The attacks we are talking about didn't take place until 2008, 2009 and 2010. Even at the end of 2007, the friggin' BUSH administration said they didn't object to Awlaki's release.

According to his father, he went underground in Yemen in March of 2009. The US claims he was promoted to regional commander of AQAP later that year. Most of the attacks have been since then. You can claim an arrest would have been easy, but the Yemeni govt. couldn't arrest him, so it's hard to imagine how the US could have.
posted by msalt at 5:24 PM on October 6, 2011


Allegedly continuing, keeping in mind that what he was allegedly continuing could not be proven while he was in the US and his alleged involvement had already been alleged.

He did make comments that a reason for leaving the United States was a concern he would be prosecuted though. I also don't really understand why the citizenship thing is such a hangup. The constitution doesn't say citizen, it says "no person". If you are going to take a literal reading, I don't see how you jump from person to citizen. A person is pretty broad isn't it, I mean a corporation is a person in the interpretation of the courts.
posted by humanfont at 5:38 PM on October 6, 2011


Not allleged; he was convicted by a Yemeni court

Yeah, I have total faith that the grandly corrupt Yemeni government did everything there just right, but they aren't the one's who executed him.

Despite your bizarre insistence that he was an al Qaeda sleeper agent back into the 1990s, the Obama administration has never claimed that. The attacks we are talking about didn't take place until 2008, 2009 and 2010. Even at the end of 2007, the friggin' BUSH administration said they didn't object to Awlaki's release.

I know you want to only talk about those because it makes your case easier, but there were accusations going back to the nineties. You can't brush away alleged involvement in fucking 9/11 and pretend like that is out of bounds of the conversation. It's not bizarre to talk about the biggest Al Qaeda terrorist attack of all time in context of someone accused of involvement, it's bizarre to ignore it.

They could not object because they could not make a court case, but they did everything in their power to keep him here.

The US claims he was promoted to regional commander of AQAP later that year. Most of the attacks have been since then. You can claim an arrest would have been easy, but the Yemeni govt. couldn't arrest him, so it's hard to imagine how the US could have.


Actually in this very thread I have claimed the path they chose was easier, I have never said arrest was easy. I only said an attempt was possible at some point during the three weeks they had the man under surveillance.

Why, I wonder, have you resorted to distorting my position?

It seems to me it takes great, almost intentional, lack of imagination to consider an attempt impossible when a forensics team entering the scene afterwards was possible.

He did make comments that a reason for leaving the United States was a concern he would be prosecuted though.

Could you link that for me? (not doubting, just looking for the full context)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:00 PM on October 6, 2011


I have never said arrest was easy. I only said an attempt was possible at some point during the three weeks they had the man under surveillance ... when a forensics team entering the scene afterwards was possible.

Armed members of his tribe surrounded him and protected him while he was alive, making arrest impossible without major loss of life.
I doubt they remained to protect every room and vehicle he had been in against fingerprint-takers after his death.
posted by msalt at 10:51 PM on October 6, 2011


I know you want to only talk about those (attacks from 2008-2010) because it makes your case easier, but there were accusations going back to the nineties. You can't brush away alleged involvement in fucking 9/11 and pretend like that is out of bounds of the conversation. It's not bizarre to talk about the biggest Al Qaeda terrorist attack of all time in context of someone accused of involvement, it's bizarre to ignore it.

The difference between 9/11 and the later attacks is exactly what disproves the worries that you and others here are voicing. Yes, there were suspicions about Awlaki because he preached to 2 of the 9/11 hijackers, and his phone # was found in the apt. of a Hamburg-based al Qaeda planner. But the US system you are complaining about realized that it could not prove his guilt in that attack and released him in 2002. They didn't torture him, hold him without charge or kill him. They let him go.

Years later, the Obama administration -- which stopped torture and some but not all of the other Bush admin. excesses -- came across a lot of evidence that Awlaki had changed from a mere propagandist to someone directly involved in planning plots. They haven't made all that evidence public, you're right. There might be good reasons not to, such as not revealing who the spy or spies they have in AQAP are.

But the fact that the US govt. let him go, and didn't pursue him in Yemen until he became a direct al Qaeda participant recently, is exactly why I'm not terribly worried about this. What's bizarre is that you apparently think Awlaki WAS a long-term al Qaeda operative launching plots against the US, but you still think he was cool and the US is evil for stopping him.
posted by msalt at 10:52 PM on October 6, 2011


@msalt "That is not why he was killed. He was killed because he was continuing to launch attacks on the US from a haven where he could not be arrested or otherwise stopped."

1) I disagree with your assertion that Awlaki could not be arrested or otherwise stopped other than by assassinating him. So far all I've seen are arguments that it would be difficult to attempt to arrest him, not impossible. IIRC we arrested Saddam Hussain, so the argument that somehow trying to arrest Awlaki was just too hard for America rings hollow.

2) More fundamentally I think that even if you want to argue from a pre-crime standpoint then the government still has to prove its case. In fact, I'd argue that if you want to kill someone on the basis that you think they might, at some point in the future, commit crimes then the government **REALLY** has to prove that before I'm comfortable with them killing the pre-criminal.

Furthermore, I see no evidence whatsoever that Awlaki was "attacking" the USA in any meaningful sense. He made self congratulatory youtube videos praising jihadists. Show me the piles of corpses that Awlaki killed. Show me the buildings Awlaki destroyed. Otherwise please stop with the nonsensical idea that he was "attacking" the USA. He made youtube videos.

But, regardless of pre-crime or real crime, my objection remains the same: the US government should not be undertaking to kill people without first establishing that those people actually need killing by presenting evidence to be subjected to harsh analysis and defense.

The mere assertion of the President is not enough to satisfy me that the US government should be killing someone. It deeply troubles me that even among some liberals there is a sentiment that the President should have the authority to simply declare people to be enemies of the state and have them executed. That's the sort of authoritarian BS I expect from ultra right wing conservatives, not from otherwise liberal people.

"But the fact that the US govt. let him go, and didn't pursue him in Yemen until he became a direct al Qaeda participant recently, is exactly why I'm not terribly worried about this."

But, again, all you have to go on is the evidence free assertion of the US government that he became a direct al Qaeda participant. Where did the US government prove that? Where is the evidence? Heck, you admit yourself that the government never made the evidence public.

Two men have been killed, one a journalist for a jihadi cheerleading news organization who even the US government says is guilty of nothing but being obnoxious, and no evidence has been presented to prove that either of those men were actually guilty of anything. But you say you aren't terribly worried?

@humanfront "I also don't really understand why the citizenship thing is such a hangup. The constitution doesn't say citizen, it says "no person".

IIRC the courts have ruled that the US government has a greater obligation to respect the civil rights of citizens than non-citizens. I agree that seems to be counter to a plain textual reading of the Constitution and frankly I'm not happy with those decisions, but per the various courts that have interpreted the Constitution that's the situation.

Either way though, the Constitution rather plainly states that the US government can't just go kill Awlaki without a trial.

Fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation
My emphasis.

Also Sixth Amendment:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Even if we go with msalt's pre-crime argument (and I'm not at all sure that there's any possible way it's legal to convict someone for crimes they **MIGHT** later commit; I might later rob a bank, shall we shoot me now to prevent that?) he's still entitled to a trial where the government must present its evidence for criticism by a defense attorney before he can be sentenced to die.

I'll admit I'm neither a lawyer nor a Constitutional scholar, but those both seem pretty plain and non-negotiable to me.

In any event, I don't see anything in the Constitution declaring that the President can simply, on a whim, have a citizen assassinated.
posted by sotonohito at 6:34 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Armed members of his tribe surrounded him and protected him while he was alive, making arrest impossible without major loss of life.
I doubt they remained to protect every room and vehicle he had been in against fingerprint-takers after his death.


Yes, he had armed men around him. Terrorist targets tend to have armed men around them, we have still raided their compounds with special forces. In order for an attempt to be impossible it takes the entire area being inaccessible, not armed guards.

The difference between 9/11 and the later attacks is exactly what disproves the worries that you and others here are voicing. Yes, there were suspicions about Awlaki because he preached to 2 of the 9/11 hijackers, and his phone # was found in the apt. of a Hamburg-based al Qaeda planner. But the US system you are complaining about realized that it could not prove his guilt in that attack and released him in 2002. They didn't torture him, hold him without charge or kill him. They let him go.

Yes, back then we had not fully established our extra-judicial methods. My exact worry is that we did this execution because the system still could not prove anything to the satisfaction of a court.

They haven't made all that evidence public, you're right

And given that they had made previous repeated accusations they could not prove, I have no reason to trust that this time they really have it even though they won't tell me about it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:02 AM on October 7, 2011


This ongoing discussion is fascinating and one of the reasons I am addicted to MeFi. The adherence to fairly respectful discussion rules and the hewing to supported assertions is so far above what you see in any other forum that I wish all other media would take note.

Drone strikes against self described leaders of our Enemies who openly and notoriously call for our death.

Well, if you take that as a thumbnail description of who we can kill with drones, that gets pretty dicey.

Armed members of his tribe surrounded him and protected him while he was alive, making arrest impossible without major loss of life.

Good thing Bin Laden's people weren't protecting him, eh?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:28 AM on October 7, 2011


They haven't made all that evidence public, you're right. There might be good reasons not to, such as not revealing who the spy or spies they have in AQAP are.

And there might be other reasons, not so innocent, too. Have you considered them? After all, there's a lot of evidence that the Bush administration was not above baser motivations.

What's bizarre is that you apparently think Awlaki WAS a long-term al Qaeda operative launching plots against the US, but you still think he was cool and the US is evil for stopping him.

Pardon me, but this seems the most straw-manny of accusations. I couldn't find anyone in the entire thread who thought Al-Awlaki was "cool". Although I have heard he listened to a lot of Mingus.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:32 AM on October 7, 2011


>>Armed members of his tribe surrounded him and protected him while he was alive, making arrest impossible without major loss of life.
>Good thing Bin Laden's people weren't protecting him, eh?


That's just it -- they weren't. When the US did finally get him, Osama was not in the outlaw areas of Pakistan such as Waziristan, surrounded by sympathetic, armed men. He was hiding incognito in a very developed part of the country. It was a bold hiding place, and worked for a few years, but made a raid possible. There were under 10 people with him, and only a couple of men. Even then, it was an aggressive move by Obama that appears to have permanently damaged our relationship with Pakistan. Yemen is far less developed and less reliable of an ally.

With Awlaki even, the drone was finally able to reach him because he travelled outside of his clan's (and al Qaeda's) stronghold in the south of Yemen to somewhere in the north.
posted by msalt at 9:01 AM on October 7, 2011


>>They haven't made all that evidence public, you're right. There might be good reasons not to, such as not revealing who the spy or spies they have in AQAP are.
>And there might be other reasons, not so innocent, too. Have you considered them? After all, there's a lot of evidence that the Bush administration was not above baser motivations.


Sure, I've considered that, and we have no way of knowing for sure. I think the Bush administrations torture and rendition and various direct attacks on the US Constitution were horrible, and yes we are paying the price for them today. But I trust the Obama administration a lot more. And the fact that even Bush minions did not arrest, Awlaki, hold him without trial, torture him, etc. is pat of what convinces me that the guy changes and became operational in 2009.

I mean, if you want to get conspiratorial, Bush et. al. had Awlaki in custody in October 2002, when they were actively waterboarding others. They could easily have popped the guy in Guantanamo Bay, or dished him off to Syria for interrogation, or claimed he pulled a gun and shot him in the airport there.

Since 2009 though, we have multiple attacks on the US coming out of Yemen, by people Awlaki admitted emailing, people Awlaki praised for killing Americans and called "his students." It's not a big stretch to think that the Obama Administration is telling the truth on this one. Otherwise, why would they even care?
posted by msalt at 9:09 AM on October 7, 2011


>>What's bizarre is that you apparently think Awlaki WAS a long-term al Qaeda operative launching plots against the US, but you still think he was cool and the US is evil for stopping him.
>Pardon me, but this seems the most straw-manny of accusations. I couldn't find anyone in the entire thread who thought Al-Awlaki was "cool". Although I have heard he listened to a lot of Mingus.


Ha. I may be pushing it here, and I apologize if I went overboard. I'm referring to fuiousxgeorge specifically. From what I see, he is consistently sympathetic to Awlaki here, and scornful of the US. Rooting for him as the underdog in a big cat-and-mouse game.
- "Yes, he had armed men around him. Terrorist targets tend to have armed men around them," [if falsely accused?]
- "As far back as 1996 he was encouraging Jihad in his followers. He had was alleged to be fundraising for Hamas and Al Qaeda by 1999. He is alleged to have had close contact with people involved in the Cole attacks who ended up participating in the 9/11 attacks. It goes on and on. The thing is, none of this could be proved"
posted by msalt at 9:23 AM on October 7, 2011


- "Yes, he had armed men around him. Terrorist targets tend to have armed men around them," [if falsely accused?]

You think someone having bodyguards is proof of guilt?

"As far back as 1996 he was encouraging Jihad in his followers. He had was alleged to be fundraising for Hamas and Al Qaeda by 1999. He is alleged to have had close contact with people involved in the Cole attacks who ended up participating in the 9/11 attacks. It goes on and on. The thing is, none of this could be proved"

...well I guess that makes sense for someone who thinks listing the crimes someone has been accused of is indication of sympathy.

They could easily have popped the guy in Guantanamo Bay, or dished him off to Syria for interrogation, or claimed he pulled a gun and shot him in the airport there.

It's actually not all that easy for an American on American soil, as I mentioned above leaving was the best thing he could have done for them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:42 AM on October 7, 2011


>>You think someone having bodyguards is proof of guilt?

I think someone calling for armed attacks on America, advising people while they plan attacks on America, praising them for successful attacks on America, and calling them his students is proof of guilt. All of that is fact, Awlaki himself admitted all of that publicly.

When that person flees the justice system you are advocating, for an outlaw haven, dares the US to come get him, and surrounds himself with armed guards -- yes, I think that is also proof of guilt.

Innocent people falsely accused of terrorism don't tend to have large corps of armed militants surrounding them, no. Do you really think Awlaki had no connection to al Qaeda? Why do you suppose he appeared on al Qaeda videos? Why did al Qaeda demand his release? Why was he convicted of al Qaeda plots in Yemen? Why do suppose there is a massive set of coincidences and long-running international conspiracies to frame one innocent man? I really don't understand your position here at all, other than anti-US in all cases.
posted by msalt at 11:00 AM on October 7, 2011


Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet
posted by homunculus at 11:11 AM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


We have been over his so called "fleeing" of the system. He left after a case against him was dropped. This has been explained to you already. You don't make your case better by going back to the inaccurate rhetoric. The United States said it was going to kill him, an innocent man would hide and get protection. An innocent man would do the exact same thing as a guilty man in that situation, protect themselves.

It's disheartening to see the kind of rhetoric tossed around during the Bush administration be used here. (Sympathy for terrorists if you support trials, questioning the government is anti-us)

My position is that the government must prove their case before they execute an American citizen. My fundamental distrust is based on the willingness with which both political parties in this country supported a war in Iraq based on totally insufficient evidence. They don't get the benefit of the doubt for their secret evidence. There were millions of people, even some posting here on Metafilter, who were just as sure those WMD existed as you are that this guy is guilty. So prove it, or I'll remain skeptical of the need to bomb him instead of even attempting a capture.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:16 AM on October 7, 2011


rhetoric tossed around during the Bush administration be used here. (Sympathy for terrorists if you support trials, questioning the government is anti-us)

ROFL
posted by rosswald at 11:40 AM on October 7, 2011


Arab Activists Celebrate Yemeni’s Nobel Prize
posted by homunculus at 11:42 AM on October 7, 2011


ROFL

Am I wrong?

I really don't understand your position here at all, other than anti-US in all cases.

I'm referring to fuiousxgeorge specifically. From what I see, he is consistently sympathetic to Awlaki here, and scornful of the US. Rooting for him as the underdog in a big cat-and-mouse game.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:50 AM on October 7, 2011


You're wrong. Nothing like Bush era rhetoric. I said that you appeared to be rooting for Awlaki as against the US, sympathetic towards his side of the cat and mouse game. I also apologized in advance in case I'd misread you. You're still being cagey about what you feel.

What is your position, exactly? Do you think he is a completely innocent man? Do you wish he was still alive? It sure looks like you're saying that he was perfectly justified in going to Yemen, doing whatever he was doing, and arming himself against US capture. That looks a lot like sympathy. I think it's fair to say that you are not sympathetic to the US in this case, right?
posted by msalt at 12:43 PM on October 7, 2011


Computer Virus Hits U.S. Drone Fleet

Fascinating, thanks. That's the future of warfare, all wrapped up in a ball right there.
posted by msalt at 12:47 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


> I think it's fair to say that you are not sympathetic to the US in this case, right?

That's an unfair reading though. I don't think furiousxgeorge or anyone else arguing against the strike on Al-Awlaki are sympathetic towards the man or are anti-US per se. People are against this precedent, the bending and subversion of the rule of law, and the apparent autocracy that the current administration is pursuing. It's a vast oversimplification to say that that means they are sympathetic to Awlaki. We're going in circles here, though.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:51 PM on October 7, 2011


You're wrong. Nothing like Bush era rhetoric. I said that you appeared to be rooting for Awlaki as against the US

It's almost as if not being with the US means I'm against them...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:52 PM on October 7, 2011


We have been over his so called "fleeing" of the system. He left after a case against him was dropped. This has been explained to you already. You don't make your case better by going back to the inaccurate rhetoric. The United States said it was going to kill him, an innocent man would hide and get protection. An innocent man would do the exact same thing as a guilty man in that situation, protect themselves.

The US said it would kill him only 8 years after he fled, after he admitted coaching terrorists while they planned attacks, after multiple convictions in Yemen for plotting al Qaeda attacks there in subsequent years. It's disingenuous for you to make it sound like he was fleeing a US death threat in October 2002 when he left.

When he fled, there were no threats. The US had dropped its case against him, as you note, and courts protected him. How is my "rhetoric" inaccurate, then?
posted by msalt at 12:58 PM on October 7, 2011


Fled indicates he was fleeing charges. No, he just left like any citizen can legally do.

The United States said it was going to kill him, an innocent man would hide and get protection. An innocent man would do the exact same thing as a guilty man in that situation, protect themselves.

This was in regards to the later death threat and your assertion that protecting oneself from such a threat implies guilt. But surely an innocent man who had faced repeated failed attempts at prosecution and accusations of massive crimes against humanity would want to leave for fear of more false prosecution.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:07 PM on October 7, 2011


And again, I'm not exactly impressed with a Yemeni conviction.

There are arbitrary arrests of citizens, especially in the south, as well as arbitrary searches of homes. Prolonged pretrial detention is a serious problem, and judicial corruption, inefficiency, and executive interference undermine due process. Freedom of speech, the press and religion are all restricted.[1]
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:10 PM on October 7, 2011


>>I think it's fair to say that you are not sympathetic to the US in this case, right?
>That's an unfair reading though.


Well, I've preemptively apologized if I'm wrong, twice now. Count this as 3. I've also not complained about many people calling me pro-Bush, pro-torture, and pro-arbitrary execution, as offensive and wrong as all that is. I suppose the matter of sympathy is a red herring anyway, so I withdraw it.

I still think it is a fundamental contradiction to say that you support the rule of law, so the US couldn't respond to what it sees as outlaw attacks without court proceedings, but then justify the actions of someone like Awlaki who dodges the legal system, repudiates it, vows not to be arrested, arms himself and surrounds himself with armed supporters.

That is not adherence to the rule of law, and it's not what an innocent man would do. Supporting those actions as justified undermines the very legal system you are claiming to defend.
posted by msalt at 1:33 PM on October 7, 2011


Again, his dodge was leaving when all charges against him were dropped. By the time the new allegations were made public the US had decided to dodge and repudiate it's own laws and torture people or hold them without charge in a prison in Cuba. That is not adherence to the rule of law, and you can't assign guilt to someone because they won't turn themselves over to it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:45 PM on October 7, 2011


I agree with you that the Bush Administration undercut the authority of the US legal system, and of the US in the international legal system. However, by the time the new allegations were made (by the time the new attacks occurred in the first place), the Bush Administration had left office.

The Obama administration has not fulfilled all of my wish list for restoring legal rights, but they did stop torture, stop rendition, and stop sending people to Guantanamo. They were stopped in shutting down Guantanamo only by fierce congressional opposition.

You can't have it both ways. If Awlaki mistrusted our legal safeguards to the point where he preferred to live as an outlaw, then you can't criticize the US government for treating him like an outlaw. If he wanted to rely on our legal safeguards, he needed to submit himself to our legal system. Armed resistance to law enforcement is not a valid choice under rule of law, even if you mistrust the authorities.

I have no doubt Yemen's legal system is worse than ours, but Awlaki chose to move there, and committed his crimes there, where he's also a citizen. Again, his choice.
posted by msalt at 2:03 PM on October 7, 2011


I agree with you that the Bush Administration undercut the authority of the US legal system, and of the US in the international legal system. However, by the time the new allegations were made (by the time the new attacks occurred in the first place), the Bush Administration had left office.

Tough, sins aren't wiped away that easily. We have not resolved the legal limbo situation for terror suspects, just because we are holding the new suspects elsewhere doesn't wipe away the issues with Guantanamo. More importantly we know that Republican candidates have differing views on these issues and there does not appear to be any legal avenue to stop a President from ordering a resumption of more Bush style policies. Any reasonable innocent man attempting to turn himself in would have to keep these issues in mind.

You can't have it both ways. If Awlaki mistrusted our legal safeguards to the point where he preferred to live as an outlaw, then you can't criticize the US government for treating him like an outlaw.

I sure can, when the US itself is acting like an outlaw in their legal process with terror suspects. It was not his choice to create the torture and indefinite confinement policies. A reasonable innocent man would prefer an outlaw life to risking US custody.

I have no doubt Yemen's legal system is worse than ours

Agreed, which is why I do not consider them a valid court to be deciding who the United States should be killing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:15 PM on October 7, 2011


I am against the current process by which we are putting American citizens on a kill list. And I do not understand one bit how anyone can be comfortable with it.

I don't care if Anwar was a bad man, it just doesn't matter. There have been horrific people in America like Jeffrey Dahmer, Timothy Mcveigh, Ted Kaczynski, but guess what, they got their day in court.

How can anyone be ok with mid-level security bureaucrats deciding who to tell the CIA to kill? This is what we know, from Reuters:
They said targeting recommendations are drawn up by a committee of mid-level National Security Council and agency officials. Their recommendations are then sent to the panel of NSC "principals," meaning Cabinet secretaries and intelligence unit chiefs, for approval. The panel of principals could have different memberships when considering different operational issues, they said.

... Several officials said that when Awlaki became the first American put on the target list, Obama was not required personally to approve the targeting of a person. But one official said Obama would be notified of the principals' decision. If he objected, the decision would be nullified, the official said.

A former official said one of the reasons for making senior officials principally responsible for nominating Americans for the target list was to "protect" the president.
This is outrageous. Again, how can anyone be OK with this process?

Honestly, how dare anyone defend it, those who do are vile, evil, and hate the ideals of law and justice.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:45 PM on October 7, 2011


So, if Awlaki was only a Yemeni citizen, this would have been OK. (like Osama Bin Laden)
If the Yemeni government had killed him -- with a drone purchased from the US -- it would have been OK.
If the US had invaded Yemen with a thousand troops, killing dozens or hundreds of innocent Yemenis in an attempt to arrest Awlaki, it would have been OK (whether he died or not).

But a precise drone strike that found and killed 2 fugitive al Qaeda members, in a joint operation with the Yemeni government that convicted Awlaki and sentenced him to death, is a horrible outrage? I don't see it.
posted by msalt at 3:19 PM on October 7, 2011


msalt, who are you grandstanding for? Again, are you okay with the process that put Anwar onto a kill list?
posted by Shit Parade at 3:27 PM on October 7, 2011


So, if Awlaki was only a Yemeni citizen, this would have been OK. (like Osama Bin Laden)

I would have preferred a capture attempt because it tends to have less of a risk of collateral damage than a bomb from above and there can be intelligence benefits, but yes I would be fine with it.

If the Yemeni government had killed him -- with a drone purchased from the US -- it would have been OK.

I would see no legal issues for the US over this.

If the US had invaded Yemen with a thousand troops, killing dozens or hundreds of innocent Yemenis in an attempt to arrest Awlaki, it would have been OK (whether he died or not).

I would not support an invasion of Yemen.

But a precise drone strike that found and killed 2 fugitive al Qaeda members, in a joint operation with the Yemeni government that convicted Awlaki and sentenced him to death, is a horrible outrage? I don't see it.

The drone strike found them? No, human intelligence found them. Once they were under surveillance for three weeks a capture attempt would be the way to proceed even if the drone method is easier.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:28 PM on October 7, 2011


furiousxgeorge -- fair enough. I happen to think that an invading force was the only practical way to arrest him, and agree that it was not a reasonable choice, but I can understand how you see it differently. Like I've said, I would have much preferred a trial in absentia.

shit parade:
how dare anyone defend it, those who do are vile, evil, and hate the ideals of law and justice....
msalt, who are you grandstanding for?


funny
posted by msalt at 3:45 PM on October 7, 2011


At some point you just stop even trying to give the veneer of civility, some point of views are so disgusting that to engage in discourse would be give it some level of legitimacy.

Go on and ignore the question msalt, continue to make jokes and snide remarks. I had often wondered how oppressive regimes can continue despite the atrocities they commit.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:08 PM on October 7, 2011


Which question? Do I love the process?

No, I don't. I just said in the previous comment that I would prefer trial in absentia before anything like this. Thought you saw the connection, sorry.

I realize it's a long thread. I said earlier that this is a new situation -- I don't think anyone has been able to launch attacks from a foreign, lawless haven and reach a country until just recently. Maybe pirate raids. Vikings? Nor could a country strike back. Anyway, I think the UN or somebody needs to work out a legal framework to handle the new situation, something like the Geneva conventions.

The question is, what do you do in the meantime? I don't think the US is obliged to sit back and passively watch attacks. And I think this was a basically reasonable use of discretion, aside from my preference for a trial in absentia. And I think a drone strike is better than the large invading force that would be required to arrest there or in Waziristan. Dead bystanders are a problem as big as legal procedure in my view.
posted by msalt at 4:20 PM on October 7, 2011


At some point you just stop even trying to give the veneer of civility, some point of views are so disgusting that to engage in discourse would be give it some level of legitimacy.

You are the rooster defending the butcher. Keep crowing about the rules of the hen house.
posted by humanfont at 4:34 PM on October 7, 2011


To me is just seems to be some of the poorest metafiltering I have seen
posted by rosswald at 4:36 PM on October 7, 2011


It's more like the rooster trying to decide between two different butchers.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:17 PM on October 7, 2011


At some point you just stop even trying to give the veneer of civility, some point of views are so disgusting that to engage in discourse would be give it some level of legitimacy.

For many people, civility is not a veneer. Here's a nice Shins song for you.
posted by msalt at 10:26 AM on October 8, 2011


NYT: Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen

The legal analysis, in essence, concluded that Mr. Awlaki could be legally killed, if it was not feasible to capture him, because intelligence agencies said he was taking part in the war between the United States and Al Qaeda and posed a significant threat to Americans, as well as because Yemeni authorities were unable or unwilling to stop him.
...
The memo, however, was narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr. Awlaki’s case and did not establish a broad new legal doctrine to permit the targeted killing of any Americans believed to pose a terrorist threat.

posted by msalt at 9:54 PM on October 8, 2011


more...
It also cited several other Supreme Court precedents, like a 2007 case involving a high-speed chase and a 1985 case involving the shooting of a fleeing suspect, finding that it was constitutional for the police to take actions that put a suspect in serious risk of death in order to curtail an imminent risk to innocent people.
...
The memorandum is said to declare that in the case of a [target who is a] citizen, it is legally required to capture the militant if feasible...

posted by msalt at 10:05 PM on October 8, 2011


Enjoy the crumbs as they fall from the master's table.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:39 AM on October 9, 2011


They should release the memo.
posted by humanfont at 5:14 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


And what will you do if they don't?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:39 PM on October 9, 2011


Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman on Human Rights Abuses Enabled by 'War on Terror'
posted by homunculus at 11:06 AM on October 10, 2011


The real danger from classified leaks
posted by homunculus at 11:46 AM on October 10, 2011


Al Qaeda confirms the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. Is that enough evidence that he was an active member, for those who demanded proof earlier?
Oh yeah, and it turns out the US doesn't allow trial in absentia, so that wasn't an option either.
posted by msalt at 9:41 PM on October 10, 2011


I believe what we demanded was a trial.

Oh yeah, and it turns out the US doesn't allow trial in absentia, so that wasn't an option either.

Yeah, we know, but if you can loophole your way into executing him you can loophole into the trial in absentia.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:25 PM on October 10, 2011


@msalt That's a disturbing thought process you've got there.

"Hmmm, the USA doesn't allow trials in absentia so we'll just kill this guy with no trail!"

I'm pretty sure the law in USA also doesn't allow for the execution of people without a trial, but you seem strangely at ease about that. The government said he was guilty and that's enough for you, no need for evidence, or trials or anything else, you'll just take the President's word for it.

I would hope you can understand why those of us who are objecting might want a bit more than the word of a politician before people are executed?

Why we might see this as a dangerous precedent to establish? You say you're OK trusting Obama's word when Obama says he wants to kill someone but won't give us any evidence that the person is actually guilty of anything. Will you be so sanguine when it's President Perry saying he wants to kill people and won't show us any evidence of wrongdoing?

I've asked several times before and you never have actually answered that. It appears that your lack of concern is rooted in a trust of Obama to do the right thing. But Obama won't be president forever. He might not be president after 2012. But the power you're so depressingly willing to grant Obama won't vanish.

What procedures exist to limit that power? What specific mechanisms can you point to that will prevent the abuse of that power by presidents you don't trust so much?

This is not, to me, about whether or not Awlaki was personally innocent, guilty, nice, or evil. It's about the dangers of allowing the President unilateral powers to kill **ANYONE** regardless of whether the person in question is a bad person or not.

Can you understand, at least a little, how those of us who are worried might have some legitimate grounds for being worried? Generally the sort of places where the executive can simply order citizens to be killed without bothering with trials or evidence are pretty bad places to live.
posted by sotonohito at 5:20 AM on October 11, 2011


Not really sure why you are restating your same comment over and over.
posted by rosswald at 6:08 AM on October 11, 2011


Because I've never gotten an answer and I'd really like an answer.

The defenders of Obama are simply saying that Awlaki was a bad man, as if that somehow answers the question.

msalt in particular has gone out of his way to paint the situation as being both too new and too urgent to deal with in any manner other than simply letting the President kill someone on a whim.

But that doesn't address the core question of what specific mechanisms exist that make him, you, and the other defenders of Obama's decision to simply kill someone out of hand sure that this power won't be expanded and abused.

Not one single person defending this action has addressed the question I've asked. I'm beginning to suspect it's because you don't have a good answer.
posted by sotonohito at 6:29 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen - NYT Link
posted by rosswald at 7:24 AM on October 11, 2011


letting the President kill someone on a whim
...
to simply kill someone out of hand


People including myself have tried to explain our opinions (in the face of being called war criminals and collaborators), and your language is so loaded as to make it not really a question but a statement of your opinion.
posted by rosswald at 7:33 AM on October 11, 2011


Ok, and?

A secret memo, that no one has actually seen so it's all speculation and trusting the government sources not to be lying about the contents of the secret memo, authorized the killing.

BFD.

Bush got his attorney general to give him a secret memo authorizing torture. Secret memos don't really look like a good way to protect civil liberties and prevent abuse by the executive branch.

Per the New York Times (the newspaper of record that was so gung ho about the war in Iraq, thinks Wikileaks is evil incarnate, etc) the secret memo (that no one has actually seen and that only people hidden by anonymity will even discuss) made the case limited.

I'm supposed to believe that and be ok with that and feel secure that the secret memo will somehow stop abuse and expansion of this new and unprecedented power?

I also note that the secret memo dates to 2010, but Awlaki was put on the kill list in 2009. I'm not really seeing the secret memo establishing a mechanism that will prevent wider killings.

So, again: the US president has now claimed the power to kill American citizens on his own whim based on whether he personally thinks they're terrorists. What specific mechanism exists to prevent this new and terrible power from being abused and expanded on? What process exists to present the evidence for the need of such killings to a non-Executive controlled office where that evidence can be evaluated in a transparent manner that will assure the citizenry that the Executive is not acting improperly?

Secret memos saying that it's perfectly fine for Obama to kill someone don't really answer my question.

Unless, of course, you meant "sorry sotonohito, there is no mechanism I just trust the President to do what's right and therefore feel no need to worry about this power ever expanding or being abused."

As for my language, I don't see any problem.

On a whim seems to describe it perfectly. Obama thought maybe Awlaki was bad and needed to be killed so he ordered it done and then post-facto ordered his lawyers to justify his decision. That looks like killing someone out of hand to me.

Where is the process? Where is the mechanism to prevent abuse and expansion of this power?
posted by sotonohito at 7:36 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obama thought maybe Awlaki was bad and needed to be killed so he ordered it done and then post-facto ordered his lawyers to justify his decision

The memorandum, which was written more than a year before Mr. Awlaki was killed...

So the article you "read" directly contradicts your statements.
posted by rosswald at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2011


Sorry, didn't mean to sound rabid there.

I keep focusing on process because I don't trust people with things like this. I don't trust **ME** to have the power to simply order someone killed, and I trust every other human less than I trust myself.

Powers given to the Executive seem to grow and expand. So yes, today we've got two dead (one not even targeted, just "collateral damage") and at least the targeted person vaguely seemed to be a bad man. But I see no reason to trust that it will stop there.

Perhaps Obama will stop it there. Perhaps.

But even if I were to agree that Obama is a person who can be trusted not to abuse the power of killing American citizens without a trial or any need to show evidence (and I don't), I do not trust the unknown people who will come after him.

Which is why I keep focusing on process, legal mechanisms, etc. We've got a pretty good process for giving the government permission to kill people right now. Not perfect, and frankly those imperfections are such that I'd rather simply deny the government the right to kill people at all, but if we must have the government kill people at the very least we should go through the process.

Right now, per the NYT article the "process" seems to be that the President simply decides he wants someone dead, possibly for good reasons possibly not and we have no idea because no evidence is ever presented in a public and transparent manner, and after deciding he wants to have someone killed he gets his lawyers to justify it in a secret memo that none of us plebes are even permitted to see.

That's not a process I can trust because it doesn't look like a process at all. Executive branch lawyers and other Executive branch functionaries authorizing their employer to do what he wants to? Further that isn't a process that has any checks on the power or any mechanism for preventing it from growing.

"So the article you "read" directly contradicts your statements."

Nope. It says that the decision to kill Awlaki was made in 2009, and the secret memo that no one has ever seen was written in 2010.

So again: What is the process that exists to prevent this new and unprecedented power from being abused? What mechanisms controlling this exist that will stop future presidents from expanding their new found power to simply have people killed without ever justifying that decision to anyone not in their employ?

So far there doesn't seem to be one, and that's why I'm so upset and worried.
posted by sotonohito at 8:04 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am assuming you mean this:

Several news reports before June 2010 quoted anonymous counterterrorism officials as saying that Mr. Awlaki had been placed on a kill-or-capture list around the time of the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009.

Also:

But the document that laid out the administration’s justification — a roughly 50-page memorandum by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, completed around June 2010

So the goal was kill-or-capture in Dec. 2009. Within 6 mos. of him being on the list, the memo was completed.

The assumption being that the "underwear bomber" said something upon capture that made ignoring Awlaki impossible.

A lot of people seem to think that whatever it was that the UB said/evidence re: Awlaki is going to come out in court:

'Underwear Bomber' Trial May Shed Light On Awlaki - NPR link
posted by rosswald at 8:15 AM on October 11, 2011


@rosswald Ok, and? You've posted a lot of random speculation and anonymous Executive branch officials but no facts or anything solid.

Again, is there a process in place that is not under Executive control that will publicly and transparently evaluate evidence to determine whether or not the person the President wants to kill is actually guilty of anything?

If not, why are you so confident that a memo so secret you aren't even permitted to see it will protect your civil liberties and prevent future abuses of the powers you endorse the executive having?

This is an easy question, but you're being very evasive and refusing to answer it.
posted by sotonohito at 8:25 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


sotonohito and furiousxgeorge and shit parade et. al, we're all just people arguing on the Internet about a complicated topic, OK?

We're not judges or leaders or persecuted champions of truth and light or avatars of evil. We're just people blabbing on line, nothing we say here is going to fix or ruin the world, so would you please consider toning down the harsh personal attacks and forecasts of doom? Thanks so very much.
posted by msalt at 8:34 AM on October 11, 2011


Most likely, agreeing to disagree would be the thing to do at this point. Both sides have been instructive in reasons and rationale, and continuing to go in circles will probably only create more negative feedback.

And we all know those supporting this assasination are wrong. No takebacks!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:37 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


None of this is an easy question.

Presidents always have had the power to launch a military attack (not a war, but acts of war) without anyone approving. They can kill people, with no trial. Period.

Of course it can be abused. It often has been, by Presidents of both parties. What stops people from doing so? Not getting reelected. The threat of impeachment. Clearcut laws by Congress. Court decisions. Legal procedures.

None of these are invincible. Including trials. I suspect those upset about this attack generally support the Innocence Project and are fully aware how much racism, lack of effective defense, grandstanding DAs, judges up for reelection, and politicized appellate judges distort the truth-judging value of trials.

So the high horse here about we must have trials, nothing is true unless a trial says it's so, etc. etc. rings false to my ears. And hyperventilating that, next thing you know, a drone will take out Noam Chomsky on the streets of Cambridge, is just silly. IMHO.

ok, NOW stop.
posted by msalt at 8:46 AM on October 11, 2011


it feels petty but i want the last word in this thread, and I will probably thread sit to make it happen. Why? Because defending the killing of an American without due process is wrong.

simple as that, it is wrong.

the whole at war argument falls apart for me because war doesn't mean we forget who we are or what we value. How is it that in fighting our enemies we become no better -- indeed if you measure the great height we have fallen we are worse than our enemies.

secret memos authorized torture, and guess what, there wasn't any separation of powers, no due process, it took investigative journalism and whistle blowers to uncover, now you trust the same process to handle matters of life and death? unreal, just super unreal, it is like i am hearing someone argue that lynching blacks isn't unreasonable in times of crisis, or raping virgins might be a way to cure aids, or we gotta burn us some witches or whatever other horrendous evil is happening because you got yourselves some argument to make it ok.

it isn't ok, it is wrong, killing americans (anyone really) without the rule of law is wrong, allowing our highest office to do it is utterly wrong, arguing it is ok is unbelievably wrong.
posted by Shit Parade at 11:36 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


@Shit Parade While I agree with your position, and even agree that at a point politeness is either unwarranted or a form of acquiescence, I think you've been more obnoxious than is actually called for in this thread. I understand and I'm sure the same could be said of me too.

But if we can't convince our erstwhile allies with the arguments we've mustered than it's self evident that our arguments are either flawed or they simply will not have their minds changed at this point. If the former we need better arguments, I'm trying to come up with some but so far failing. If the latter no amount of argument is really productive and we'll have to wait until things get worse before they will become convinced. Which isn't a happy thought at all.
posted by sotonohito at 1:20 PM on October 11, 2011


do you argue with someone who defends war crimes and war criminals? at some point, engaging in argument is implicitly giving them legitimacy, that their point of view is worth engaging with in debate.

Vile hate speech, genocide, pedophiles, etc, there are certain things I will no longer argue over with someone, it seems less than academic, it is sickening -- and someone who would argue that genocide can be acceptable at times would be placed in the same category as someone arguing that it is acceptable for democracies to kill their own citizens without the rule of law. I'm drawing a line. I'm saying no. I am refusing to qualify my statement or make it conditional, to do so would be to equivocate and therefore lessen what it means for something to be wrong.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:41 PM on October 11, 2011


Okay, here's the final score.

One side says it was a legitimate hit based on news reports about the process of creation and some of the contents of a secret memo that was created to justify it and the administration looked really hard at the law before deciding it was legit. The people in the administration who crafted the rationale did so with honorable intentions.

The other side says we don't know if it was or wasn't legit, because we haven't the transparency to know that. It wasn't killing in the heat of battle, it was an assassination by remote control. We don't know if those involved acted with honorable intentions. Therefor, it's important to set up a transparent process to deal with such situations.

That about right?

It seems to me that both sides would agree that a more transparent process would not hurt: a trial if at all possible, but if not, at least judicial review, with someone playing devil's advocate.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:31 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


would you please consider toning down the harsh personal attacks and forecasts of doom? Thanks so very much.

But how else will I express my extreme anti-americanism and sympathy for al Awlaki?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:37 PM on October 11, 2011


I've already apologized thrice for going there, but to be clear -- my point was not "you're with us or with them," but more about an instinctive rooting for the underdog and against massive governmental power, something I'm prone to as well. There has been a lot of conflation of Obama and Bush, which I think is absurd, as much as Obama may have disappointed anyone's hopes for massive repudiation of the War on Terror.

I still have seen no attempt at a solution to the problem of people launching attacks from sanctuaries where we are not able to arrest someone. Arresting someone in a foreign land is always difficult at best, and steady advances in drone technology mean that, even if you deny that Awlaki was launching attacks, someone will be able to do so within a few years.

So what's your solution? Invasion, in order to arrest, or let the attacks continue? The self-righteous positions of shit parade, sotonohito, etc. don't seem to allow any other options.
posted by msalt at 12:58 AM on October 12, 2011


Put it another way; under the Shit Parade doctrine, citizens are allowed to launch attacks on the US indefinitely, until we can arrest them. No matter how deadly. And there is no force we can use to stop them.

Do you really think that's a viable principle of self-defense? Don't you think terrorists will just focus all their efforts on recruiting citizens in order to take advantage of this loophole?
posted by msalt at 1:01 AM on October 12, 2011


Put it another way; under the Shit Parade doctrine, citizens are allowed to launch attacks on the US indefinitely, until we can arrest them.

The wonderful irony of this statement and the entire authoritarian viewpoint is that there is one clear party here that launched attacks on US citizens from an unreachable remote location. And the other party was making shitty Youtube videos and "inspiring" hare-brained attacks.

Put it another way, under the msalt doctrine, the US is allowed to launch attacks on citizens indefinitely, until, what?
posted by formless at 1:18 AM on October 12, 2011


I have no doctrine, have made no sweeping rules or generalizations. I've said it's a tough situation and edge case, all along.

Like Mental Wimp said, more transparency and some kind of judicial review would be great. The NYT has an editorial up suggesting something like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Sounds like a good plan.

What's your suggestion, formless? Invasion, or let attacks continue?
posted by msalt at 3:59 AM on October 12, 2011


@msalt I'm still not understanding why you're insisting that our only realistic option is to simply take the government's word for it that someone needs to be killed. That level of utter trust in one person is simply alien to me.

We don't know that Awlaki was attacking the USA in any meaningful sense. All we know, really know, is that he made youtube videos. That's it. EVERYTHING else is based on government "leaks" and claims.

The government has not ever presented its evidence indicating that Awlaki was anything but a jackass.

Heck, the memo claiming it was legal to kill Awlaki is still secret, meaning that the USA has secret laws and we don't even know what the law is. What actions will permit the President to simply declare you to be an enemy and have you assassinated? We don't know because the government won't even tell us what the law is.

The government says that Awlaki broke a law that we're not permitted to know the contents of, and the evidence that he broke the secret law we aren't permitted to know about is also secret. We're supposed to just take the word of the government that Awlaki was really bad and needed to be killed.

And, again, you could argue that perhaps he really was bad and really did need to be killed. But will the next victim of our secret laws and secret evidence be so bad? Or the next? Or the next?

You keep bringing up fantasy scenarios. What if, you say, what if there was a US citizen who was launching attacks [1] from a foreign safe haven, surely then I'd have to agree that the government should simply kill him, right?

To me that sounds very similar to the pro-torture arguments that conservatives like to bring up. What if, they say, there was a nuke set to go off in just one hour in a major American city, surely then I'd agree we ought to torture the shit out of someone, right?

I'm not very interested in fantasy scenarios to try and justify a reality that doesn't match the fantasy.

I am interested in the risks posed by enacting policies that empower a single person to make life and death decisions without any oversight. We know from history that powers of that nature tend to grow and expand, no fantasy needed.

More to the point, yeah I see no problem with actually obeying the laws that protect our liberty and are in place to minimize the risk of autocrats doing bad things.

That was one of my original points. One of the purposes of laws protecting civil liberties is to direct and limit law enforcement. If prosecuting a crime it isn't worth the time and trouble to do all the things required by the laws protecting civil liberties than that "crime" is probably so pointless there's no point in prosecuting it.

If there were some fantasy supervillain type out there launching real attacks there would be no trouble assigning the necessary resources to make an attempt at arrest. Such a person would represent a real threat and therefore it'd be worth expending those resources to stop him.

To my mind the fact that it might take a lot of time, money, lives, etc is a benefit of such laws. It assures us that only the real cases will be pursued. Therefore I have some assurance that the government won't be doing such things simply to remove annoyances or to quash legitimate exercises in free speech, or what have you.

Launching a drone or even just sending out a sniper team is, by comparison, easy and cheap. If we give the government that power (especially if we give it the power to cloak those actions in secrecy and to refuse to ever offer evidence of wrongdoing) then by making it so much easier we drastically increase the chance that the power will be abused.

Your argument that simply killing Awlaki was a lot easier and cheaper than a proper arrest attempt is, to me, an argument for why we shouldn't have done it.

Furthermore, while I do understand that you'd prefer a less secret method, by accepting the government's position that it was ok for them to kill Awlaki without ever showing us evidence (and even without showing us the law that permitted the killing, a truly Orwellian situation if you think about it), then the government won't change.

We only get as much openness as we force the government to provide. By accepting Obama's authority to kill Awlaki on secret evidence, even though you'd prefer to have public evidence and a transparent process, you've given the government no reason to have that public evidence and transparent process. The government won't simply choose, out of the goodness of its heart, to start incurring the expense and possibility of embarrassing powerful people by being shown publicly to be wrong, without being forced to. Since you aren't willing to object to this killing and exercise what little political power we have as citizens to force future openness you and the majority who agrees with you has basically guaranteed that there won't be any future openness. Though you say you'd prefer some sort of court, your willingness to accept killings without that court guarantees it will never exist.

For me? I do say invasion. If the "attacks" are truly dangerous than the cost of invasion is justified. If the "attacks" aren't truly dangerous than it isn't. See, a nice and easy filter to help us assure that the government isn't simply silencing critics or being otherwise bad. Really it's something of a self enforcing rule, like the "I cut, you choose" approach to dividing things. The cost, in money, lives, and political considerations, of invasion is sufficient to assure us that the government won't be doing it casually. While the cost of assassinating someone with a drone or sniper team isn't sufficiently high to offer any similar assurance.

[1] I presume you mean real attacks, not simply youtube videos.
posted by sotonohito at 4:08 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


tl;dr but thanks for the answer at the end. I'm concerned about due process, but I'm also concerned with killing hundreds of innocent people in an attempt to arrest one guy. So are foreign governments, so very few would allow that.

Awlaki himself has said publicly that he corresponded with the Ft. Hood shooter, Admatullab and others during their planning stages, Afterwards, he praised them, and called them his students. They confirmed these contacts, and the government reports intercepts of emails and phone calls that also confirm it. You think all of these people are simultaneously lying? Why? And suddenly, 2/3rds of terrorist plots against the US are from Yemen, after Awlaki's Dec. 2007 release from custody -- just a crazy coincidence?

Admatullab, who just pled guilty to his plot, yelled "Awlaki is alive" and "Osama Bin Laden is alive" in court. I don't know if, with his plea, the transcripts of interviews where reportedly described Awlaki's direct operational role will be released, but given that plea, and reporting by major news organizations, I don't see any reason to doubt those reports. Occam's razor.

What's your alternate theory for all these facts? Is Awlaki just some wacky kid blogging vids from Yemen? Why would Obama pursue him, then?
posted by msalt at 12:20 PM on October 12, 2011


today's NY Times editorial on killing an American without due-process

I don't know how anyone could think the options are 1) do nothing and 2) assassinate american anwar using secret process justified by secret laws/legal reasons.

There are plenty of alleged criminals who are on 'wanted' lists, who would be detained on sight, who might, in their rush to escape, be taken down and even killed in pursuit. We went after Osama in Pakistan, despite not having the blessing of their government and yet we couldn't go into Yemen where we often dock numerous navy vessels? And as for the "secret" memo that says if he can't be captured only then is it ok to kill -- who makes that choice? what guidelines are there to say if it is feasible or not? who outside the executive branch reviews that choice?

Petraeus, a leading world expert on counter-terrorist operations, writes that COIN requires boots on the ground -- that yes this is dangerous but necessary.

Link to short COIN pdf
posted by Shit Parade at 12:43 PM on October 12, 2011


@msalt Again, I'm not especially interested in whether or not Awlaki is innocent or guilty. To me that's a side issue. A potentially important side issue, but a side issue.

Even if I assumed, for the sake of argument, that Awlaki was 100% guilty of absolutely everything he has ever been accused of, I'm still not in agreement with the assassination.

My primary concern is and always has been the process, or rather lack thereof, and especially the worry that the non-process that was employed will establish a precedent that will be expanded and abused. Awlaki himself, guilty or not, is pretty much irrelevant to my objections.

As it happens the party responsible for major civil rights cases is often a scumbag. Rodney King, for example, was slime. So was Ernesto Arturo Miranda. Only very rarely do civil liberty cases get a nice Rosa Parks type person at their heart.

The only reason I bring up questions about his guilt is simply to underscore that the government has never actually made a case for killing Awlaki but rather has chosen the path of secrecy. Even the legal justification Obama has invoked for the killing is secret, we mere citizens are permitted to know about it only through "leaks" [1]. The very idea that the government has literal secret laws is terrifying to me, I don't comprehend how it can't be terrifying to you.

I think my argument about arrests is valid. If Awlaki is really the bad guy the government claims he is then the cost of arresting him is worth paying. If he isn't then that cost isn't worth paying. That cost helps assure us that the government isn't killing people for any but the best reasons.

As for the hurt feelings of nations sheltering criminals, that's part of the cost. If the bad guy is really that bad then it's worth that cost, if he's not then he isn't worth the cost.

Considering that most nations which would be sheltering such criminals are mostly run by evil dictators, I'm not that concerned about their hurt feelings anyway.

In fact, my main objection to US/Yemen relations is that the US government is coddling the dictator there. Better we piss him off than help him suppress the Arab Spring in his nation as we have been.

For me the heart of the matter is that Obama chose to do things in secret, without any transparency, without any oversight, without any possible way for us to really know what was going on. Obama simply demanded that we trust him with the power to kill citizens based purely on his own beliefs of their guilt.

To me, no matter who the victim and regardless of whether the victim was innocent or guilty of crimes against humanity, that's unacceptable.

Again, you say you'd like to see more transparency in such matters. But by not objecting to this killing you are assuring that there will never be transparency in these matters. This wasn't a split second decision based on an immanent threat, Awlaki had been on the kill list since 2009. From 2009 until late 2011 Obama could have made his case to the public, instead he chose the path of secret, autocratic, power.

Given that, and given the frightening acceptance of that behavior by even liberals, why should the government ever make the process more open?

By acquiescing now the majority has all but guaranteed that there will never be a more open process. Which is part of why I'm so shocked and angry at my fellow liberals for letting Obama get away with this.

*************

I'm going to venture into the realm of analogy for a moment. Serving warrants, right here in America, is not especially safe. It isn't the most dangerous thing a person can do by a long shot (police work isn't even in the top 10 most dangerous jobs in America), but it's a lot more dangerous than my job and likely more dangerous than yours as well.

A case could be made that serving warrants on scum who are obviously guilty is simply too dangerous. What will we say to the families of the dead cops, that the civil rights of criminals were more important than the lives of their loved ones? It could be argued that it would be better simply to kill those dangerous, evil, criminals rather than taking the risk of serving a warrant.

I don't think you'd agree with that course of action.

I'd further bet that the reason you wouldn't like that plan is because you aren't especially trusting of the government, that you (like me) know that even with trials mistakes are made and innocent people are convicted. You, like me, know that it is a very bad idea to give the government the ability to kill people without a transparent, public, process in place. That even with such a process things still go horribly wrong and you and I recoil from the thought of how often things would go wrong without that process. You might even be opposed to the death penalty on those grounds, as I am.

I'm a liberal. I'm a bleeding heart. I am not at all happy with the idea that my plan might well result in dead soldiers, bystanders, etc. But I think that's better than the alternative.

[1] Scare quotes because it's all but certain that the "leaks" were authorized by the Administration.
posted by sotonohito at 1:45 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


There has been a lot of conflation of Obama and Bush, which I think is absurd, as much as Obama may have disappointed anyone's hopes for massive repudiation of the War on Terror.

I don't think it's absurd. Could you highlight the important differences you see?

I still have seen no attempt at a solution to the problem of people launching attacks from sanctuaries where we are not able to arrest someone. Arresting someone in a foreign land is always difficult at best, and steady advances in drone technology mean that, even if you deny that Awlaki was launching attacks, someone will be able to do so within a few years.

Why would I need to propose a solution to something like that when I don't think it is the case? Why do you get to simultaneously mandate everyone else is talking in doctrines and you aren't?

So what's your solution? Invasion, in order to arrest, or let the attacks continue? The self-righteous positions of shit parade, sotonohito, etc. don't seem to allow any other options.


If we are in grave danger of attack and we are required to publicly make a case to prove it, we are still able to act after it is done.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:57 PM on October 12, 2011


Could you highlight the important differences you see?

Sure. Not sending prisoners to Guantanamo, trying to shut it down. Not doing renditions. Not torturing. No massive illegal electronic wiretapping program. Not invading countries like Iraq on false pretenses. Just off the top of my head. Do you really think there's no difference?

Why do you get to simultaneously mandate everyone else is talking in doctrines and you aren't?

Your loaded language aside, I'm not declaring any hard and fast rules. Many are saying no targeted killing of a citizen without trial, ever, period. That's a doctrine.
I'm saying, this one case is a weird edge case where (it appears) a citizen was launching attacks from a foreign sanctuary beyond arrest. You've said if he wasn't a citizen, no problem, if Yemen killed him, no problem. If he was working for a foreign government, or in war, there would no problem. A non-state terrorist group in a lawless sanctuary is a very particular and rare circumstance.
posted by msalt at 3:07 PM on October 12, 2011


Sure. Not sending prisoners to Guantanamo, trying to shut it down. Not doing renditions. Not torturing. No massive illegal electronic wiretapping program. Not invading countries like Iraq on false pretenses. Just off the top of my head. Do you really think there's no difference?

Not really, when we are still taking prisoners without charge and holding them indefinitely, defending the taps as legal, not jailing anyone for the torture, and dropping bombs on whole new countries.

Meanwhile, the secrecy state and military grows and none of us are really in a position to know what the hell is going on.

Your loaded language aside, I'm not declaring any hard and fast rules. Many are saying no targeted killing of a citizen without trial, ever, period. That's a doctrine.
I'm saying, this one case is a weird edge case where (it appears) a citizen was launching attacks from a foreign sanctuary beyond arrest. You've said if he wasn't a citizen, no problem, if Yemen killed him, no problem. If he was working for a foreign government, or in war, there would no problem. A non-state terrorist group in a lawless sanctuary is a very particular and rare circumstance.


All of us are talking about this one rare issue, you included. Your doctrine is that in this situation the general doctrine that says American citizens should always get trials is wrong and instead suggesting a doctrine in which all American citizens should not always get trials, even before execution.

I'd say you are suggesting the bigger change.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:32 PM on October 12, 2011


not jailing anyone for the torture--

Torturing someone, and not jailing anyone for a previous torture, exactly the same? Then Nelson Mandela is just as bad as all the apartheid leaders who imprisoned him. I don't buy it.

That's the kind of logic that got George W. Bush elected. Maybe Al Gore wouldn't have invaded Iraq, but he wouldn't have prosecuted anyone for Operation Desert Storm, so what's the difference? Vote Nader!
posted by msalt at 7:41 PM on October 12, 2011


Torturing someone, and not jailing anyone for a previous torture, exactly the same?

Close enough.

Then Nelson Mandela is just as bad as all the apartheid leaders who imprisoned him. I don't buy it.

Are you serious here or just trolling? Dude, if you can get Bush before a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to publicly request amnesty, I might consider that enough. That isn't what happened.

Maybe Al Gore wouldn't have invaded Iraq, but he wouldn't have prosecuted anyone for Operation Desert Storm

That is an awe-inspiringly bad metaphor.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:51 PM on October 12, 2011


You're moving the goalposts. Obama hasn't had a truth and reconciliation commission -- different situation -- but he has opened up a lot of sunlight, releasing the memos that justified Bush decisions, stopping abuses, etc.

Then again, you said Obama was no better because he was "dropping bombs on whole new countries." So, Bush's invasion of Iraq is equivalent to NATO's air support of the Libyan rebels? That's what sounds like trolling.
posted by msalt at 9:00 PM on October 12, 2011


Sunlight is not the same thing as accountability. Given the lack of sunlight on our detention facilities and our rendition policies I have no earthly clue how we are treating our prisoners.

Given the lack of a concern for any accountability I just can see the Obama position as much different in any important way.

So, Bush's invasion of Iraq is equivalent to NATO's air support of the Libyan rebels?

There are a wide variety of differences, one of which is that Bush got congressional authorization for his actions.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:16 PM on October 12, 2011


*can't
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:17 PM on October 12, 2011


I have no earthly clue how we are treating our prisoners.

But, but, I read our guards handle the prisoners' Korans with latex gloves. So the Christianity doesn't contaminate the book. Or the Islam doesn't contaminate the Christian. Or something.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:39 AM on October 13, 2011


>>So, Bush's invasion of Iraq is equivalent to NATO's air support of the Libyan rebels?
>There are a wide variety of differences, one of which is that Bush got congressional authorization for his actions.


So, Bush was BETTER? Now I know you're trolling. I'm done.
posted by msalt at 11:58 AM on October 13, 2011


Why? It's a fairly common point among those who are critical of the Obama foreign policy. I mentioned a wide variety of differences, one of which is that the Libyan campaign was far more competently carried out and limited. There are similarities too. Obama was more honest about his reasons but his reasons included one of the same justifications we used for Iraq, the leader is a bad man who kills his own people.

In the end though I feel military campaigns in the name of humanitarian efforts are extremely prone to blowback and civilian casualties so I don't really care which President is launching them or how exactly they are carried out because they are chaotic and things can go wrong no matter how well you handle them.

So there are ways in which Obama is better and ways in which he is worse. One of those ways he is worse is that he did not get congressional authorization. I would not want the next Republican president to feel too free to launch a limited bombing campaign in say...Iran...without serious congressional and public debate. I don't want the President to be able to involve our military in any country on the basis of their bad dictator killing people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:14 PM on October 13, 2011


but his reasons included one of the same justifications we used for Iraq, the leader is a bad man who kills his own people... I feel military campaigns in the name of humanitarian efforts are extremely prone to blowback and civilian casualties... I would not want the next Republican president to feel too free to launch a limited bombing campaign in say...Iran.

This may have already entered your consideration, but there's other rather large differences that remarkably enough seem to escape a large number of people, so I think they're worth bringing up:

We did not start hostilities in Libya. War between the population and said bad man was already well underway and in deadly earnest when we were asked (by neighbors and rebels) and decided to lend limited help to the population.

This is deeply significant in terms of both moral implications and practical considerations of blowback. We didn't bring war there, like we did in Iraq; it was there, and would be there whether we did anything or not. The moral calculus shifts away from whether or not there is a principle worth going to war for to whether there is an outcome worth backing for the war already in play. The politics of whether you're interfering where it wasn't called for go away too. Particularly when your role is limited and you're never the bulk and therefore the face of the enemy.

If a Republican were presiding over the executive branch in a parallel situation -- when a popular uprising happened in Iran and we had the capacity to make a significant difference largely by applying air and naval support in cooperation with other allies -- I doubt I'd blink.

I suppose there's always the argument that the US population doesn't generally capable of process distinctions on that fine a level, and so approval of Obama's action represents a carte blanche moral authority for the next Republican president to arbitrarily occupy Iran without any congressional or public discussion. And I guess I'd have to agree that a lot of the argumentation in this thread supports this point of view.

This kind of policy calculation is somewhat distinct from the legal argument over whether the specific Libyan actions required a congressional stamp or whether previous acts and case and constitutional law already covered them. Here my approval is less clear cut -- I see some credibility in the President's argument, but not complete support. But then again, I'm not sure that impulses to exercise unilateral executive power were the biggest obstacle to congressional participation. And I wonder why anybody who payed attention and could watch the House majority's position track opposition to whatever Obama seemed to be doing in real time thinks this was primarily his failure.

Still, like I respect measured concern about the Awlaki case, I respect concern about the law surrounding cases like Libya. What I don't think is worth respect is a direct comparison between Iraq and Libya. Also, anybody who wants principled clarification of this particular area should work towards revisiting the War Powers Act. Which (again, like the Awlaki case) is going to be harder than just deciding a given President sucks, but there you are.
posted by weston at 1:52 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Iraq justifications cited ongoing crimes against the people as well. You can say you would be okay with bombing Iran but what about during the Iranian Green Movement? Was that enough death to justify bombing? Do you want a George Bush deciding that when you know he will cynically use your urge to support humanitarian bombing against you?

Not me, let congress and the public have a chance to weigh in first, at the very, very least.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:45 PM on October 13, 2011


The Iraq justifications cited ongoing crimes against the people as well.

Well, yes, but those were, um, what do you call them? Oh, right, "lies".
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:24 AM on October 14, 2011


You can say you would be okay with bombing Iran but what about during the Iranian Green Movement?

I can understand that there might be points at which protest/riot vs dictator abuse are hard to distinguish from a full-out war of rebellion, but I don't think you'll earn your case much respect by arguing that 2009 events in Iran and events in Libya at the point where the US began to intervene serve as examples.

Do you want a George Bush deciding that when you know he will cynically use your urge to support humanitarian bombing against you?

If only there were some importance difference I had discussed in my earlier comment that could be used as one important yardstick, I might be able to escape from such cynical manipulation.
posted by weston at 10:48 PM on October 14, 2011


Deaths as Yemen forces fire on protesters: Reports of at least 12 dead and many more wounded as security forces use live ammunition against protesters in Sanaa.
posted by homunculus at 2:12 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seven al-Qaeda-linked militants, including the son of the US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, were killed in an American drone strike in southern Yemen on Friday night.
posted by homunculus at 4:29 PM on October 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was his son a U.S. citizen also?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:07 PM on October 18, 2011


Yes. And he was only 16 years old.

An American Teen-ager in Yemen
posted by homunculus at 9:13 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The killing of Awlaki’s 16-year-old son
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:15 AM on October 21, 2011


Note that the US government will not say whether or not Awlaki's son was the target of the drone attack, or merely "collateral damage" from an attack on a different target, or in fact comment in any way shape or form about the attack.

I seem to recall candidate Obama promising an open and transparent government, I note that as in so many things president Obama seems to have done the polar opposite of what candidate Obama promised.

Note that the Obama administration also lied about the kid's age, originally claiming he was 21. We're supposed to trust them with life and death decisions when they lie about things so easily verifiable?

I do wonder if the defenders of the lawless assassination of Awlaki will now rush to defend the assassination of his son?
posted by sotonohito at 7:05 AM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do wonder if the defenders of the lawless assassination of Awlaki will now rush to defend the assassination of his son?

Crickets so far.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:59 AM on October 21, 2011


The Iraq justifications cited ongoing crimes against the people as well.

Well, yes, but those were, um, what do you call them? Oh, right, "lies".


Not all, trust me, Saddam has no qualms with killing people. Had their been a protest movement he would have done exactly what Gaddafi did, he had done it before. He had secret police out there making sure it didn't happen again.

I can understand that there might be points at which protest/riot vs dictator abuse are hard to distinguish from a full-out war of rebellion, but I don't think you'll earn your case much respect by arguing that 2009 events in Iran and events in Libya at the point where the US began to intervene serve as examples.

The entire motivation for our involvement was protests being put down violently and people being killed in the process. I think you are attempting to completely deflect that into "It was already a war!" but that was not why we went in. Plenty of wars happen all the time, civilians die, we don't get involved.

Give me a solid metric for why and when it's okay to do the humanitarian bombing and it would be pretty easy to give a Republican an excuse to do pretty much anything so I can see why nobody actually wants to do that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:34 AM on October 21, 2011


Gadaffi was about to slaughter a city of 250,000 people. Furthermore, he is the only head of state who openly and repeatedly launched terrorist attacks targeted at civilians of other countries. He was still threatening more of those this summer. Also, the intervention involved no troops and had consensus backing of the international community, including the Arab League.

Very similar to Clinton's intervention in Kosovo. Neither that nor the Libyan bombing had support from, or offer any excuse to Republicans to do anything. Really, pick your battles. This was a major success.
posted by msalt at 11:05 AM on October 21, 2011


Gadaffi was about to slaughter a city of 250,000 people.

Yeah, and Saddam would have done the same if necessary, but it's never necessary. You kill the protestors until they stop protesting just like Iran did and just like Saddam did.

Furthermore, he is the only head of state who openly and repeatedly launched terrorist attacks targeted at civilians of other countries. He was still threatening more of those this summer.

And yet the US was cozying up the relationship over the past few years.

Also, the intervention involved no troops and had consensus backing of the international community, including the Arab League.

There was plenty of international support for Iraq too. Not full on, but enough to convince plenty of people it was enough. That's all they need from you, is the blueprint for how you will let them do there humanitarian bombings.

There were definitely US special forces on the ground and pilots in danger. It was definitely not a full on invasion, but as I've been trying to explain to you for this entire thread...there are plenty of ways to go after a problem between drone and invasion.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:14 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you are attempting to completely deflect that into "It was already a war!" but that was not why we went in.

Are you saying you really don't think the fact that there was an active civil war figured significantly in the decision to get involved? Is the chain of logic here really "Well, there are wars the US doesn't get involved in, and some it does, so therefore, whether there is a war must play no role in US decision making"?

For my part, I'm certainly not going to argue that was *the* reason (or even that there was one single reason). But I am indeed arguing that the fact there was an existing civil war -- not just clandestine resistance or protest -- vastly changes both the moral and political implications of getting into it, mitigating the problems of blowback and civilian casualties, and therefore figuring in as a significant factor, along with whatever other goals and interests are at hand.

Give me a solid metric for why and when it's okay to do the humanitarian bombing

"Don't bring war where there is not war" is a pretty good start for telling when it's not okay. Apparently better than "not without robust public debate and congressional authorization" if we're using Iraq as a case study.

There was plenty of international support for Iraq too.

If you're just counting numbers of countries participating, I suppose. The picture springs into quite a different relief if you consider how much of that was from involved direct and regional interests including neighbors, the Arab league, and not least significant internal forces laying credible practical and moral claims to the sovereign whole.
posted by weston at 2:33 PM on October 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Me: The Iraq justifications cited ongoing crimes against the people as well.

Well, yes, but those were, um, what do you call them? Oh, right, "lies".

furiouxgeorge: Not all, trust me, Saddam has no qualms with killing people. Had their been a protest movement he would have done exactly what Gaddafi did, he had done it before. He had secret police out there making sure it didn't happen again.


I fail to see how what you said demonstrates that the BushCo claims weren't lies. And, in fact, they were lies. Saddam was a bad man who had done a lot of bad things, but there was no ongoing slaughter to be interrupted at any time near the time the decision was made to invade Iraq.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:43 PM on October 21, 2011


Because there were no protests because they had already been gunned down and knew they would be again, I mean does it make you feel better that the enemies of the state were being killed in secret or under constant threat of death? That people were dying from starvation and disease instead of gunfire? Aside from the PR of it, what's the difference?

Are you saying you really don't think the fact that there was an active civil war figured significantly in the decision to get involved?

The explicit reason given to me was that we were intervening to protect civilians, not rebel fighters. I am aware the actual causes and nature of our involvement was entirely different, this is pretty much my point. All you need is the justification, it doesn't matter that Saddam killed people in a different way. Once you give President Palin her justification to protect civilians that is all she will need to do something having very little to do with civilians.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:11 PM on October 21, 2011


Maybe you guys could please knock off the derail and get back on topic. That being the assassination of American citizens by presidential decree. Furthermore they've now murdered a 16 year old American minor. I can't believe this isn't getting more media coverage...oh wait, yes I can.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:48 PM on October 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


U.S. airstrike that killed American teen in Yemen raises legal, ethical questions
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:43 AM on October 23, 2011


Awlaki family angered by U.S. silence
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:04 AM on October 27, 2011


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