A.G. Eric Holder Makes Constitutional Case For Anwar al-Awlaki Action

In the perfect world there would be no terrorism, or reasons that some thought they needed to resort to terrorism.

Obviously we do not live in a perfect world, but instead live in one where tough decisions must be made at times for the larger safety of society.  One of the most difficult, and controversial decisions arises over the legal justification for the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born radical Muslim cleric who died in an American drone strike last September.

While it would have been my desire to see the capture of al-Awlaki, with a trial on U.S. soil, as I have desired for many combatants who were engaged in terrorist acts, that was not to be.  There is no way that any credible government could have allowed for the continued deeds to be perpetrated by al-Awlaki, and not taken actions to stop it.  The killing of al-Awlaki may be bitter to consider, but what might the aftermath of his planned assaults on Americans or our allies tasted like?

Tough constitutional calls and moral dilemmas are a part of governing.  They always have been, and always will be.  Those same weighty issues are also ours to ponder and debate.

“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack,” Mr. Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school. “In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.”       

While Mr. Holder is not the first administration official to address the targeted killing of citizens — the Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, did so last month at Yale Law School, for example — it was notable for the nation’s top law enforcement official to declare that it is constitutional for the government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances. Mr. Holder’s remarks about the targeted killing of United States citizens were a centerpiece of a speech describing legal principles behind the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policies.       

“Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” Mr. Holder said. “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”  

9 thoughts on “A.G. Eric Holder Makes Constitutional Case For Anwar al-Awlaki Action

  1. Engaged in terrorist acts = death to you.
    That’s acting outside the normal human expectations right?
    A U.S. citizen or not the state has the duty to kill you, and you should expect to be eliminated from the human gene pool.

    I guess it’s OK, President Obama has sent an awful lot of unmanned drones out into ‘Indian country’ to hunt and kill expected terrorists of all Nationalities. Even sent in Seal Team 6 for one particular guy.

    So hear here Eric Holder, three cheers for ya.


  2. Solly

    and the state doesn’t even have to prove that you’re engaged in terrorist acts, they can just read it on Deke Rivers blog and that’s good enuf for them. Rules of evidence, what a quaint thought. This is more worthy of the waterboarding Shrub administration, not “Change we can believe in.”

    Eric Holder’s opinion is worthy of the same consideration as JB Von Hollen, what ever the boss wants, the boss gets, rule of law be damned.


  3. Solly,

    I have stated that this terrorist could have turned himself in and allowed the justice system to play out. Funny thing is al-Awaki wanted to hide out in Yemen. Strange place for an American to try and defend himself.

    I trust you are not also of the mind that 9/11 was a US plan. After all, our government stated bin Laden was responsible. There are those trying to spin that one too.

  4. Solly

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, the standard now is that if a citizen is SUSPECTED of something, it is THEIR responsibility to turn themselves in, and prove their INNOCENCE! I was under the mistaken impression that it is the GOVERNMENT’S responsibility to make the case, obtain custody under constitutional means, and then PROVE the defendant’s guilt, not the other way around. I guess torturing the defendant’s wife to provide testimony would be fair game now too, where do you want to stop? What else in the spirit of the Constitution and the Magna Carta Libertatum can we wipe our butts with? “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  5. How would one “obtain custody under constitutional means” of a terrorist in Yemen? Do we just touch base with thier justice department and have them assist with knocking on a door and asking him a few questions. Might there be a subpoena process that we undertake….what does one do in Yemen? Do we ask the one to be questioned to remove the suicide belt before or after it goes off……..

    While I very well understand what you are saying those bent on the destruction of this nation and our system of government do not play by the rules that our Founding Fathers constructed.

    Based on your comment then should I assume you think al-Awlaki was not involved in terrorism against this country?

  6. Any American citizen who willingly engages in terrorist’s acts, and has by preforming these acts from any location in the world, and maybe even bragged about it, I think has denuded himself of all Constitutional protections afforded to all citizens of these United States. And having achieved this status, defined as a ‘terrorist’, is now subject to the most sever punishment that can be brought against this individual.

    Solly; Our ‘Rules of Evidence’ have no bearing on non-citizens who have made themselves ‘Combatants’, additionally the notion that proof of guilt is required in the sense of any law court proceedings has no bearing. Terrorists or Combatants have no legal rights.

    Combatants are, by definition not associated with an organized army. They are not recognized in any army of a particular country, nor do they display a uniform of any country’s army. They are not sworn participants of that army propagated by a country and therefore do not fall under protections or any agreements discussed in The Geneva Convention dealing with prisoners of war. They are lone wolves free to be hunted and eliminated for the betterment of man kind.

    Craig skip Weis

  7. Solly

    Likewise, if China, Assad, Chavez or some other foreign country has a citizen here working against them, and they accuse them of being terrorists (as they are known to do), it’s Katy bar the door and they have license to take them out on the streets of Madison or Wash. D.C.

  8. Skip

    “How would one “obtain custody under constitutional means” of a terrorist in Yemen? Do we just touch base with thier justice department and have them assist with knocking on a door and asking him a few questions.”

    It seems that we managed to have Navy Seals confront bin Laden in person.

    “While I very well understand what you are saying those bent on the destruction of this nation and our system of government do not play by the rules that our Founding Fathers constructed.”

    For someone who has more than once decried the abrogation of the Rule of Law, it is ironic at the very least to see you doing the same here. I guess capriciousness is OK for you as long as it’s a Democratic president that exercises it.

    skip1930 wrote: “Any American citizen who willingly engages in terrorist’s acts…And having achieved this status, defined as a ‘terrorist’…”

    You see, that’s the whole point here. How does one become branded a terrorist? Should the Executive be able to do what it wants in secret or should there be a transparent process? I don’t trust Obama as far as I can throw him and will take the latter any day.

    That so many people are willing to invest such great and arbitrary power in a single man doesn’t bode well for this country. Perhaps some commenters here and the blogger can stop wrapping themselves in the flag and try to get this country to lead by example.

  9. Anyone can offer a reply to my questions….

    If anything the government–in this case the Obama Admin–has to say is suspect about who is a terrorist—than is it possible there are no terrorists at all?

    All this is just ginned up for larger (political) purposes?

    Was bin Ladin just an innocent guy seen in the wrong places at the wrong time?

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