Presidential Assassinations of American Citizens

Whenever I start to think that the Obama administration is essentially the same as a McCain administration would have been… our President decides to do something worse. Now the CIA has an official list of people targeted for assassination, with the name of at least one American citizen on it. It’s legal, they say, because President Obama OK’d it. Well alright, then.

Fake presidential kill order
Anwar al-Awlaki, U.S. citizen marked for death by order of President Obama

Glenn Greenwald:

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

…Here again, we see one of the principal and longest-lasting effects of the Obama presidency: to put a pretty, eloquent, progressive face on what (until quite recently) was ostensibly considered by a large segment of the citizenry to be tyrannical right-wing extremism

I hope it’s not really necessary to point out that the Constitution doesn’t allow the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen.

Although President Obama has so far offered no justification, some have argued that the U.S. government can legally kill Anwar al-Awlaki because of the September 18, 2001 AUMF. Spencer Ackerman points out that the mere accusation that al-Awlaki had something to do with the 9/11 attacks does not equal proof.

UPDATE: Right-wing blogger Connor Boyack:

Obama, like many tyrants before him, has taken it upon himself to disregard the clear laws of the land in order to be able to kill citizens of his own country. In doing so, he has modeled himself as supreme dictator—the man who, on his command alone, can end the life of a fellow countryman. This is a power not even King George could boast.

UPDATE: On HuffPo, Jason Linkins suggests that Dawn Johnsen’s 14-months as President Obama’s nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice may have come to an end due to Obama’s outrageous assassination order.

  1. #1 by Ken on April 8, 2010 - 4:08 pm

    Richard

    I am glad to see you are consistent in your condemnation. I notice there are no comments for this post except for mine. It looks like other liberals at Oneutah are willing to give Obama a pass on this one since it is their guy doing it.

  2. #2 by Richard Warnick on April 8, 2010 - 4:16 pm

    Ken–

    For my part, I am glad Glenn Greenwald, Keith Olbermann and the folks at FireDogLake are not afraid to criticize the President when he deserves it.

    Comments have been slow lately, I don’t know if you can draw any conclusions there.

  3. #3 by James Farmer on April 8, 2010 - 4:44 pm

    Ken:

    You, of all people, should be heaping praise on Obama – his actions are keeping you safe, right? Is that the correct take away from your comment? Or, are you, too, just as inconsistent and hypocritical as you imply the “other liberals” at 1U are? Kinda puts you between a rock and a hard place, eh?

    Me? I agree with Richard on this one.

  4. #4 by Larry Bergan on April 8, 2010 - 4:51 pm

    I’m with Richard also, Ken. You have been silent around here since your ACORN nonsense fell to pieces. Our side has exposed the New York Times as a cheap rag on the issue and have taken no hostages, so stop with the scolding please.

    “Climategate” has also been thrown on the trash heap of right wing madness.

  5. #5 by Uncle Rico on April 8, 2010 - 5:40 pm

    What James said Ken. Are you ready to tell us you’re applauding or will that get you tossed from Club Tea?

    As for me, I’m with Richard, James and Larry on this one. Bad Obama!

  6. #6 by Ken on April 8, 2010 - 9:08 pm

    What do you mean “ACORN” nonsense fell to pieces. Last I heard they were going out of business.

    You say “Bad Obama” but shouldn’t you really be saying “war criminal Obama?” or “International outlaw Obama?” That is what you would be saying about Bush.

  7. #7 by Mark Slater on April 8, 2010 - 10:17 pm

    Well, it would definitely be worth the wait to watch how the CIA actually manages to get their hands on these “people targeted for assassinations”. I am worried whether the US administration would comprehend another war like situation like they did in 2003 on Iraq “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction” in order to act on this. I am looking forward on how this takes shape.

  8. #8 by Richard Warnick on April 8, 2010 - 10:40 pm

    Ken–

    You may have missed my post last week about climate change. Care to comment?

    British Government Inquiry: Climate Data Not Manipulated

    Also, the California Attorney General proved O’Keefe misrepresented his ACORN video. It is interesting to note what was edited out of the original recordings.

    One ACORN worker in San Diego called the cops. Another ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney General’s report noted. At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, O’Keefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp, but in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp.

  9. #9 by glenn on April 9, 2010 - 1:47 am

    He is turning into quite a freak isn’t he Richard?

    Concerned yet?

    2010, and beyond is the cure for O boy a major ass. .

  10. #10 by glenn on April 9, 2010 - 1:52 am

    Climategate has wrought the reality of the Germans dumping AGW on the scrapheap, you guys are so behind the realities of reality.

    As for acorn, buh bye, now we see Obama the tyrant..

    I hate being right about these things…

  11. #11 by glenn on April 9, 2010 - 1:54 am

    Ever consider no one comments because 1U has marginalized itself by promoting total bullshit?

  12. #12 by glenn on April 9, 2010 - 1:57 am

  13. #13 by cav on April 9, 2010 - 8:13 am

    Yea, impeach Barrak and Joe!

    Go Nancy!

  14. #14 by Uncle Rico on April 9, 2010 - 9:01 am


    You say “Bad Obama” but shouldn’t you really be saying “war criminal Obama?” or “International outlaw Obama?” That is what you would be saying about Bush.

    Gee, I guess it really is true that conservatives have no sense of humor. Those rumors about them not enjoying sex must also be true (although curiously, they seem to engage in an awful lot of it).

    So what’s your take Kenny boy? You’ve posted twice now and said absolutely nothing about the actual subject of Richard’s post. Do you applaud Obama’s assassination order (Gasp!) or condemn it? Beware James’ trap.

  15. #15 by James Farmer on April 9, 2010 - 9:22 am

    Ken’s silence generally speaks volumes!

  16. #16 by cav on April 9, 2010 - 11:37 am

    Ken’s silence generally speaks volumes, large quantities of white-out, and cherries – picked from his very own orchard!

    James, hope you don’t mind the modifers.

  17. #17 by glenn on April 9, 2010 - 11:42 am

    This about sums up 1U in a nutshell.

    http://www.collegehumor.com/article:1803025

  18. #18 by Larry Bergan on April 9, 2010 - 11:58 am

    Ken:

    Seeing as you only watch Fox “news”, (hell, the entire MSM these days, including, and especially, the New York Times), it’s understandable you completely missed the debunking of the fake pimp videos, but if you DO know about it and are happy that an organization with sparse resources and dedicated employee’s was brought down by an obvious hoax, I just don’t know what to say.

    I hope you’re going to be a very wealthy man some day, otherwise, you could use ACORN’s services.

  19. #19 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on April 9, 2010 - 12:27 pm

    It makes me feel better that Anwar al-Awlaki isn’t just on a kill list, but on a capture-or-kill list. Kind of a “Wanted: Dead or Alive” kind of thing. I’d feel even better if it was just a “capture” list.

    As much as I appreciate being safe from terrorists, I appreciate even more being safe from my own government. I don’t think I”m going to be targeted next or anything–chances are that Awlaki deserves everything that’s coming to him. It’s just a matter of principle that living in a free nation is a risky business–we shouldn’t arrest people without cause, imprison people without due process, or order the death of someone without giving them a chance under direct threat of death to surrender.

    On the matter of him being a citizen or not, I don’t see how that really matters. Do we hold off on shooting an armed and dangerous criminal if he holds up his Social Security Card? The fact that there’s any issue about legality is all a bunch of legal hullabaloo. If it’s wrong to assassinate Awlaki on grounds of citizenship, it seems there comes a point where we must either a) admit that revoking the citizenship of someone for whom there is ample, fixed physical evidence of treason is a viable option; or b) that NO ONE, no matter their citizenship status, should be assassinated.

    Whatever the best course of action is, and whether or not Obama and his advisers are correct about Anwar al-Awlaki (and I suspect that they are), one thing remains certain: no amount of trust in a President is enough to condone unchecked assassinations, if state-sanctioned assassinations are allowed at all. There has to be some oversight.

    Dwight Sheldon Adams

  20. #20 by Richard Warnick on April 9, 2010 - 2:11 pm

    Dwight–

    Before you judge the guy, stop and consider what you know about Anwar al-Awlaki that doesn’t come from U.S. government sources. It is interesting that the government hasn’t tried to revoke his citizenship despite the allegations against him. They have revoked the U.S. citizenship of some accused Nazi war criminals.

    Also, I might point out that al-Awlaki isn’t likely to be captured using air strikes like the one last December.

  21. #21 by glenn on April 9, 2010 - 9:19 pm

    So what you all figure? Couple of months before obama foments some incident to attack Iran? Or maybe a major incursion into Pakistan?

    He is nicely dropping Israel into a bucket, hey Cliff..Jacques doesn’t like obama! Awww!! I have been keeping him up to date on the Israeli organ thievery scandal. He told me it wasn’t true a couple of months ago. Now he won’t talk to me. I’m crushed.

    Largest military budget in human history, hello, anyone in here? At least bush made me laugh til I cried.

    Targeted assassination? What’s next? Work camps for the unemployed?

    Anyone into the parity of the Canadian dollar these days? Is it trying to tell you something about what folks think of the path we are on?

    It’s all bush’s fault, right?

  22. #22 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on April 12, 2010 - 11:42 am

    Richard–

    I’m not sure what gave you the impression that I believed air strikes could be used to capture him. Obviously, I’m opposed to those, too.

    I personally suspect that al-Awlaki is guilty, as they accuse him, but I believe we should capture him, if possible, to stand trial for criminal or war crimes (whatever’s appropriate). I don’t believe that there’s any reason for the government to pursue a vendetta against the guy, so I don’t understand how the allegations coming from U.S. government sources makes them unreliable or suspect. You’ll have to clue me in on that one, Richard.

    Besides, are they all government sources? Are you saying that every quotation by Awlaki, every source who claims contact with him, every recording and e-mail, his document 44 Ways to Support Jihad, and everything else are all part of a smear campaign to turn a non-entity into an international villain? That seems a little far-fetched to me. He may not be all that they say he is, but maybe you should revisit your 9/11 Truther page and remind yourself of what constitutes conspiracy theory.

    –Dwight

  23. #23 by Richard Warnick on April 12, 2010 - 12:07 pm

    Dwight–

    I lived in Yemen in 1990-1992. Based on my observations of the country, the government and people, I can tell you that al-Awlaki is not going to be captured. That’s why they are resorting to air strikes.

    The document you linked to makes interesting reading. However, you must understand that al-Awlaki is discussing defensive jihad. Muslims consider support of an armed struggle against foreign occupation to be worthy of defensive jihad. I think that’s an idea most Americans can understand.

    If the U.S. government has evidence that al-Awlaki has done anything illegal, they have yet to share it with the media. All we have so far are unsupported accusations. Anyway, the point is that our Constitution provides for due process. If we shred the Constitution in a hapless pursuit of “terrorists,” then we are conforming to al-Qaeda’s strategy.

    Al-Awlaki is said to be a recruiter for al-Qaeda, a charge he denies. Anyway, the actions of U.S. military forces are the most powerful recruiting tool al-Qaeda could wish for.

    Let me repeat my observation that if the alleged crimes of al-Awlaki could be proven in a court of law, then the government could revoke his U.S. citizenship.

  24. #24 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on April 12, 2010 - 1:35 pm

    Richard–

    Paragraph 4 sounds like a cop-out. Defensive Jihad or no, a supporter of attacks on the U.S. is still an enemy. I understand his position, just like I understand Osama bin Laden’s, but that doesn’t mean bin Laden shouldn’t be captured and tried for what he’s done–or, in a war situation, killed.

    I’ve defended the defensive jihad position many times. After 9/11, I argued with my friends that bin Laden and al Qaeda had good reasons for what they did. I reiterate–they still should be caught and punished, regardless. We should try to learn from our past mistakes, but murder is murder and crimes are crimes, whether committed by American citizens, the American president, or foreigners.

    If you don’t mind my saying so, Richard, you seem unduly critical of any and all Commanders-in-Chief. You don’t seem to be considering at all that Awlaki may be guilty–or very guilty.

    Now, my position is clearly that, guilty or no, he should be apprehended, not killed (honestly, I don’t perceive that killing him would do a lot of good, anyway). You seem invested in defending the man. Well, if you want to defend his rights, I’m with you on that: he has a right to a lawyer, a right to a trial before a jury of his peers, a right to humane treatment while awaiting trial, and so on. But why you feel the need to defend him, as if you have any more information than I do as to whether or not he should even be apprehended, I don’t know. There’s some good evidence that he’s engaged in supporting enemies of the state (aka treason), so the least you could do is argue for his capture and fair trial instead of his assassination. The only reason you don’t, if you don’t mind me stating a psychobabble opinion, is that you’re overly-invested in criticizing anything and everything Obama does as COC.

    –Dwight

  25. #25 by Richard Warnick on April 12, 2010 - 1:59 pm

    Dwight–

    If al-Awlaki is guilty of treason, then the burden of proof is on the authorities. I am keeping an open mind. Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, has cited an “utter disregard for the fundamentals of jurisprudence” as the reason why so many innocent people were locked up at Guantanamo.

    As for the chance of catching al-Awlaki, realistically it’s highly unlikely. Like I said, I’ve been to Yemen. There are something like 50,000 villages, most of them atop steep mountains. The national government doesn’t have a lot of clout outside the capital, Sanaa.

    Interestingly enough, in 2002 the Denver U.S. Attorney’s Office rescinded an arrest warrant for al-Awlaki, citing insufficient evidence.

    “We asked the court to dismiss the complaint and withdraw the warrant in the interest of justice,” [U.S. Attorney for Colorado Dave] Gaouette told the [Denver] Post. “There is no sense putting a person through an indictment when the government knows all along that we don’t have evidence or that we can prove the violation beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    I’ll look more when I have the time, but it seems that there is not an active federal warrant for al-Awlaki’s arrest at the present time. He’s wanted by Yemeni authorities for alleged crimes in Yemen.

  26. #26 by james farmer on April 12, 2010 - 4:08 pm

    Dwight:

    I think you are reading more into Richard’s comments than is actually there. I read Richard’s comments as defending the constitutional right of due process, for example, and not al-Awlaki the individual.

  27. #27 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on April 12, 2010 - 4:45 pm

    Richard–

    For one with such a keen eye for conflicts of interest (remember your dual Israeli-American citizenship list?), you seem oddly unable to find it in your heart to criticize Awlaki. Is there no conflict of interests when a man announces support for terrorists who kill American civilians? Is there no conflict of interests when an American citizen praises the Ft. Hood shootings and clearly preaches that such shootings are a righteous cause that every Muslim should be either financially or militarily engaged in? Don’t you already have the evidence of treason (giving comfort to the enemy) you seek?

    As long as you doubt the authorities’ proof, you can continue to say that the burden of proof rests on their shoulders out of one side of your mouth while denying that any of their proof is real out of the other.

    The arrest warrant in question was for passport fraud, for which there was insufficient evidence. Also, that was years ago. These two links discuss some of his history. It seems like, if one guy (as shown in these reports) can get a life sentence for inciting violence, there’s plenty of evidence to put Awlaki away for life as well.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/FtHoodInvestigation/anwar-awlaki/story?id=9200720

    http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/FtHoodInvestigation/fort-hood-hasan-asked-awlaki-kill-american-soldiers/story?id=9410718

    I think Awlaki’s playing a game. I think it’s clear that he incited the Ft. Hood shootings, among other things, and now he’s just being careful what he says so as to avoid directly implicating himself.

    The main point is that neither of us supports the assassination of this guy (unless a great deal more evidence comes out; other circumstances may apply as well). I think it’s odd that there isn’t a warrant out for his arrest (that I can find), but this individual poses an important problem: if it is as hard as you say to apprehend someone in Yemen (which I don’t doubt), and if he is as influential and dangerous as reported (which I doubt a little more, but not much), what do you do? How do you, as COC, solve a problem like Awlaki?

    In my opinion, his citizenship shouldn’t matter. No one is more worthy of assassination than another based on citizenship status, or less. He either is, or he isn’t, based on the danger he poses and our prospects for stopping/catching him.

    Dwight Sheldon Adams

  28. #28 by Dwight Sheldon Adams on April 12, 2010 - 5:10 pm

    James–

    Read the conversation again. I started out agreeing with Richard on the due process thing, then he went into a long series of defenses of Alwaki. The fact that I need not believe Alwaki is innocent in order to defend his rights should say something about the integrity of my position. Richard, on the other hand, should recognize how difficult it is to gather precise proof of a person’s guilt from half a world away, and a country as inaccessible as he claims Yemen is, and perhaps cut the accusation process a little slack, even if he doesn’t agree with the resulting course of action.

    What bothers me (and what I’ve been reading into Richard’s statements) is that it isn’t enough for him to simply defend the man’s rights; he has to defend the man as well. Also, in the context of OneUtah, Richard has criticized pretty much everything Obama has done as COC. If he can support COC Obama on any topic, he’s kept it a secret.

    You are reading too simply, in my opinion. If Richard was focusing on the due process position, he probably wouldn’t have replied to my defense of the due process position by attacking the evidence against al-Awlaki–unless he misread me. As it is, since I posted, Richard has spent 8 paragraphs discussing al-Alwaki’s innocence and associated topics, 3 paragraphs discussing how hard it would be to capture al-Alwaki, and has mentioned due process only a couple of times, in the middle of other paragraphs.

    So, in the interests of neutrality and changing the conversational tone, I will offer to retract my statements up to this point and say only this to Richard:

    Richard–

    The evidence against al-Alwaki is self-evident in the man’s own writings. Defensive jihad isn’t an excuse for supporting attacks against your own country. It’s still treason. If we are an evil nation, then it’s good for Alwaki that he’s on the right side of the battle. As for the process of ending his evident negative influence, I am opposed to assassinations, extraordinary rendition, waterboarding (and other “EITs”), and indefinite detention. I believe the government should issue a warrant and attempt to get international assistance to capture al-Awlaki, NOT try to kill him.

    In the context of the evidence that Alwaki himself has providde, I encourage you to not worry so much about the fact that I believe he’s guilty. Guilty or no, you still don’t think he should be assassinated, and isn’t that the point of this thread? So it’s irrelevant. You don’t need to convince me to agree with you, because it won’t change the fact that I agree with you on the most important issue of all: what to do (or not do)about it if he is guilty.

    –Dwight

  29. #29 by brewski on April 12, 2010 - 8:54 pm

    While not entirely on the exact same topic, the Wall Street Journal articulated the phenomenon of “Barack Hussein Bush” 10 months ago:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124416109792287285.html
    Although they meant it as a compliment. But we can agree that the left wing has been slow to criticize “their guy” as Ken pointed out.

    I don’t quite understand why some on the left want people like Alwaki captured and brought to justice, but it would be ok with them to kill him in a “war situation”. Ummm, aren’t we in a “war situation”?

    As recent events have shown, al-Qaida has not abandoned its intent to attack the United States, and indeed continues to attack us. Thus, in this ongoing armed conflict, the United States has the authority under international law, and the responsibility to its citizens, to use force, including lethal force, to defend itself, including by targeting persons such as high-level al Qaeda leaders who are planning attacks.

    – Harold Hongju Koh

    Basically the point is that Audie Murphy wasn’t over there handing out subpoenas. He killed people. Lots of them. We are in a war. Bush said it. Obama said it. In wars you kill people. You don’t call your lawyer.

  30. #30 by Richard Warnick on April 13, 2010 - 6:16 am

    brewski–

    The so-called “war on terror” is just that, a so-called “war” like the “war on drugs.” The reality is al-Qaeda’s plots are best handled by law enforcement rather than the military.

    For the USA to go and drop bombs and gun down innocent people in Muslim countries is part of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s plan. The longer we keep doing it, the more terrorists will be recruited.

    If you want to fight a war in Yemen, where al-Awlaki is, that would make al-Qaeda really happy.

    Oh, and in what way is Barack Obama a man of the left? He never presented himself as a progressive, even during the campaign.

  31. #31 by brewski on April 13, 2010 - 9:44 pm

    I guess that’s the cruxt isn’t it? Is it a law enforcement thing where they fly planes into buildings and behead aid workers and we call our lawyers, or it’s not.

    I’d say Obama did run on the left. Universal health care, raise taxes even if it lowered revenue as a matter of “fairness” and spreading the wealth around. His supporters were certainly the left. They saw in him one way or the other that he was their guy.

  32. #32 by cav on April 14, 2010 - 5:58 am

    Were it a law enforcement issue, you’ld be hired for your lawyerly skills instead of your willingness to pull the trigger on some ‘insurgent rag-head / gook’.

    When our comfort, entertainment and mobility all depend on robbing the poorly armed, ‘we’ll’ find the ‘leadership’ required, and the poorly armed will be dehumanized into sand or muck for our gain.

    http://www.costofwar.com/

  33. #33 by Richard Warnick on April 14, 2010 - 8:46 am

    brewski–

    President Bush’s devotion to implementing to al-Zawahiri’s plan is the reason why America is still losing to al-Qaeda. I’m beginning to doubt President Obama’s ability to turn things around.

  34. #34 by judaic on February 17, 2011 - 3:18 am

    That’s just the essence of war. That’s why it’s permissible to kill a combatant engaged on a real battlefield in a war zone but not, say, torture them once they’re captured and helplessly detained. judaic

  35. #35 by Richard Warnick on February 18, 2011 - 7:59 am

    The point, of course, is that Anwar al-Awlaki is not a combatant in a war zone unless you change the definitions of “combatant” and “war zone” to include everybody and the entire world!

  36. #36 by cav on February 18, 2011 - 8:51 am

    They’re a hair-breadth from that now Richard. So don’t be giving them any ideas.

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