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Obama lawyers: Citizens targeted if at war with US December 2, 2011


December 2, 2011

by legitgov

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Obama lawyers: Citizens targeted if at war with US 01 Nov 2011 U.S. citizens are legitimate military targets when they take up arms with ‘al-Qaida,’ top national security lawyers in the Obama regime said Thursday. The lawyers were asked at a national security conference about the CIA killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and [alleged] leading al-Qaida figure. He died in a Sept. 30 U.S. drone strike in the mountains of Yemen. The government lawyers, CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon counsel Jeh Johnson, said U.S. citizens do not have immunity when they are at war with the United States.

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Two Awlaki teenage relatives killed in Yemen attack: family October 20, 2011


October 19, 2011

by legitgov

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Two Awlaki teenage relatives killed in Yemen attack: family 18 Oct 2011 Two relatives of an assassinated U.S.-born militant cleric who were killed in an air strike last week in southern Yemen were teenagers out for dinner with friends when they were hit, their family said in a statement on Tuesday. Yemeni officials said on Saturday about 24 people, including a son and a brother of Anwar al-Awlaki, were killed in an air strike on an [alleged] ‘al Qaeda hideout’ near the town of Azzan in the southern Shabwa province. “Abdel-Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki was born in the U.S. city of Denver, Colorado on 26, August 1995, and thus he is not 21 or 27-years-old, but just 16,” the statement said. It added the second member of the Awlaki family killed was Ahmed Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki, 17.

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Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen October 9, 2011


October 8, 2011

by legitgov

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Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen 09 Oct 2011 The Obama administration’s secret legal memorandum that opened the door to the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen found that it would be lawful only if it were not feasible to take him alive, according to people who have read the document. The memo, written last year… offers a glimpse into the legal debate that led to one of the most significant decisions made by President Obama — to move ahead with the killing of an American citizen without a trial. The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis.

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Secret panel can put Americans on ‘kill list’ October 7, 2011


October 6, 2011

by legitgov

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White House death panel, fully operational: Secret panel can put Americans on ‘kill list’ 05 Oct 2011 American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials. There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate. The panel was behind the decision to add Awlaki, a U.S.-born militant preacher with alleged ‘al Qaeda’ connections, to the target list. He was killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen late last month.

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Anwar al-Awlaki obituary October 2, 2011

Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been killed at the age of 40 by missiles fired from an American unmanned drone in Yemen, was an effective propagandist for radical Islam and a key figure in the dissemination of the message of al-Qaida and related groups. With his fluent English, grasp of contemporary western culture and ability to condense esoteric theological debates into simple arguments, the Yemeni-American dual-national citizen was able to act as a real and virtual mentor to large numbers of young Muslims around the world attracted by the ideology of violent extremism.

Awlaki was born in New Mexico, while his father, from a prominent Yemeni family, was studying agriculture there on a scholarship. His family returned to Yemen in 1978 and Awlaki lived in the capital, Sana’a, until finishing his secondary education. He then returned to the US, where he attended colleges in Colorado and San Diego, gaining degrees in education. In 1993 he travelled to Afghanistan, then in the depths of the chaotic civil war between former mujahideen factions which had followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces. The Taliban had not yet been formed, and it is unclear which group Awlaki was with and what he did during his time there. He married on his return to the US, where he took up a post as an imam at the Rabat mosque in San Diego.

It was typical of marginal religious institutions of the time. Awlaki had no religious qualifications and almost no religious education beyond his own patchy reading. This appears largely to have centred on the main extremist thinkers of recent decades – such as Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam – rather than texts of established theological importance. During this period he met and developed a close relationship with two of the future 9/11 hijackers.

Though there has been much conjecture. and despite clear indications that the young preacher was known to many participants, no solid evidence has emerged linking Awlaki to the 9/11 plot. In the aftermath of the strike, Awlaki was interviewed repeatedly and condemned the operation as unIslamic. On the point of being arrested for passport fraud, he left the US for Britain.

Awlaki was extremely active in the UK, embarking on lengthy speaking tours. He focused his efforts on Islamic centres and student societies, which were under less surveillance either by security forces or local religious figures. He also began using the internet. An undoubtedly charismatic figure, he built a substantial following among young British Muslims suffering significant identity problems, angry at the continuing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel-Palestine and with limited understanding of Islam.

However, in 2004 he left Britain for Yemen. After a period preaching and lecturing, Awlaki was arrested in 2006 on kidnapping and terrorism charges and imprisoned. He was released in December 2007 without facing trial following lobbying by senior members of his tribe, and moved to his family’s home in the rugged and remote Shabwa mountains.

From Yemen, Awlaki stepped up his propaganda activities. His ability to use new media and command of English led him to rapidly become one of the best-known interpreters of radical Islam for a new generation of potential volunteers mobilised and radicalised by the conflicts of the post-2001 period.

Reachable by email, Awlaki became a personal mentor to a number of groups and individuals contemplating violence. One was Nidal Malik Hasan, the US army officer who is charged with killing 13 people and wounding 30 at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009. Another may have been Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American who pleaded guilty to an attempt in May 2010 to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, New York, and was sentenced to a life term in prison.

Awlaki was also described in court testimony as an inspiration by two of the six people convicted on conspiracy and other charges in a plot to kill US military personnel at Fort Dix in 2007, and was cited as a key influence by Roshonara Choudhry, a British student who, in May 2010, stabbed the Labour MP Stephen Timms because of his support for the war in Iraq. A Facebook page once had thousands of supporters, and one of his hundreds of videotaped lectures posted on YouTube was downloaded more than 150,000 times. In February 2009, he published a text called 44 Ways to Support Jihad on his blog.

Awlaki was also behind the slick internet extremist magazine called Inspire. In an edition earlier this year, the magazine welcomed the Arab revolts that deposed presidents Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia as an opportunity rather than a setback for radical militancy, despite the negligible role of extremists in the uprisings.

His increasing prominence in the fragmented and chaotic landscape of contemporary Islamic extremism not only provoked resentment among more established figures – Osama bin Laden apparently vetoed a suggestion that the younger preacher be appointed head of the al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen – but led to Awlaki becoming the first American citizen to be placed on the CIA‘s list of individuals around the world who the agency aim to kill or capture. His killing was approved by Barack Obama in April 2010. The news provoked strong condemnation from civil rights groups and protests from Awlaki’s family. The militant’s father called his son an “all-American boy”.

Awlaki’s exact relationship either with senior leaders of al-Qaida in Pakistan or the hierarchy of the local groups operating under the label of “al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula” is unclear. In recent years, US officials have cited evidence that Awlaki had become personally involved in the planning of attacks on America – something that would help provide a legal justification for the controversial act of remote-controlled assassination.

In testimony before a congressional committee last year, the secretary for homeland security Janet Napolitano said that Awlaki had taken on an operational role in attack planning. In a statement confirming his death, Obama cited a link to the failed Christmas 2009 bombing of an airliner heading for Detroit and a bid to post bombs to synagogues in Chicago on cargo planes last year.

Awlaki’s operational role was of far less importance for al-Qaida or related groups than his activities as a communicator. Though senior militants in the Middle East often have a basic command of English, few have any real grasp of western culture. The role of men such as Awlaki in sustaining the momentum of the social movement of extremism is important, particularly in a period where neither paternalist lectures from elderly pseudo-clerics nor the demands of organised religion hold much attraction for alienated or simply adventurous young people in the west, the Middle East or elsewhere.

Others will no doubt continue his work, but a significant figure in the landscape of contemporary Sunni islamic militancy has gone. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Anwar al-Awlaki, terrorist propagandist and leader, born 22 April 1971; died 30 September 2011

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How Anwar al-Awlaki was sheltered by a sultan in lawless southern Yemen October 1, 2011

The sultan of the Awalik tribe was tall, old and frail, but his soft voice carried the weight of tribal authority: his pronouncements are adhered to by almost 2 million Awalik tribesmen.

Sultan Fareed is a close ally of the government, but when I met him in August 2010, his tribe was also giving shelter to enemies of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the west. The most notorious was Anwar al-Awlaki.

For years, the lawless Shabawa region of southern Yemen havehas been contested by tribal fighters, bandits, jihadis and security forces. It took me a month of meetings in Sanaa and Aden to arrange for my trip down there. Every night I was in Shabawa, drones flew slowly around the skies.

The sultan’s village, Saeed, sits on a hill among lush green fields and palm groves, an oasis of high mud towers and fortified compounds – some of them pockmarked with bullet holes from tribal feuds. Next to a castle destroyed by the RAF in the 1950s is the new concrete and marble compound of the Awalik sultans.

Sultan Fareed told me: “Anwar, and with him four or five people, spend the night in their homes and in the morning they do their morning prayers somewhere not far away.”

Why, I asked, was Awlaki allowed to stay? He replied: “Al-Qaida haven’t killed anyone here. The government haven’t asked us to hand him in. If they do then we will think about it.”

At the Awlaki family compound, all doors and windows were locked. A boy opened a window in the upper floors, looked down at me, then disappeared back inside.

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Al-Qaida cleric death: mixed emotions at Virginia mosque where he preached

At the Washington-area mosque where Anwar al-Awlaki preached a decade ago, the killing of the influential al-Qaida figure drew a knot of conflicting emotions about the man who more than anyone gave the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center its unwanted association with international terrorism.

Many worshippers at Dar al-Hijrah for Friday services said they were glad that Awlaki was gone; that he besmirched not only their mosque but all of Islam by calling for the deaths of innocent Americans. Others rejected both Awlaki’s calls for violence against Americans and the US air strike that killed him in Yemen early on Friday, saying he hadn’t even been charged with a crime. And a small few were unrepentant in their support of Awlaki, though most were unwilling have their names attached to their views.

“I like justice to be done the normal way,” said Tarik Diap. “If you’re guilty of doing something, you have the law, you have courts. This is, for me, you’re killing someone without proving innocence or guilt.”

Hassan Mohamed, 62, said no allegations against Awlaki had been proven.

“I don’t know why he should be killed,” he said. “I don’t approve of my government going around the world to kill innocent people.”

Leaders of the mosque issued a statement saying that although Awlaki “encouraged impressionable American-Muslims to attack their own country,” they deplored “extra-judicial assassination” and believed the drone attack “sends the wrong message to law-abiding people around the world.”

The mosque said Awlaki, born in the US to Yemeni parents, was known for his “interfaith outreach, civic engagement, and tolerance” when he served as imam at Dar al-Hijrah from January 2001 to April 2002. It said he did not begin preaching violence until later, after he was arrested and allegedly tortured in Yemen.

Opinions varied on what kind of preacher Awlaki was when he served in Virginia. Most said they did not find him to be overtly political or radical.

But Wadi Adam Lahrim, 34, of Fairfax, said Awlaki “did voice his opinions regularly about U.S. involvement in the Middle East. He encouraged the community to speak up against it.”

Lahrim said that Awlaki was an appealing figure to US-born Muslims because he understood their culture. “He didn’t just teach hate. He did teach (positive) aspects of the religion … and he was able to communicate better than some other imams,” he said.

Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center is among the largest and most influential mosques on the East Coast, but has been stung by its associations with Awlaki and other targets in the US fight against terrorism. Two of the September 11 hijackers worshipped there briefly when Awlaki was imam. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood, Texas shootings that left 13 dead in 2009, attended services there occasionally.

Al-Awlaki became a powerful al-Qaida tool for recruiting in the West after leaving the mosque. US officials have said they believe he inspired Hasan’s actions, and that he helped orchestrate the attempted Christmas 2009 bombing of a Detroit-bound aircraft, among other allegations.

Khalid Abutaa was among those happy to hear the news that Awlaki was dead.

“It’s good. It’s good for Muslims. It’s good for humans,” said Abutaa, a retired chef. “In our religion, we’re not supposed to kill nobody.”

Jouwad Syed, of Alexandria, Virginia, recently moved to the area and only recently began attending the mosque. He said he was initially leery of joining because of the reputation and links to Awlaki. But he had also heard positive things about the mosque’s outreach and charitable programs.

“We’re not glad he’s dead, but at the same time, it’s helpful” because the links to Awlaki got in the way of the mosque’s outreach efforts.

Indeed, the mosque endures some level of hostility from the general public. On Friday morning, as a crowd started to gather outside the mosque before midday services, a bicyclist rode by and shouted, “Yeah, they got your little buddy, didn’t they?” then spit on the ground before pedaling off.

Several worshippers who were critical of the US airstrike would not provide their names. One man claimed Awlaki was peaceful and had been unjustly targeted, but said the FBI would be knocking at his door if he identified himself.

The mosque’s outreach director, Johari Abdul-Malik, previously denounced Awlaki’s proclamations from Yemen.

“He had an allure. He was charming,” Abdul-Malik told reporters in 2009, shortly after the Fort Hood shootings that Awlaki praised. “To go from that individual to the person that is projecting these words from Yemen is a shock.”

“I don’t think we read him wrong. I think something happened to him.”

The Sept. 11 hijackers who worshipped at Dar al-Hijrah, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, met Awlaki earlier in San Diego, where he was imam at al-Ribat al-Islami mosque.

Edgar Hopida, a spokesman for the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, attended Awlaki’s classes at al-Ribat and said nothing he heard prepared him for the violent rhetoric the cleric went on to preach from Yemen. But he opposes the way the US responded to Awlaki.

“Our main concern is with the fact that our government committed an extrajudicial killing on one of its own citizens without due process,” Hopida said. “He was just marked for assassination, which is against our foundation as Americans.”

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Anwar al-Awlaki’s life of extremism

April 1971 Born in the southern US state of New Mexico to Yemeni parents.

1978 Returns to Yemen with his family, where he lives for 11 years and studies Islam at Azal Modern school.

1991 Returns to the US to attend Colorado State University.

1994 Graduates with a BS in civil engineering and marries a cousin from Yemen. He also takes a part-time job as imam at the Denver Islamic Society.

1996-2000 Earns a master’s in education from San Diego State. Also serves as imam of a mosque in San Diego. His sermons are attended by two future 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.

2001 Moves to a mosque in Virginia, which was attended by Hazmi and a third hijacker, Hani Hanjour. The 9/11 commission found the connections suspicious, speculating that he gave spiritual encouragement to the attackers.

2002 Moves to the UK, giving lectures to Muslim youths, describing the rewards of martyrs in paradise.

2004 Returns to southern province of Shabwa in Yemen and becomes a lecturer at al-Iman University, a Sunni religious school in Sana’a headed by Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, a cleric designated a terrorist by the US and UN for his suspected links with al-Qaida.

2006 Detained by Yemeni authorities, reportedly on charges relating to a plot to kidnap a US military attache. Spends 18 months in prison.

November 2009 US army officer Major Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13 people and injures 30 more in a mass shooting at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. The military psychiatrist opened fire with two handguns on fellow soldiers at a training centre. Hasan heard Awlaki preaching at the Dar al-Hiraj mosque in 2001 and also received religious advice from him via email.

December 2009 Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempts to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day with a bomb concealed in his underwear. US officials believe Abdulmutallab met Awlaki in Yemen just weeks before the attempt. Awlaki later admitted that he had “communications” with the Nigerian, though he denied any role in the attack.

April 2010 The US authorises Awlaki’s capture or killing, and he is placed on the CIA target list. The imam says in a videotape that jihad against the US is the duty of every able Muslim.

May 2010 Faisal Shazhad attempts to set off a car bomb in Times Square. He tells interrogators he was influenced by Awlaki’s rhetoric and inspired by his online messages.

May 2010 Roshonara Choudhry, a 21-year-old British Muslim student at King’s College London, stabs the Labour MP Stephen Timms, after selecting him from a list of MPs who had voted in favour of invading Iraq. Police believe she had no direct contact with Islamic extremists but was entirely self-radicalised by the online sermons of Awlaki.

July 2010 The US names Awlaki as a “specially designated global terrorist”‘, and blocks his assets and mademakes it a crime for Americans to do business with him.

October 2010 Saudi militant Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri masterminds an al-Qaida ink-cartridge bomb described as the “most sophisticated” device seen for a decade. The bomb, discovered at East Midlands airport, is timed to detonate over the eastern seaboard of the US. Asiri had fled to Yemen in 2008 and was in touch with Awlaki.

November 2010 Yemeni authorities place Awlaki on trial in absentia, charging him with inciting violence against foreigners in connection with the killing a French security guard at an oil company compound. Prosecutors claim Awlaki and his cousin, Osman, were in contact with the alleged attacker, Hisham Assem. Awlaki is placed on Yemen’s most-wanted list.

30 December 2010 Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali-born US citizen, is arrested by the FBI for an attempted bombing. The American-born Somali planned to detonate the device as thousands attended the lighting of a Christmas tree in the centre of Portland, Oregon. It is thought he was inspired by Awlaki.

September 2011 Believed to have been killed in an air strike between the provinces of Marib and Jawf.

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Death of Anwar Al Awlaki Doesn’t Solve Yemen’s Problems

As a well-known scholar and English-speaking orator, Anwar al Awlaki was a big deal for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist organization he represented in Yemen. His death on Friday, now a high-profile international news story, was also significant as his group lost a powerful asset on the public stage.

But, according to regional experts, the killing of Awlaki just scratches the surface of the problems in Yemen and the threat of terrorism worldwide.

An American drone missile strike reportedly killed Awlaki, an American-born U.S. citizen, in Yemen on Friday. His global visibility compared to others in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has put Awlaki’s death in the spotlight and gives the United States a major victory in the ongoing fight against terror networks worldwide.

Nevertheless, with the government of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh on the verge of collapse, Americans need to consider a broader strategy, some experts say, to minimize the threat of Yemen-based terrorists. “It’s a counterterrorism success for the United States and Yemeni and global counterterrorism forces,” says Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, director of the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But, he adds, “it certainly does little to change the relationship between U.S. and Yemen, and more importantly does little to change the chaotic situation that currently exists in Yemen that goes across an array of issues.”

[See political cartoons on the Middle East uprisings.]

Awlaki has long been targeted by both Americans and Yemenis, especially because of his alleged ties to planned attacks on U.S. soil, like the attempted Christmas plane bombing by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in 2009. As a prolific and outspoken cleric, potential English-speaking radicals, like Abdulmutallab and Fort Hood shooter U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, turned to him for inspiration or advice.

[Read: Hunting Down Anwar al-Awlaki, Public Enemy No. 1]

In a press conference Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney asserted that Awlaki had been involved with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s operational activities. However, according to Nelson, his real selling point in the terrorist community, and especially within his own group in Yemen, was his background in America and his ability to reach out to vulnerable individuals in the West. “Al Qaeda’s not short of operatives, and they’re not short of clerics, but they are short of individuals who possess the cultural duality that Awlaki did,” Nelson says.

[Read more about U.S. policy in Yemen.]

As a spokesman, Awlaki did have the unique power, similar to the late Osama bin Laden, to spread al Qaeda’s ideology globally, according to Philip Mudd, former senior intelligence adviser at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and senior global adviser for Oxford Analytica, an international analysis firm. Awlaki was a one-of-a-kind element in the Yemen-based terrorist organization, which has posed more of a threat to the American homeland in recent years than other similar groups worldwide, Mudd says. But the threat that he posed didn’t die with him. “It’s right to say these people represent leadership that cannot be replaced,” he says. “It’s not right to say that therefore means that immediately the threat to the United States is diminished, and that’s because their message is spread already.”

Although previous attempts to kill him had failed, the successful airstrike against him on Friday was a testament to the capabilities of both countries’ counterterrorism forces and their ability to coordinate, even in the face of large-scale violence and protests around Yemen, says Micah Zenko, a fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations. More importantly, he says, the success of the mission shows that the United States forces can carry out such an attack without working directly with Saleh, who returned to Yemen just last week after an attack on his compound in June sent him to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. “There’s no evidence that Saleh’s departure harmed the United States’ ability with the people that work in the elite special operations forces and the intelligence forces of Yemen—it didn’t constrain that,” he says.

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Anwar al-Awlaki’s extrajudicial murder | Michael Ratner September 30, 2011

Is this the world we want? Where the president of the United States can place an American citizen, or anyone else for that matter, living outside a war zone on a targeted assassination list, and then have him murdered by drone strike.

This was the very result we at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU feared when we brought a case in US federal court on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki’s father, hoping to prevent this targeted killing. We lost the case on procedural grounds, but the judge considered the implications of the practice as raising “serious questions”, asking:

“Can the executive order the assassination of a US 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 organisation?”

Yes, Anwar al-Awlaki was a radical Muslim cleric. Yes, his language and speeches were incendiary. He may even have engaged in plots against the United States – but we do not know that because he was never indicted for a crime.

This profile should not have made him a target for a killing without due process and without any effort to capture, arrest and try him. The US government knew his location for purposes of a drone strike, so why was no effort made to arrest him in Yemen, a country that apparently was allied in the US efforts to track him down?

There are – or were – laws about the circumstances in which deadly force can be used, including against those who are bent on causing harm to the United States. Outside of a war zone, as Awlaki was, lethal force can only be employed in the narrowest and most extraordinary circumstances: when there is a concrete, specific and imminent threat of an attack; and even then, deadly force must be a last resort.

The claim, after the fact, by President Obama that Awlaki “operationally directed efforts” to attack the United States was never presented to a court before he was placed on the “kill” list and is untested. Even if President Obama’s claim has some validity, unless Awlaki’s alleged terrorists actions were imminent and unless deadly force employed as a last resort, this killing constitutes murder.

We know the government makes mistakes, lots of them, in giving people a “terrorist” label. Hundreds of men were wrongfully detained at Guantánamo. Should this same government, or any government, be allowed to order people’s killing without due process?

The dire implications of this killing should not be lost on any of us. There appears to be no limit to the president’s power to kill anywhere in the world, even if it involves killing a citizen of his own country. Today, it’s in Yemen; tomorrow, it could be in the UK or even in the United States.

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