So why is Glenn Greenwald oh-so-concerned about the President of the United States ordering the killing of the head of a group that has openly declared war against the United States? Well, you see, Al-Awlaki (as well as Khan) is an American citizen. And in Glenn's world (who is now an ideological identical twin of Ron Paul's), to kill a terrorist who happens to be an American citizen engaged in direct, open, declared war with the United States is violating their due process rights.
This, of course, presents some interesting and absurd ideas. Let's follow Glenn's thought. If the killing of Al-Awlaki is unconstitutional because of Constitutional protections of due process, isn't Glenn saying that only American citizens are granted the right to due process in our Constitution? Perhaps Glenn can tell us what part of the Constitution restricts the right of due process to American citizens only, or even makes a distinction in applying due process to American citizens vs. those who are not. And if it does not, does it then mean that the President has no authority or order the killing of anyone, even the leader of an organization that has declared open war with the United States? What about the president's power to conduct a war? Is that just smoke?
Which brings us to another point. As a matter of law, when a US citizen materially aids the enemy (let alone be its leader), that person is in fact considered guilty of a worse crime than any foreign enemy. Foreigners cannot be guilty of treason against the United States; a US citizen can be. And as for a trial, al-Awlaki was actually given a trial, in Yemen. He didn't show up for it. To say that if al-Awlaki wanted to face the music here in the United States that he had ample opportunity to would be an understatement.
Another completely bizarre claim that Greenwald and Paul present is that the killing of al-Awlaki and Khan were illegal because Yemen is not a declared "battleground." Huh? Is he telling us that we need to declare wars against entire countries in order to hunt down an active leader of an active terrorist group by their own admission at war with the United States? So following that logic, President Obama should have let bin Laden go when he was located in Pakistan. Wait, actually, Glenn does seem to believe that. Well, at least he's consistent in his crazy.
This is not a case where the Administration violated the Fifth Amendment protections of a US citizen. This is a case of a duel US-Yemeni national who joined and became an operational leader of an organization that is at open war against the United States.
Glenn Greenwald may wax poetic about his imaginary defense of the Constitution, but he ignores its strongest ideals: that even those who are not citizens enjoy the protection of the laws, and even those who are citizens are not exempt from the long arm of it. Why Glenn thinks that being part of an organization that is openly at war against the United States and targets innocent American citizens affords someone extra protections simply because that someone happens to have a US passport is rather baffling.
It was, evidently, baffling to the Administration lawyers as well. They were unanimous in their judgment that the president was well within his legal powers to take out al-Awlaki. I repeat, the legal opinion was without a single dissent.
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.This is not intelligence on Iraq, in which the Department of State raised serious questions. This is not the broad warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, which even John Ashcroft refused to sign on to. The legality of this action was unanimously approved.
The document was produced following a review of the legal issues raised by striking a U.S. citizen and involved senior lawyers from across the administration. There was no dissent about the legality of killing Aulaqi, the officials said.
Not that the seriousness and true concerns of civil liberties organizations should be ignored. But there are a few questions we have to ponder. Can Greenwald and Paul's version of Constitutionalism be possibly correct? I don't think so. Think about the implications of that. If they are correct, it would mean that any US citizen is allowed to go abroad and join an organization engaged in active violence against the US and Americans without facing the same level of response from the US government as any other member of that terrorist group. If Ron Paul and Glenn Greenwald, the two ideological twins are correct, it would mean that American citizenship is itself an enemy's best defense against the United States.
Is that really what our Constitution is about? Is it really there to protect the American citizen who becomes part (and in this case, an operational chief) of an organization that has plotted attacks against civilian targets in the United States rather than to protect the citizens who are or would be victims of such an attack? Is our Constitution really there to protect the man who evades justice (by not facing his trial in Yemen or coming back here and facing a trial here)?
I am no Constitutional attorney, but I don't think that's what our Constitution is about, despite what a pair of right wing libertarian crazies might think.