Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Born in the USA

The arguments over the targeting and killing of Anwar al-Awlaki continue to rage like wildfires. Robert Levy at Cato offered up a very concise and unemotional opinion on the mater several days ago. It's worth reading, for anyone concerned with these events. As he notes, to argue that the action was legal and Constitutional requires some questions to be answered:
Still, the killing of Awlaki is a close legal call. On balance, it’s probably unlawful. The imminent-threat contention isn’t credible. To my knowledge, no one has identified a threat that is imminent (meaning: about to happen). The part-of-an-enemy-army claim and the loss-of-citizenship argument raise several questions: First, is the Nationality Act itself constitutional? The Constitution establishes criteria for citizenship. Stripping someone of citizenship effectively changes those criteria, and Congress may not have that power. Second, even if the Nationality Act is constitutional, does al Qaida qualify as a foreign state for purposes of the Act? Are al Qaida agents equivalent to soldiers engaged in combat with the United States? Third, even if the Nationality Act might apply in Awlaki’s case, how do we know that he triggered the provisions of the Act? Can the administration simply assert that he met one of the tests for loss of citizenship, or must there be some threshold process to make that determination?
Allowing that the Nationality Act is Constitutional--something I am willing to do--I think any administration must be allowed the power to make the call. If they're wrong--if the call was wrong--in the opinion of many, then the solution is the ballot box or impeachment. If Congress wants to go down the latter road, then so be it.

Now, some might say that this is a dangerous standard, as it would seem to allow pretty much any sort of assassination being authorized by the Federal Government. And that's true, on its face. But the government is not a dictatorship and the abuse of this marginal power would--in my opinion--have serious repercussions. Let's be clear here: the Obama administration, whatever its faults, is not engaging in a program of political assassination, targeting all those that oppose it. And it's not creating random target lists, then calling up the CIA and ordering hits.

Al-Awlaki--and Samir Khan--were American citizens engaged in open warfare and/or the giving of aid and comfort to others doing such with the United Sates. That's treason. There's no way around it. Hell, Samir Kahn says as much, himself:
"I am proud to be a traitor to America."
This isn't 1836. Al-Qaeda is operating throughout the world, not from single territorial stronghold in or near the United States. Sure, capturing and trying these two would have been great, but it's unrealistic to suppose that could be done easily.

Al-Awlaki and Khan deserved no special treatment because they were born in the United States. Really, their treasonous actions should have put them in even greater jeopardy.

And there is no slippery slope. The administration is not going to assassinate Rush Limbaugh tomorrow, as much as it might want to.

Cheers, all.

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