“If the court’s ruling is correct, the government has unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation...It would be difficult to conceive of a proposition more inconsistent with the Constitution, or more dangerous to American liberty.”
Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, on the decision this week by federal judge John D. Bates allowing the Obama administration to pursue the death of Anwar-al-Awlaki (in picture at left), an American citizen and Muslim cleric who is believed to have been involved with violent Al Qaeda activities in Yemen. Awlaki is now in hiding. While acknowledging that the thought of the president ordering the assassination of a U.S. citizen "without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization” raised "stark" and "perplexing" questions, Bates saw the decision to target Awlaki for killing as a "political" question. Only the executive branch, he concluded, has the tools to determine whether someone in hiding "presents such a threat to national security that the United States may authorize the use of lethal force against him."