RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Excerpt: "After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.). It almost certainly was able to find and kill Awlaki with the help of its long-time close friend President Saleh, who took a little time off from murdering his own citizens to help the U.S. murder its. The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world. The government and media search for The Next bin Laden has undoubtedly already commenced."

Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message Nov. 8, 2010 released by SITE Intelligence Group. (photo: AP)
Anwar al-Awlaki speaks in a video message Nov. 8, 2010 released by SITE Intelligence Group. (photo: AP)

The Due-Process-Free Assassination of U.S. Citizens

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

30 September 11


t was first reported in January of last year that the Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens whom the President had ordered assassinated without any due process, and one of those Americans was Anwar al-Awlaki.  No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was "considering" indicting him).  Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even has any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt.  When Awlaki's father sought a court order barring Obama from killing his son, the DOJ argued, among other things, that such decisions were "state secrets" and thus beyond the scrutiny of the courts.  He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner.  When Awlaki's inclusion on President Obama's hit list was confirmed, The New York Times noted that "it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing."

After several unsuccessful efforts to assassinate its own citizen, the U.S. succeeded today (and it was the U.S.).  It almost certainly was able to find and kill Awlaki with the help of its long-time close friend President Saleh, who took a little time off from murdering his own citizens to help the U.S. murder its.  The U.S. thus transformed someone who was, at best, a marginal figure into a martyr, and again showed its true face to the world.  The government and media search for The Next bin Laden has undoubtedly already commenced.

What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government.  Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President's ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki -- including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry's execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists -- criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed.

From an authoritarian perspective, that's the genius of America's political culture.  It not only finds way to obliterate the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power (such as extinguishing the lives of citizens without due process).  It actually gets its citizens to stand up and clap and even celebrate the destruction of those safeguards.

* * * * *

In the column I wrote on Wednesday regarding Wall Street protests, I mistakenly linked to a post discussing a New York Times article by Colin Moynihan as an example of a "condescending" media report about the protest.  There was nothing condescending or otherwise worthy of criticism in Moynihan's article; I meant to reference this NYT article by Ginia Bellafante.  My apologies to Moynihan, who rightly objected by email, for the mistake.


UPDATE: What amazes me most whenever I write about this topic is recalling how terribly upset so many Democrats pretended to be when Bush claimed the power merely to detain or even just eavesdrop on American citizens without due process.  Remember all that?  Yet now, here's Obama claiming the power not to detain or eavesdrop on citizens without due process, but to kill them; marvel at how the hardest-core White House loyalists now celebrate this and uncritically accept the same justifying rationale used by Bush/Cheney (this is war! the President says he was a Terrorist!) without even a moment of acknowledgment of the profound inconsistency or the deeply troubling implications of having a President -- even Barack Obama -- vested with the power to target U.S. citizens for murder with no due process.

Also, during the Bush years, civil libertarians who tried to convince conservatives to oppose that administration's radical excesses would often ask things like this: would you be comfortable having Hillary Clinton wield the power to spy on your calls or imprison you with no judicial reivew or oversight? So for you good progressives out there justifying this, I would ask this:  how would the power to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process look to you in the hands of, say, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann?

I was on Democracy Now earlier this morning discussing the Awlaki assassination and presidential due-process-free killings: your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+10 # Peacedragon 2011-09-30 16:54
And I thought the Rpublicans were the bad guys.
-21 # DavePrice 2011-09-30 18:44
It was a good shoot, they should of taken the same shot on Bin Laden before 9.11
+8 # Activista 2011-10-01 00:39
Idea that Al-Kaida movement will be eliminated by killing its old spiritual leaders is great for PC war games - but reality is much more complex - especially for Obama/Clinton foreign policy challenged team.
Obamas, civil war in Yemen is not going too well.
And NATO "liberated" Tripoli is under Al Kaida governor. Next round of civil war in Libya is Muslims/AL-Kaid a against more secular ex-Qaddafi "new Government".
+22 # DaveM 2011-09-30 22:14
My understanding is that the United States has a long-standing general policy against assassination. I will not speculate on how any nation might respond to ideologically driven organizations (not nations) which seek to violently attack the United States. But....we are a nation of laws first and foremost, and if we abandon the American system in an almost certainly futile attempt to "terminate" representatives of a particularly rabid (and marginalized) ideology....wil l we be American any more? It will be "the terrorists" greatest victory, for we will have reduced our nation to their level.

I also have to wonder just how long it will be before "hit lists" are prepared as an expedient means of disposing of all manner of people the government finds inconvenient. Remember, there are Predator drones patrolling Unites States airspace right now. For surveillance purposes far.

Do you feel safer yet?
+11 # sanfrass 2011-10-01 09:25
A young man in my state was incorrectly identified as a terrorist on the basis of a partial fingerprint recovered in the Madrid bombing. After detaining him, the FBI admitted to having made a mistake in the identification of the fingerprint (maybe fingerprints don't lie, but humans have to interpret them and they make mistakes). So instead of arresting him, maybe he should have been gunned down on the street? It would have spared the government an apology and whatever recompense they end up paying this young man for attempting to destroy his life.
-8 # angelfish 2011-09-30 22:51
I'm confused. I thought that if an American citizen left this Country, conspired with the enemy and actively engaged in treasonous behaviors to kill other American citizens and/or try to overthrow our duly elected government, he was considered a Traitor and would have to bear the consequences for said betrayal. It seems Mr. Al-Awlaki put HIMSELF in harms way and bore the fruit of his labor. It seems Justice IS sometimes served after all.
+10 # nice2blucky 2011-10-01 13:29
At least three Constitutional issues.

1st Amendment: Free speech.

5th Amendment: Due-Process. "No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

6th Amendment: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence."

Evidence must be presented and every citizen afforded the right to confront those presenting evidence and the evidence, itself.

A person can be tried, absentee.

It's not complicated, just more difficult.
+9 # futhark 2011-10-01 15:22
Who has identified Mr. Al-Awlaki (or Al Qaeda, for that matter) as "the enemy"? Without a constitutially enacted declaration of war by Congress, I don't see how any group of people the nation's leadership happens not to like can be arbitrarily tagged as "enemies", unless our government is in actual fact a tool of an Orwellian "Party".
+7 # abdullahiedward 2011-10-01 17:55
Being "considered a Traitor" doesn't make you one! That's why they have laws and courts of law to make such decisions. It's not for the "security" agencies to produce one sided reports on an individual that leads a president to make such a decision that makes it legal to do so.
-4 # sol4u2 2011-09-30 23:56
When Anwar Al-Awalki made the choice to join Al Quaeda, promote terrorism and live in Yemen he became a traitor to all that is American and forfeited his right to US Citizenship - his choice. I do not condone the manner in which he was dealt with but it is not a new action and is one that has been done by many of Obama's predecessors. The difference it is no longer hidden from the public view. Unfortunately it is the world we live in... not necessarily a world we can admire.
+2 # abdullahiedward 2011-10-01 18:03
It was 20 odd years ago that the late Ayatollah Khomeini issued a Fatwa that Simon Rushdie should be killed for blasphemy and the world went crazy with derision against the man and the religion he represents. There was no mention that there was a process that had been gone through which resulted in a report being past onto the Imam for his final decision in the matter. A process sanctioned by the laws of the land where they were employed and a fatwa issued by the man empowered to do so. Just as an American governor in, say the state of Texas, has the final say on who gets executed after a particular process has been completed. To me, both these processes were conducted according to the laws of the land. One generated more controversy than the other, but this assassination is generating a noticeable lack of controversy by comparison. Despite the fact that it represents a complete departure from everything this country is supposed to stand for.
0 # Activista 2011-10-01 00:14
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by drone AKA -
"Model plane bomb plot tests US antiterrorism strategy at home ...
1 day ago – Rezwan Ferdaus, a US citizen and would-be jihadist, is indicted Thursday in connection with a model plane bomb plot to attack the Pentagon ..."
the same weapon US is using - killed hundreds in Afghanistan .. Canadian company was selling to "NATO" rebels - Tripoli governor is Al-Kaida.
Is US president a terrorist?
+7 # sandyboy 2011-10-01 02:20
Peacedragon says he thought the Republicans were the bad guys. No - they're ALL the bad guys. Politicians, that is, including Obama. You don't rise to the top of the slime pit that is Chicago politics and get to be Pres without being a rotter.
+13 # Glen 2011-10-01 05:36
The entire government is now "the bad guys" Peacedragon.

What more proof is necessary than this? The proof has been piling up for quite a while, with little scrutiny by citizens, and this pretty much tops the list. Greenwald is sufficiently offended that he is now calling them ALL out.

Sad thing is, there are now young adults who grew up and matured during this new era, who give no thought to these actions except to applaud the "successes" of the U.S. rather than recognizing the implications for the future and their own lives.
+7 # futhark 2011-10-01 06:01
The use of drone and robot weapons is probably the most serious threat to liberty and security since the invention of nuclear bombs. They need to be prohibited, with serious consequences for violators, along with depleted uranium projectiles and poison gas.
+5 # Activista 2011-10-01 12:20
" drone and robot weapons is probably the most serious threat to liberty and security"
Drone technology is on "free weapon market" - not difficult to make (GPS sensors are in smart phones).
One can imagine that CIA drone use already inspired terrorist everywhere.
Reminds me of CIA inspired "car bombs" against Soviets on Kabul market.
What comes around ...
Quote: "now you can buy black market tasers , drone will be next, what come around goes around ha ha , sleep well you dumb americans"
-4 # cy31b 2011-10-01 06:16
How do we use "due process" against a terrorist who lives in a foreign country and plots the destruction of the U.S.? Is the country of origin relevant to the person's destructive intent? Awlaki's purpose was no different from Bin Laden's, but his birth nation was different. To protect the nation, this administration did its job with both jihadists and they can't plot against us anymore.
+4 # nice2blucky 2011-10-01 13:13
They can be tried absentee.
-7 # cy31b 2011-10-01 06:28
Consider this scenario: An airplane is intercepted as it enters American airspace carrying an atomic bomb. Air Force jets scramble and reach the incoming bomber before it releases its lethal weapon on the nation's capital. It orders the bomber to turn back but the pilot says he is a citizen of the U.S. and that due process has not been given to prove he is guilty of anything. What should the jet pilots do? Let the bomber release his bomb and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, and then do the due process, or take him out immediately?
+3 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-10-02 22:59
Nice try but that scenario has very little in common with the one in question here. Sounds like you're getting your political analysis from the show "24."
-15 # fhunter 2011-10-01 07:12
Mr. Greenwald: There is a comfortable bed in one of our major mental Institution. Take it!
-10 # Urbancurmudgeon 2011-10-01 08:23
Mr. Greenwald makes a striking argument. Surely he is on the side of the angels. Unfortunately we live in a world where angels are sadly absent. In their places are evil or sometimes just misguided men who bare us ill. Anwar al-Awlaki was one of them.

Mr. Greenwald begs for due process and surely that is to be sought but there was due process. Mr. al-Awlaki presented the evidence against himself, over and over. He was an American citizen seeking the death and destruction of his country and its citizens. Unless I am sorely mistaken this is treason for which the penalty is death. No, the decision didn’t go through the courts but we are at war with a terrorist organization of which al-Awlaki was the leader and whose aim is to kill American’s.

I am going to assume, for the sake of brevity, that we all understand that we are engaged in a war with these terrorist organizations. One of the ways, wars have traditionally been won is to kill or capture the leaders of the other side, which, plain and simple is what happened here. Al-Awlaki took over for bin Laden and preached death and destruction for America. He eloquently presented our case against him. All we had to do was agree with him and kill him.

Al-Awlaki gave us all the evidence with which to condemn him. Obama would have been derelict in his duty to protect the state not to have acted.
+8 # wcandler1 2011-10-01 08:27
Come on! Don't tell me the Special Opps people could not have arrested him (and Osama), but the President was afraid of giving them their 'day in court'. Surely we would have been better off to hear their sideof the story before killing them?
+5 # sandyboy 2011-10-01 08:31
Cy31b is being ridiculous! Cops shoot criminal Americans all the time without need of due process when caught about to kill someone, which is the same as his atom-bomb plane scenario. Very different from killing Bin Laden when he couldve been grabbed or killing this US citizen by assassination. Yes, they ARE terrorists, but once more for emphasis: WE ARE SUPPOSED (ha) TO BE THE GOOD GUYS who believe in law. Or what the hell are we fighting for?!
+9 # rsb1 2011-10-01 10:04
Murder is murder, and this is a good example of government sponsored MURDER. The fantasy of Al-Quaeda responsibility for 911 goes unchallenged by the mainstream media despite there being no hard evidence one way or the other. The day that the President of the United States REFUSED to launch an unbiased investigation into 911 and placed a 'gag order' on journalistic reporting of the incident was the day the freedom died. The fact that so many still believe the unsubstantiated 'official story' despite there being so many brazen unanswered questions validates the brainwashing propaganda of the mainstream media. BEWARE. The moral decay of 911 will result in losses of individual freedoms that will cause the collapse of 'empire'. The FBI could not find sufficient 'proof' to place blame for 911 on Al-Quaeda which raises doubts concerning the 'official' story. MURDER continues unabated in the name of the United States. Step back and look at the facts, and the truth becomes obvious - the recent United Nations 'acceptance' of Libyan 'rebels' who have well-documented Al-Quaeda history in exchange for outspoken admission of guilt for 911 contrary to all evidence is mind-blowing.. GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT HAS BECOME THE LAW OF THE LAND..
+5 # Jorge 2011-10-02 00:12
The very profitable MIC requires bogeyman to get the funding to grow and thrive. President Eisenhower saw it and warned about it near the end of his second term. Since the demise of the Soviet Union and the decline of Communism the MIC substituted "terrorists" as the new bogeyman, keep Americans fearful and they will empty their pocketbooks to fund the MIC. The government is using Orwell's book "1984" as their playbook. Who is the next target for a drone assassination, someone in the States? Makes it hard to support the Democratic Party when Obama is acting like Cheney and Bush. Al-Awlaki should have been arrested and tried and if found guilty then hand out punishment. We are asked to trust the same ones who lied about WMDs.
+6 # sandyboy 2011-10-01 21:30
Hey! I just read that while referencing Republicans who failed to criticise those who booed a gay soldier, Obama rightly said "every single American deserves to be treated equally under the law"! Irony is dead. President, heal thyself!
+1 # Martintfre 2011-10-01 22:26
Not only is there the constitutional issue or the moral one - but the tactical failure of killing him - so much intel that he knew now can never be recovered.
+1 # sandyclaws 2011-10-02 07:06
I think there is a moral dilema here. If you are the President and there is a person you would like to bring to court to prosecute, whose son's and daughters do you send in to get him? If you do get him and lose two or three or more people, than has the President murdered them? What would Glen Greenwald do? Maybe Glenn would like to go get these people and bring them to trial. I think we should pull out of all our wars. We are accomplishing nothing but bankrupting ourselves like Russia. We are doing nothing but killing people, and for what? If someone attacks us don't we want to fight back? Why can't we understand it when other people do the same thing? How stupid are we? And all this over OIL! God, Please help us!
+4 # Dale 2011-10-02 10:17
In the America Under Bush construction of a New World Order, the United States became a Super Rogue State. The Super Rogue declared its right to use unilateral preemptive military means against whatever nation or political group deemed to present a challenge to imperial design. The Super Rogue used terrorist means to wage a War on Terrorism. The root causes of the terrorism of the victims, the oppressed, the desperate was totally ignored. Terrorists were to be exterminated, initiating an escalating chain of violence. The Super Rogue violated international law, established treaties, and human rights at will and with impunity and celebrated these violations as bringing freedom and democracy. With Barack Obama´s ascendance to the Presidency his supporters were hopeful of real change. This has not happened and under Obama will not happen. He too is guilt of crimes against humanity.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.