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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lethal Targeting

As we discuss in the textbook, the war on terror has raised many constitutional and legal issues. The Washington Post reports on a new development:
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.

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.

“What constitutes due process in this case is a due process in war,” said one of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closely held deliberations within the administration.
The killing led to a lively exchange at the daily White House press briefing:
Q Do you not see at all -- does the administration not see at all how a President asserting that he has the right to kill an American citizen without due process, and that he’s not going to even explain why he thinks he has that right is troublesome to some people?

MR. CARNEY: I wasn’t aware of any of those things that you said actually happening. And again, I’m not going to address the circumstances of Awlaki’s death. I think, again, it is an important fact that this terrorist, who was actively plotting -- had plotted in the past, and was actively plotting to attack Americans and American interests, is dead. But I’m not going to -- from any angle -- discuss the circumstances of his death.

Q Do you know that the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU tried to get permission to represent Awlaki? And his father had asked them to do that. But they needed to get permission from the Treasury Department so that they could challenge his being on this targeted killing list. And the administration, the Obama administration refused to let them represent him, to not even -- he couldn't even have the ACLU representing him.

MR. CARNEY: Well, I would send those questions, or take those questions to Treasury or Justice. I don't have anything on that for you.

Q What do you think constitutional law professor Barack Obama would make of this?

MR. CARNEY: I think he spoke about it today.


Q Sorry, just one more time on this. Can you just explain more broadly under what legal authority the U.S. government can kill an American citizen abroad?

MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve had that question. It’s not a question, taken out of context, that I would have an answer to. Generally speaking -- and I’m certainly not going to answer a question like that in any way that relates to the events of today. I’m not going to talk about the circumstances of Awlaki’s death, and I’m not going to acknowledge or concede or accept premises embedded in questions. And you should take no response that I give here to have done that because I’m not talking about the circumstances.