Like Andy McCarthy, I wonder whether the announcement by the Obama administration that it has approved an American traitor for the CIA’s approved assassination list for the first time will create a stir among those who criticized Barack Obama’s predecessor for human-rights violations. Anwar al-Aulaqi (also spelled Awlaki) has long been suspected of an operational role in the 9/11 plot, and most recently had connections to both the Fort Hood massacre and the aborted Christmas Day attack by the EunuchBomber. The move reflects a nation at war, not at prosecution:
A Muslim cleric tied to the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner has become the first U.S. citizen added to a list of suspected terrorists the CIA is authorized to kill, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
Anwar al-Aulaqi, who resides in Yemen, was previously placed on a target list maintained by the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command and has survived at least one strike carried out by Yemeni forces with U.S. assistance against a gathering of suspected al-Qaeda operatives.
Because he is a U.S. citizen, adding Aulaqi to the CIA list required special approval from the White House, officials said. The move means that Aulaqi would be considered a legitimate target not only for a military strike carried out by U.S. and Yemeni forces, but also for lethal CIA operations.
“He’s in everybody’s sights,” said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity.
In one sense, it’s a bit silly to have to go through this exercise, although the abundance of formality does no real harm. Aulaqi has conducted operations of war against the United States from abroad, and that makes him a legitimate target for our military and intelligence agents while abroad. In fact, he hasn’t really hidden the fact, choosing to brag openly at times about it, shutting up only after a near-miss encounter with an American/Yemeni military strike. People who conduct war against the US should not expect the criminal-prosecution treatment, but a military approach to their destruction.
If Aulaqi traveled back to the US and was captured, that would be different. That would not be a military jurisdiction, and as a US citizen, he would handled by civilian authority with the protections of the Constitution. But his citizenship gives him no special shield while abroad and conducting war against the United States, nor should it. If he chooses to put himself on the battlefield by conspiring with al-Qaeda, then he shares their status and their vulnerability to the same kinds of operations we put in place for all other AQ targets.
Had the Bush administration made this announcement, the Left would be screaming from the high heavens about abuses of power. Some of the more intellectually consistent on the Left may still, particularly Glenn Greenwald and a few others. However, the main reaction to this obviously correct decision will probably be deafening silence; the Right will agree, and most of the Left will hesitate to criticize Obama. It should be an interesting test for those who have been especially vocal about trying terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court rather than in military tribunals, for it will put them in the position of demanding a Constitutional approach to foreign terrorists while tacitly approving a military/intelligence assassination for an American citizen.
Finally, one has to wonder why Aulaqi was the first to make this list. I’d bet that Adam Gadahn is green with envy, and embarrassed that he’s just not important enough to get approval for a CIA assassination.