FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Targeting Al-Awlaki

Agents of the United States are openly trying to assassinate Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, while he is in hiding in Yemen.   Despite what the apologists for assassination argue this is illegal, immoral and unwise.

Assassinating Awlaki in the US would be murder, a capital crime, punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty.  Morally, few would argue that agents of the FBI or the CIA could murder the cleric in the US.  If it is illegal and immoral to kill a Muslim cleric in the US why would it be legal, moral or wise to do so in Yemen?

The Imam, who lived in the US for more than two decades, is accused of using his powerful speaking and teaching skills on behalf of terrorism.  Authorities say he was in e-mail contact with the Army Major arrested for killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas.  He is loosely linked to the Nigerian Christmas bomber.  The Times Square SUV bomber is reported to have listened to the cleric’s online lectures.

Assassination has been illegal since 1976.

In 1976 U.S. President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905, Section 5(g) states “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.”  President Reagan followed up to make the ban clearer in Executive Order 12333.  Section 2.11 of that Order states “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”  Section 2.12 further says “Indirect participation.  No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order.”

The reason for the ban on assassinations was that the CIA was involved in attempts to assassinate national leaders opposed by the US.  Among others, US forces sought to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam.

Since 2001, the US has returned to the assassination business.  Along with its many other illegal actions, the Bush-Cheney administration revived the use of murder to eliminate political opponents across the world.

How can murder be allowed?  The Congressional Research Service published a review of the ban on assassinations in 2002.  The review weakly suggested “it might be sufficient” to interpret the War Power resolutions passed by Congress after September 11, 2001 as legal authority to allow assassinations outside the U.S.  However, Congress authorized no war against Yemen, no military strikes against anyone in Yemen, nor authorized any assassination of anyone anywhere.

Defenders of assassination argue that murder is a legal part of the US strategy of “pre-emptive self-defense” authorized by Congress after 9-11.  Under this argument, the US government is allowed to decide who represents a possible threat to our nation anywhere anytime and then exterminate them before they can damage the US.   They also argue that the decision to target someone for assassination is legally secret.  Because any threat to the US triggers these powers, under this line of argument, the US is in a permanent war state and has these powers forever.

This is perfect for the apologists for assassination because the government alone is thus investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.  The public will never know because the government can do all this in secret.  And since the war against terrorism is permanent, the government can murder people forever.

Thus the last traces of the rule of law evaporate.  There is no transparency because no one gets to know.  There is no accountability because the executive has unchecked authority.

Does anyone think the US would approve other nations acting like this?  Would it be acceptable or even arguably legal for Iran or China or Israel or France to secretly decide who their enemies are and then execute them in the US if they find them here?

Apologists for assassination ease the way for the US to kill anyone anywhere anytime.  What is then the logical next step in this argument?  If we can secretly kill US citizens who we decide are our enemies outside the US, why not inside the US?  And why not keep that secret as well?

The US cannot be allowed to continue to exercise secret authority to murder people.  If the Bush administration was doing this as openly as the Obama administration is, people would be vocal about its illegality, immorality and its lack of wisdom.

Murdering anyone in the US is a criminal act that is prosecuted regularly in courts across this country.  Why should secret cold-blooded murder by government forces outside the U.S. be treated any differently?

BILL QUIGLEY is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.  His email is quigley77@gmail.com

 

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail