The Assassination of Ayman al-Zawahri

While U.S. officials and their acolytes in the mainstream press have described the U.S. national-security establishment’s recent assassination of Ayman al-Zawahri as a great victory for President Biden and the U.S. “global war on terror,” it is important to keep in mind that the assassination was just plain murder on the part of America’s federal killing machine.

Federal officials and their mainstream press have justified al-Zawahri’s killing on two grounds: (1) by claiming that al-Zawahri participated in the 9/11 attacks and (2) by claiming that the killing was simply part of their “global war on terror.” 

Both justifications, however, are nothing more than rationalizations for a state-sponsored murder on the part of the U.S. national-security establishment.

Let’s keep in mind something important: terrorism is not an act of war. It is a federal criminal offense. That includes the 9/11 attacks. As acts of terrorism, the 9/11 attacks were federal criminal offenses. 

Consider all the federal prosecutions for terrorism that have taken place in U.S. district courts in New York, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere for many years. There is a simple reason for those prosecutions: Terrorism is a federal criminal offense. If it were an act of war, there never would have been those criminal prosecutions. Instead, there would have simply been prisoner-of-war camps, like in regular wars. In regular wars, no soldier is criminally prosecuted for murder for killing an enemy soldier. That’s because in war, soldiers are legally entitled to kill the enemy.

In 1993, terrorists set off a bomb in the World Trade Center. The bombing didn’t bring down the towers but it did kill and injure multitudes of people. It was no different in principle from the later attacks on 9/11. When Ramzi Yousef, one of the people who committed the 1993 attack, was later taken into custody, he was not placed in a prisoner-of war-camp. Instead, he was prosecuted in federal district court. Again, that’s because terrorism is a federal criminal offense, not an act of war.

Because the magnitude of the death and damage was so much greater with the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon and the CIA succeeded in perverting and warping America’s founding judicial system. After those attacks, they established a torture and prison camp in Cuba. Why Cuba? Their aim was to establish a Constitution-free zone where they could bring any suspected terrorist in the world and do whatever they wanted to him, without any judicial interference whatsoever. That included such things as torture, indefinite detention, and extra-judicial execution. 

The Supreme Court declared that it had jurisdiction over the Cuba center but then, in an act of extreme passivity, permitted the Pentagon and the CIA to establish a dual judicial system, one that would operate alongside the federal judicial system. The Pentagon and the CIA would have the omnipotent authority to decide whether to send terrorism suspects through the federal system or through their kangaroo military-tribunal system. 

The Gitmo system has always been flagrantly unconstitutional. But the federal judiciary has always been deferential to the Pentagon and the CIA. That’s why there are still prisoners at Gitmo who have been incarcerated and tortured for decades without even the semblance of a trial, in flagrant violation of the right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishments.

After the 9/11 attacks, the national-security establishment also claimed that it had the authority to assassinate anyone it considered to be a terrorist. As I document in my new book An Encounter with Evil: The Abraham Zapruder Story, this power of assassination came into existence long before the 9/11 attacks, but by and large, it was kept under wraps and not publicized widely by the CIA and the Pentagon.

Not so after 9/11, however. At that point, assassination became a well-established, widely publicized power of the CIA and the Pentagon. From that point on, they didn’t have to bring suspected terrorists to justice, either in the federal court system or the tribunal system at Gitmo. They could just kill suspected terrorists on sight. That included American citizens.

There was always one great big legal problem, however, with their program of state-sponsored assassination: The Constitution, which not only does not delegate a power of assassination to federal officials but also, through the Fifth Amendment, expressly prohibits the federal taking of life without due process of law — i.e., without formal notice and a trial.

The Constitution, however, proved to be no obstacle to state-sponsored assassinations simply because the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary played their standard deferential and passive role by upholding this omnipotent, totalitarian, dark-side power. 

It is worth mentioning that there is no indication that al-Zawahri was participating in any anti-American terrorist operation at the time of his assassination. His killing appears to be nothing more than but an extrajudicial act of deadly vengeance in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks more than 20 years ago. It’s also worth mentioning that al-Zawahri was never convicted of participating in the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, as U.S. officials have slowly and reluctantly released their highly secret stash of evidence regarding 9/11 over the years, the great weight and preponderance of that evidence seems to point to the murderous regime of Saudi Arabia as the orchestrator of the 9/11 attacks. Of course, the Pentagon and the CIA would have every incentive to protect the murderous Saudi regime given that it provides much of the oil that funds their massive worldwide military  machine.

Our American ancestors brought into existence the greatest judicial system in history. It was a system that admittedly permitted some guilty people to go free, but with the aim of ensuring that innocent people were never punished, killed, tortured, or abused. That system worked well for some 150 years. Unfortunately, the Pentagon and the CIA have destroyed it, as we have most recently seen with their extrajudicial murder of accused terrorist Ayman al-Zawahri.

This first appeared on Jacob Hornberger’s Explore Freedom blog.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.