In light of Senator Rand Paul’s recent jawfest on the Senate floor, now would be a good time to revive something that I wrote in Oct. 2011 following Anwar al-Awlaki’s death by drone strike:
In addition to just praise for the CIA and our military, President Obama deserves praise for today’s killing of traitor Anwar al-Awlaki. Anyone who disputes the justice of this killing is evading the facts from reality. However, there is a separate point that is worthy of discussion: Does the process for targeting Americans turned traitorous terrorists overseas offer adequate protection for the target’s individual and constitutional rights?
Looking at this concrete example, we see that this was not a case of the executive branch going off reservation and freelancing. Serious consideration has given to understanding and assessing statutes passed by the legislature and rulings by the judiciary to ensure that the procedural rights found in our Constitution and statutes were adhered to (see Washington Post article). Further, in this particular case, the judicial branch ruled that the Obama administration was acting within the executive’s political discretion.
However, in these types of cases, are our current statutes adequate for instituting procedural rights and controls to protect the individual rights of American citizens evidently involved in terrorism and rebellion against the United States? I think that is a question worthy of congressional investigation and possibly additional legislation. For example, are the procedural rights and controls to protect Americans from having their phones tapped more than those of the President ordering their killing?
This is a case in which Rep. Ron Paul, the Republican candidate, demonstrates his utter failure in his current position, which demonstrates why he should not be President at the risk of him attempting to rule by decree. MSNBC reports that Paul condemned the killing of al-Awlaki as essentially the murder of an American by his own government. Yet, Rep. Paul was a member of Congress during a period of time that everybody knew that President Obama had ordered the killing of al-Awlaki; as a congressman, what did Paul do to spark congressional action to implement procedural rights and controls by statute? As a congressman, his job is more than voting no against almost every bill on the House floor; is the extra-judicial premeditated killing of an American citizen not sufficiently important to spark Rep. Paul to action instead of hollow rhetoric?
Further, in the case of Rep. Paul, in that MSNBC piece, he is quoted as saying that “Al-Awlaki nobody ever suggested that he was participant in 9/11.” Contrary to the point of the ignorant Paul, Awlaki has been tied to giving aid to and having direct contact with 9/11 hijackers in San Diego. Given that these facts were reported by the 9/11 commission, it is shocking that Rep. Paul, a candidate for President, should appear to be ignorant of them.
Shifting to the statement of another Republican candidate, former Gov. Gary Johnson said that the case raised serious questions about whether al-Awlaki’s constitutional due process rights had been violated. As a presidential candidate, Johnson should be better informed and speak beyond platitudes to addressing specific policy issues. Frankly, he missed a good opportunity to either be informed on an issue or shut up when he is not.
What should candidate Johnson have said, informed by my prior observations?
Al-Awlaki was a vile traitor and today he received justice. I praise the CIA, our military, and President Obama for this action to protect the individual rights of all Americans.
However, I have to be honest and point out that President Johnson would have handled this situation differently; although, it would have had the same net result. When presented with this plan to kill an American turned traitor and terrorist, I would have asked for more diligence in protecting due process rights of an American citizen. It should not be the President alone without direction from the legislature and review by the courts to decide that a traitorous American should be killed by our government. I am not suggesting that a criminal conviction is required; however, if the executive branch requires court review to listen to his phone calls, then there should be some judicial protection when the President signs an unconvicted American’s death warrant.
While the courts have ruled upon al-Awlaki’s case and validated this death sentence of a traitor and terrorist, and the executive branch acted to fully consider the constitutional protections of Al-Awlaki, I think that the Congress has fallen down on this issue of establishing protections for Americans’ rights. Given the foreknowledge of this action, I question some of my fellow Republicans also running for our party’s presidential nomination: “As current legislators, what have you done to insure that statutes were enacted to protect the rights of Americans targeted for killing based upon allegations of being traitorous terrorists?”
As President, I would have started by doing as President Obama did; however, I would have done more to spark the Congress to act so as to protect the rights of Americans subject to such allegations and penalties.