Sunday, October 21, 2012

Should the President be able to execute American citizens without a trial?

His name was Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, and he was 16 years old when he died — when he was killed by a drone strike in Yemen, by the light of the moon. He was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, who was also born in America, who was also an American citizen, and who was killed by drone two weeks before his son was, along with another American citizen named Samir Khan. Of course, both Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were, at the very least, traitors to their country — they had both gone to Yemen and taken up with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ...

I spent the better part of this past spring researching and writing a story for the August issue of Esquire entitled "The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama," which explores how President Obama's expansive embrace of the power to kill individuals identified as America's enemies has transformed not only his presidency but probably all American presidencies to follow.

The idea that American citizenship is no more a refuge against the attacks of American drones than farflung geography; the idea that the secret deliberations of the executive branch count as "due process" even when an American citizen is being considered for execution without trial; the idea, indeed, that "due process does not guarantee judicial process": all these ideas have entered the public sphere largely because the Obama administration made the extraordinary decision to target and kill an American citizen named Anwar al-Awlaki. ...

[T]he killing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki constitutes a counter-narrative that the Lethal Presidency would do anything to avoid: an innocent killed by an administration that has turned its argument that it hardly ever makes mistakes into an appeal for the right make its mistakes in secret, with no public accountability at all, even when one of its mistakes results in the death of an American citizen. ...

Barack Obama has created the Lethal Presidency by insisting he that he has been given the power to kill, in secret, anyone who is plotting against Americans or American interests, even if he or she is an American citizen.

It will be very difficult to constrain that power, no matter who is president.
--Tom Junod, Esquire, on the erosion of due process