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United States Government Security The Courts The Military Politics

Court Releases DOJ Memo Justifying Drone Strike On US Citizen 371

An anonymous reader writes in with news that the memo presenting a case for killing Anwar al-Awlaki has been released thanks to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Monday released a secret 2010 Justice Department memo justifying the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S citizen killed in a drone strike in 2011. The court released the document as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union to make the document public. Then-acting Assistant Attorney General David Barron, in the partially redacted 41-page memo, outlines the justification of the drone strike in Yemen to take out al-Awlaki, an alleged operational leader of al Qaeda.
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Court Releases DOJ Memo Justifying Drone Strike On US Citizen

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  • Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @06:33PM (#47301133)

    "Alleged" operational leader. No trial. Bam! You're dead.

    Welcome to Soviet USA.

  • by Bartles ( 1198017 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @06:44PM (#47301215)
    Worse, actually. They never did this.
  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @06:49PM (#47301257)

    Or you just never heard about it.

  • Murder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2014 @06:59PM (#47301319)

    Why doesn't anyone use the correct term.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2014 @07:03PM (#47301355)
    Stupid idiot. You're the only one who mentioned race.
  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @07:07PM (#47301387) Journal
    It's just goodies all around: according to unspecified intelligence, as examined to an unknown standard of proof, by unidentified parties, in secret, he was the alleged operational leader "taking on a continuous command function", which means he isn't entitled to the protections of a civilian under the Geneva convention, even though he is unaffiliated with any national armed force, and not directly engaged in any hostility at the time and place of his death.

    Apparently, this is because the global war on terror is a 'non-international armed conflict', albeit one where the Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force is geographically (and temporally, enjoy kids!) unbounded.

    What is not clear (at least from my reading) is where the boundary is between 'an armed and dangerous criminal justice problem' and a 'non-international armed conflict' between the United States and a non-state group. Al Qaeda is apparently in (aided by; but not strictly because of, the AUMF), so killing or imprisoning people we believe to be members, on or off a battlefield, in countries with any level of active conflict, is A-OK. Who else would qualify for this rather unenviable status?

    Could we be at war with the Sinola Cartel if we wanted to? The Crips?
  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @07:08PM (#47301395)

    Yeah, because destroying backwaters half way around the world is a surefire way to make the US 'free'.

  • what is so special (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2014 @07:09PM (#47301407)

    about striking an us citizen as opposed to say an Iraqi, an Albanian, a German, or a Mexican? They do not seem to have problems with most Arab countries. Not people? Not deserving a trial?

  • by I'm New Around Here ( 1154723 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @07:22PM (#47301541)

    If you support the killing of this man I happily support putting you in a cage for the rest of your life.

    Are you in the streets demanding the same consequences for President Obama? For any of his staff?

  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @07:41PM (#47301725)

    Free? You call yourself free?

    The only reason you may still speak what you feel like is 'cause your leaders learned that it doesn't matter jack what you say. Should you for some odd reason actually become important enough that people listen to you, you'll be silenced soon enough, don't worry.

  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @07:59PM (#47301905)

    If you are in a state of war with a country, within some limits it is expected that you can kill people in that country. Where things get complicated is when you are in an ill defined state of hostility against a non-state organization like Al Qaeda. What are the rules on declaring someone to be part of that organization and there for a military target? While this question applies to any possible targets, it is especially troublesome when the target is an american citizen. The government cannot execute an american citizen without a trial. Can it declare an american citizen to be a member of a foreign military and then execute them? This would seem to completely bypass the constitutional right to a fair trial.

    In a standard state-war it is fairly simple: If they are in an enemy country it is OK to kill them in the same way that it was OK to kill anyone else in that country. An american arrested for treason in the US on the other hand would get a trial. In a conventional state war you don't bomb countries that are not enemy states.

    The level of activity to be considered a target for execution is also a tricky question. It is clearly OK to return fire if fired upon. When his actions are less direct it becomes more difficult.

    At the root of all this is that the concept of "war" has changed and laws have not kept up with 21st century wars.

  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mariox19 ( 632969 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @08:13PM (#47301991)

    I want to be sympathetic to your sentiment, but there is no one outside of the United States threatening our freedom. That's a fact. There is no one in the military fighting for our freedom. Granted, they may stand ready to defend our freedom, should a foreign threat materialize, but that's a different story.

    Sadly, the real threat to our freedom is from within. It's from people in government who fancy themselves on the side of the angels and who think it's okay to bend or break the rules—a.k.a. the Constitution—to defend the "homeland." They're setting up the legal framework and law enforcement infrastructure that will completely obliterate the United States of America for good. What will be left is lines on a map claiming a heritage it has no right to.

  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday June 23, 2014 @09:39PM (#47302577)

    The right to freedom of speech is not unrestricted:

    Perhaps not, but punishable by death, for speech?? Even "illegal speech"?

    From the linked article he wasn't just posting videos urging violence but was also involved in planning attacks against U.S. persons.

    Should be: allegedly involved

    So, if he was involved, To what extent was his involvement, and what was the sentence? Was he allowed to confront his accusors? Was he given due process?

    I'm not saying he was a good guy, or even that its likely that he was a good guy, but seeing as we just executed him, extra judicially, with no due process, WE are NOT the "good guys" either.

    Beating the terrorists by becoming them is not a victory at all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2014 @09:39PM (#47302583)

    I'm sorry, I should have been more clear. The United States--theoretically of course--does not violate the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights of *anyone*. That is, if you're a foreigner, even one in the country illegally, you are afforded due process just like any other citizen. But that's for matters occurring within the boundaries of the United States.

    For the USA to kill a foreigner on foreign soil, I would say that constitutes an act of war, thus the laws of war (Geneva Conventions, et al.) should apply. In this case though, the USA killed someone on foreign soil, but he was technically an American citizen. A reprehensible one, and one who repeatedly had called for violence against Americans and their allies, but he was an American citizen. He was born in the United States and therefore was a citizen.

    A person can renounce American citizenship, or it can be revoked, but neither of those things had happened. I've heard that in his various rants that seem to be why we wanted to kill him, al-Awlaki had verbally renounced his citizenship, but that is not the same (to me at least, IANAL) as actually going through the process of renunciation (I think you have to send them your passport and fill out a form explaining why you don't want to be a citizen of the USA anymore). It could be argued that he had de facto renounced his citizenship by his actions but that's something for a court to decide, and that's my problem with the whole affair.

    Given how incendiary this guy seemed to be, it should have been very simple a matter to revoke his citizenship. But that never happened. Given that he was imprisoned in Yemen more or less at the behest of the United States, it should have been a very simple matter to try and convict him--even in absentia--for whatever crimes the US gov't thought it was worth drone striking him over. But that never happened. That we summarily execute anyone in the name of truth, justice and the american way or whatever nonsense was used as justification is an abomination to me. But it is especially worrisome to me that we are willing to do this to another American citizen, as we were supposed to be doing this in the name of preserving our way of life--a way of life that includes all those pesky rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 23, 2014 @10:46PM (#47302967)

    I just don't think al-Awlaki acted in a manner consistent with being entitled to those same protections.

    Wrong. No matter what group he was part of, he's still a US citizen. He's entitled to all the same protections, and the constitution says *nothing* that says otherwise.

  • Re:Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ATMAvatar ( 648864 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @02:53AM (#47303993) Journal

    Being an accessory to murder as often as Anwar al-Awlaki was would earn you enough 20 year sentences to fill a hundred lifetimes.

    The part that's missing is the murder trial before sentencing.

  • Re: Yeah sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @05:28AM (#47304405)

    If you're fighting with our enemies, as an enemy combatant, why do you believe you should get a trial as a criminal rather than simply being killed on the battlefield after identification As an enemy?

    Blurring the lines between soldiers and terrorists is exceptionally dangerous, especially for America.

    After all, using the implication of what you wrote above, it would apparently be OK for the British Royal Air Force to drone strike Congress, because a Republican congressman has been and probably still is an outspoken supporter of Irish republican terrorism []. And if a few innocent other congressmen get blown to bits too, well that's unfortunate collateral damage but I guess they shouldn't have been hanging around known supporters of terrorism should they? The world's a battlefield these days.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller