Most, including me, would agree that thwarting terrorists’ plans by arrest or other means is justified. This week’s action carries with it the unusual circumstance that two of the people killed were United States citizens. The other, Samir Kahn, published an online magazine called “Inspire,” aimed at pro-al-Qaida readers in western countries.
Neither person had been charged or indicted, which raises questions about the limits of power enjoyed by the President. Could anyone residing in the United States be declared an enemy of the state and assassinated without repudiation?
Apparently so, since President Bush signed an executive order on September 17, 2001 authorizing the CIA to hunt down terrorists worldwide. The order does not carve out U.S. citizens or any country in which these actions cannot occur.
Some argue that such actions blur the distinctions between “free” countries and those under the heavy handed rule of despots.
How can President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder demand that Guantanamo detainees be given due process in our court system and, at the same time, skip due process by taking out American citizens al-Awlaki and Kahn?
Many criticized Cheney and Rumsfeld for transporting captured terrorists to countries where they could be waterboarded. Will those same critics remain silent about bypassing waterboarding to move straight to assassination?