Was Obama's order to kill al Qaida cleric an assassination?
(McClatchy) -- by Michael Doyle --
WASHINGTON — Lawyers signed off on the targeted killing of Anwar al Awlaki, the radical U.S.-born Muslim cleric whose violent death provokes fresh questions about right and wrong in wartime.
Rules, after all, still apply even when the missiles start flying.
The Obama administration considers Awlaki's killing the justified elimination of a proven national security threat. Critics, including Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, called it on Friday an unlawful "assassination."
This is one legal dispute judges won't solve.
"There are circumstances in which the (president's) unilateral decision to kill a U.S. citizen overseas is constitutionally committed to the political branches and judicially unreviewable," U.S. District Judge John Bates concluded last year.
In his 83-page decision last December, Bates dismissed an effort by Awlaki's father and civil liberties groups to block, in essence, Awlaki's execution. While acknowledging many "stark and perplexing questions," Bates said he lacked the authority to get involved.
The same advocates who challenged Awlaki's lethal targeting then are now seeking through the Freedom of Information Act the specific documents and in-house legal opinions the Obama administration used to justify the alleged hit lists.
"The legality of the targeted killing program is a concern, whether or not the target is an American citizen," Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security project, said in an interview Friday, "but with an American, there are additional due process concerns."
An American overseas, for instance, can't be wiretapped without a warrant approved by a U.S. judge. No such warrant is needed to eavesdrop on a foreigner.
On Friday, exemplifying the administration's secrecy, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that "we're not going to address circumstances of (Awlaki's) death."
But through congressional hearings, legal briefs and other documents, some glimmers reveal how much Obama has come to rely on the war-fighting reasoning previously articulated by the Bush administration...MORE...LINK
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