The targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki by a CIA-operated drone in Yemen last Friday raises troubling questions for the White House. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed a resolution that authorized military action against the perpetrators, but al-Awlaki—an American citizen who reportedly has called for violence against the United States and may or may not have taken part in terrorist operations—was not a member of the 9/11 plot and therefore doesn’t fall under the congressional resolution. According to Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland, the executive order to kill al-Awlaki should worry all Americans because it was authorized without due process or oversight from other branches of government. This creates a dangerous precedent: “the rights of all Americans (and other persons) are in danger,” Eland writes in his latest op-ed.
“The courts clearly have a right to comment on this issue,” Eland continues. “They should prohibit the administration from having a secret kill list and require it to bring suspected terrorists to trial.”
The gross violations of justice in the U.S. criminal justice system suggest another reason for concern. Eland notes that 138 death row inmates have been exonerated since the mid-1970s. Writes Eland: “Given the government’s spotty record at identifying murderers, can we be confident that our president can competently identify terrorists and kill them—all the while in violation of the constitutional requirements of due process and checks and balances by other branches of government? Since many of the prisoners at Guantanamo weren’t guilty of any crime, let alone terrorism, the answer to the last question is a resounding ‘no.’”