Extrajudicial Targeting of Americans Challenged

Two civil liberties organizations said they will file a legal challenge against the government’s suspected targeting for assassination of an American supporter of Al Qaeda, arguing that under the U.S. Constitution no citizen can be “deprived of life… without due process of law.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights first filed suit against the Treasury Department, which said they needed a “license” in order to act on behalf of Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been designated as a terrorist.  After the lawsuit was filed yesterday, the Treasury Department said the license to proceed would be granted.

Meanwhile, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and several House colleagues introduced legislation last week “to prohibit the extrajudicial killing of United States citizens.”

“No United States citizen, regardless of location, can be ‘deprived of life, liberty, property, without due process of law’, as stated in Article XIV of the Constitution,” their bill said. [The cited statement is actually from the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.]

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the targeting of al-Awlaki was not done entirely without process.  “There’s a process in place that I’m not at liberty to discuss,” he said.

“If… we think that direct action [against terrorists] will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that,” then-DNI Dennis C. Blair told a House Intelligence Committee hearing (pdf) on February 3, 2010.

But the Kucinich bill said that “No one, including the President, may instruct a person acting within the scope of employment with the United States Government or an agent acting on behalf of the United States Government to engage in, or conspire to engage in, the extrajudicial killing of a United States citizen.”

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