Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Crossing the Line: An Update

John Adams
About a month ago, in a blog post entitled Crossing the Line, I wrote about the legal challenge to the Obama Administration's policy of targeting an American citizen for assassination.  The ACLU and CCR (Center for Constitutional Rights) brought suit on behalf of the father of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric with ties to Al Qaeda and allegedly hiding in Yemen.  I was particularly incensed by the criticism of the legal team that brought the lawsuit as having crossed some line by representing a suspected terrorist. 

The judge ultimately dismissed the case without reaching the merits, finding that the father did not have standing to sue.  But it is worth taking note of the New York Times Dec. 12th editorial entitled Judicial Scrutiny Before Death, which argued that despite winning in court, "the administration should remain very worried about the moral implications of its policy," which the district court judge "sharply questioned" despite dismissing the lawsuit.  The Times noted that, as the judge wrote, one of the many unanswered questions remaining is whether "the Executive [can] order the assassination of a U.S. citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization”

The Times stressed the importance of judicial scrutiny, and suggested creating a court that operates in secrecy, "like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes wiretaps on foreign agents inside the United States."  Thus, at minimum, "the government could present its evidence to this court behind closed doors before putting a terror suspect on its target list."  As the Times concluded, "The government may have won this legal battle on technical grounds, but the underlying civil liberties violation is still going on."


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