Greg Miller of The Washington Post reports Legal memo backing drone strike that killed American Anwar al-Awlaki is released, by a federal court on Monday. Reading more carefully we learn that actually only portions of the secret memo outlining the legal justification for killing American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, without any due process consideration in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011 were released. The section that presumably explained why this order was not a violation of the 4th Amendment was deleted.
Important sections of the Justice Department’s legal analysis were stripped from the version of the document released to the public. Among the deleted portions were paragraphs that presumably explained why the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel determined that killing Awlaki in a drone strike would not violate the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees due process to U.S. citizens accused of crimes.
Awlaki’s relationship with al-Qaeda “brings him within the scope” of the 2001 congressional authorization of the use of military force, according to the document. Citing information provided by the CIA and Pentagon, the memo said Awlaki has “operational and leadership roles” with al-Qaeda and “continues to plot attacks intended to kill Americans.”
While acknowledging that killing a U.S. citizen carries “the risk of erroneous deprivation of a citizen’s liberty in the absence of sufficient process,” the memo argued that those considerations are overwhelmed when the target poses “a continued and imminent threat of violence or death” to other Americans.
The memo does not mention the means by which Anwar al-Awlaki would be killed, which turned out to be by a drone strike.
Also, because the authorization did not limit the killing to any geographic boundaries so the memo argues that it does not matter that the execution occurred in Yemen rather than Afghanistan, where the war on al-Qaeda was occurring.
Senate Intelligence Committee member, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), demanded answers to other uestions such as "whether the president can order an American killed 'anywhere in the world' and what it means 'to say that capturing an American must be ‘infeasible.’ ”
Also, the article does not mention any evidence provided to explain the due process, and standards and thresholds of evidence used to determine that Anwar al-Awlaki represented “a continued and imminent threat of violence or death” to other Americans.
Without some time limit of the classification that allows the full release of all evidence and reasoning used we create an new unbalanced power in the government that we can predict will eventually be abused.
Also, even it we grant, that all this secrecy and lack of transparency is still appropriate three years later which I do not, does President Obama not owe us a major speech where he comes out to announce that he repudiates everything he has said previously about intending to be the most transparent administration in history?
He should explain that he has apparently now changed his mind based secret information, which he can not tell us about and now has adopted and set the new precedent that he, and any future president can, has, and will sign secret executive orders suspending any aspect of our Constitution and Bill of Rights without necessarily telling us the reason, the evidence, or that has even occurred.
This could be an advantage come election time when we can explain that there is indeed truly many important differences between Republicans and Democrats and one of them is at least we are no where near as hypocritical as the Republicans. But, we can not do that now, so the President needs to give this speech A.S.A.P.