Okay, I admit it – I grew tired of Greenwald's constant critiquing of President Obama after OBL was killed. In fact, he almost lost me, the droning was so insistent.
But this morning's entry by Greenwald, "U.S. tries to assassinate U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki," is so devastatingly sharp and terrifyingly poignant it hurts.
Anyone who rightfully blasted President Bush for moving beyond his constitutional authorities (warrantless wiretaps, anyone?) cannot ignore what Obama has done, what he is now doing, what he intends to do.
In our post-OBL revelry, we cannot allow this to quietly fade...
There are certain civil liberties debates where, even though I hold strong opinions, I can at least understand the reasoning and impulses of those who disagree; the killing of bin Laden was one such instance. But the notion that the President has the power to order American citizens assassinated without an iota of due process -- far from any battlefield, not during combat -- is an idea so utterly foreign to me, so far beyond the bounds of what is reasonable, that it's hard to convey in words or treat with civility.
How do you even engage someone in rational discussion who is willing to assume that their fellow citizen is guilty of being a Terrorist without seeing evidence for it, without having that evidence tested, without giving that citizen a chance to defend himself -- all because the President declares it to be so?
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution could not be clearer about the requirement of due process before an American citizen, regardless of where he is or what he is doing, can have his life taken: "no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law."
It is such a well-established, integral point of law that – the requirement of due process – that even Antonin Scalia refused to accept President Bush's detainment of an American-born terrorist without a trial. Again, Greenwald:
In a dissenting opinion joined by the court's most liberal member, John Paul Stevens, Scalia explained that not even the War on Terror allows the due process clause to be ignored when the President acts against those he claims have joined the Enemy:
The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive. Blackstone stated this principle clearly: "Of great importance to the public is the preservation of this personal liberty: for if once it were left in the power of any, the highest, magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper … there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities. … To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom." . . . .
Subjects accused of levying war against the King were routinely prosecuted for treason. . . . The Founders inherited the understanding that a citizen's levying war against the Government was to be punished criminally. The Constitution provides: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort"; and establishes a heightened proof requirement (two witnesses) in order to "convic[t]" of that offense. Art. III, §3, cl. 1.
I do not care whether or not al-Awlaki is the most reprehensible, dangerous terrorist roaming Yemen, or the world for that matter. The President of the United States does not have the constitutional power – even in matters of war – to violate an American citizen's right to live, to have that life taken from him, without a trial, without evidence, showing that said life must can and should legally be taken.
This is beyond Bush territory. We have moved into an autocratic realm, and I say that as a strong supporter of this President.
Obama apparently has a "hit-list" of American-born terrorists he plans to execute. This is constitutionally reprehensible, constitutionally forbidden, and it cannot stand.
This cannot stand.