The deliberate targeting of an American citizen for military action is, to my knowledge, unprecedented. The President, in the course of authorizing direct action against specified members of Al Qaeda, included Al-Alwaki as a valid target. And just today, we learn that he and Samir Kahn, another American citizen, were killed in a Predator strike.
Rather predictably, the ACLU (and doubtless others- I haven’t had a chance to read the entire internets yet) bemoan this as extrajudicial killing and liken it to imposition of the death penalty without benefit of due process.
While I’m certainly libertarian enough to always be wary of any expansion of government power, particularly when it is unilaterally assumed by the executive branch, the reaction of the ACLU overlooks the fact that the President must operate in the real world. Al-Alwaki hasn’t exactly been shy about his membership in, and allegiance to Al Qaeda. Further, he has been explicit in his calls for the killing of his fellow citizens. That’s not to mention his complicity in multiple attempts to kill Americans, here on American soil, such as the Detroit Christmas Underwear Bomb plot.
Had Al-Alwaki been resident in the US and vulnerable to arrest, the ACLU might have a point.
But having fled US territory, and assumed a leadership position in an non-state organization with the state goal of killing Americans, can’t we agree that for any practical purpose, he was an “outlaw” in that he, by his own actions, could not be brought before any court?
Imagine taking the ACLU’s position to an extreme. Shouldn’t President Lincoln’s Justice Department have issued indictments to the entire leadership of the Confederacy, and rather than fighting the South on the field of battle, arrested every member of the insurrection? Where was the due process for the hundreds of thousands of Southern men felled in battle? After all, in the eyes of the US, those soldiers were US citizens.
It is right and proper that we remain skeptical of any president who targets citizens for military action. Vigilant oversight both by Congress, and the American people is called for.
But in this case, quite clearly, the President acted in the best interest of the American people, and his oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign… and domestic.