I have not delved too deeply into discussions of civil liberties on this blog, but I did not want to ignore this particular issue. I've been following Glenn Greenwald's (http://www.salon.com/) reporting on an American, Anwar al-Awlaki, who apparently has deep ties with al Qaeda, and is now somewhere in Yemen. Through a number of posts, Greenwald has expressed outrage toward the Obama administration for essentially putting a hit on al-Awlaki, without due process. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit on behalf of al-Awlaki's father, in order to challenge the government in issuing this hit without a charge or an indictment, as well as the overall legality of a law allowing such actions to take place. The Obama Justice Department has now invoked a "state secrets" defense in order to have the lawsuit dismissed outright.
Let me begin by saying clearly that I am confident that Anwar al-Awlaki is indeed a bad man, a dangerous man more like. He and his rantings have been tied both to the Fort Hood shooter and the underwear attempted bomber, and as I mentioned, he is known to be working with al Qaeda. With that said, and until someone can provide me with a better explanation, I firmly believe that as an American citizen, al-Awlaki continues to enjoy his rights, in spite of his repugnant associations and alleged actions. I agree with Greenwald that the actions of the Obama administration seem to be a bridge too far.
This action seems like it would not get past the protections provided to American citizens through the 5th Amendment and 14th Amendment. Input from any attorneys, legal historians or political scientists would be much appreciated. And if I am right about this, then I think that there should be a trial at least to examine the legality of the actions of the Obama Administration.
What I find interesting right now is that there seems not to be a hue and cry about this case. It is particularly interesting that the so called Constitution loving Tea Party people have been extremely quiet about this seemingly unconstitutional power grab by the Obama administration, following of course on the heels of a seemingly unconstitutional power grab by the Bush administration. And I suspect that this silence is because of what al-Awlaki has been accused of doing. It seems like another case of "if you haven't done anything wrong, then there is no reason to worry" perspective that many on both the left and right (but much, much more on the right) took regarding warrant less wiretapping. But, they can spend time waxing poetic about the Obama administration's "attack" on the 10th Amendment over health insurance reform.
Even the worst among us within the citizenry are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and they still require the government to follow the Constitution and criminal procedure. From what I've read, it looks like the Obama administration is seeking to do something that is outside of those parameters, and few seem to care.
UPDATE (09.29.10): Here is an interesting link with a podcast dealing with this issue.