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by Sharon Rondeau

Should Anwar al-Awlaki have been killed, tried in federal court or by a military tribunal?

(Jun. 7, 2012) — On March 5, 2012, putative Attorney General Eric Holder addressed an assembly of law students at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago in an apparent attempt to justify targeted killings of suspected terrorists overseas after having been questioned by members of Congress about the practice. Some of those who have been killed are considered United States citizens by virtue of their birth on U.S. soil.

Holder did not reportedly explain in detail why an Islamic cleric, Anwar Awlaki, posed a threat to the United States and therefore necessitated killing by a military drone.  The Chicago Tribune described Holder’s law school address as “carefully orchestrated” and stated, “The attorney general has been at the center of the controversy over trying to defend the administration’s policy towards handling terrorists.”

It was Holder’s assertion that targeted killings are “in full accordance with the Constitution,” but he apparently did not cite which section of the Constitution allows the killings which a “White House Insider” reported have been carried out “for well over a year now.”

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama had vowed to close the military detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and hold trials in federal courts on the U.S. mainland.  However, the targeted killings he has ordered have not obtained the review of a federal judge or the benefit of the Fifth Amendment, which Holder also cited.  Holder had promised “a new era of open government,” but Fox News reported that the Justice Department had refused to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request for the legal opinion as to why the targeted killing of Awlaki was deemed necessary.  On September 30, 2011, the death of Alwaki was reported to have been “a significant blow to Al-Qaeda” even while acknowledging that “The Obama administration even put him on the kill or capture list, allowing for an unprecedented lethal strike against a U.S. citizen.”

Holder had claimed that three criteria had to exist in order for the execution of U.S. citizens “abroad” could be carried out:  the person would have to be perceived as capable of carrying out “an imminent attack against the U.S.;” capturing him or her would not be considered “feasible;” and the killing would have to “be consistent with the laws of war.”

In a statement made after Holder’s remarks at Northwestern, FBI Director Robert Mueller was not sure if Holder’s policy as outlined included or excluded executions within the United States.  During testimony in front of a Senate committee last month, Mueller hesitated to say whether or not Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for several years, is an “enemy combatant.”

In June 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that detainees at Guantanamo Bay are entitled to the right of habeas corpus, and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 outlines military tribunals for “alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States.”

Obama had reportedly stated that Alwaki had “repeatedly called on individuals in the United States and around the globe to kill innocent men, women and children to advance a murderous agenda.”

Following Holder’s Northwestern University address, Atty. Jonathan Turley had written that “Holder limited his remarks by referring to targeted killing ‘abroad.’ However, I noted that the Administration’s past references to this power are not so limited. Indeed, the only limits stated by the Administration have been self-imposed standards and what Holder calls ‘due process’ — expressly excluding ‘judicial process.’”

Turley also questioned the “limiting principle” which would apply to U.S. citizens suspected of involvement in terror plots within the United States.  “What we have is a purely internal review that balances the practicality of arrest and the urgency of the matter in the view of the President. Since the panel is the extension of his authority, he can presumably disregard their recommendations or order a killing without their approval…The Framers created a system of objective due process in a system of checks and balances. Obama has introduced an undefined and self-imposed system of review” Turley wrote.

While Obama denounced President George W. Bush’s policies for fighting the war on terror following the 9-11 attacks, Obama has continued many of those policies and even expanded upon them, according to The Washington Times, even though the Obama regime had instructed government departments to call the former “war on terror” an “overseas contingency operation.”

A lengthy expose by two New York Times writers reveal that Obama has maintained and updated a “kill list” from which he chooses who is to be sought out and murdered by unmanned drones at his command. “Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve,” authors Jo Becker and Scott Shane wrote on May 29, 2012.

A new book by Daniel Klaidman entitled Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency details that “As the president’s inner circle debated secret programs, new legal frontiers, and the disjuncture between principles and down-and-dirty politics, Obama vacillated, sometimes lashed out, and spoke in lofty tones while approving a mounting toll of assassinations and kinetic-war operations.”

After intelligence from various sources around the world indicated that Saddam Hussein possessed a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction which Bush feared would be unleashed on other countries following the 9-11 attacks, Bush sought and obtained Congressional approval before ordering U.S. troops into Iraq “unilaterally.”  While those labeled “neocons” in the Bush administration had developed a goal of “regime change” in several Middle Eastern countries with a five-year period, that plan has become a reality under Obama, although the regimes in question have arguably become more repressive as The Muslim Brotherhood now has a foothold in the new government of Egypt as well as in Syria and Lebanon.

In a recent interview with LCDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), The Post & Email asked him if the President, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces, what he believed the response of a military commander should be when instructed to carry out a targeted killing, and Fitzpatrick responded:

Not just “no,” Mr. Obama, but “Hell, no.  It’s against the law.”  And in fact, it’s easier than that.  Now this has become an issue for the U.S. military, because we, as military personnel, take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  There can be no question now about domestic enemies and their status and who they are and how they’re working, and that the military has an obligation by oath to take these people and place them under arrest and turn them over for prosecution.  There’s no question about that anymore.  The “kill list” is somewhere along that spectrum of crime being that’s being committed against the Constitution which is an obligation of military personnel by the oath they take to defend the Constitution with their lives against all enemies, ALL of them.  These military commanders, not all of them, but some of them – Gen. Martin Dempsey, for example, because of Mr. Obama – who are not observing the U.S. Constitution and are carrying out illegal orders need to be removed from their positions as quickly as possible.  This has to come from people in the military.  Who is going to support the Constitution and who is not?

The military is being internationalized.  I listen to the radio a lot, and I don’t hear any more about U.S. troops; it’s “NATO;” it’s “coalition forces.”  Our military is being internationalized, and I can see it as clearly as I can see the sun coming up in the east in the morning.  It is very frightening.  Military commanders who have not stood up to this are cowards; I’ve said that.  And people who have stood up to it – you know what’s happened to them.  The last display was SSgt. Stein, who was dishonorably discharged from the Marine Corps.

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