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Extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens

By Scott Tibbs, January 11, 2013

As the debate over the extrajudicial assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki continues, Fox News reports that he may have purchased the plane tickets for the 9/11 hijackers, something the FBI disputed in its own timeline of events. So the question remains: What exactly was al-Awlaki's crime that justified assassination?

Other than very vague claims, we may never know. This is because, after campaigning on a platform of increased respect for civil liberties, Barack Obama has decided to keep the legal justification for the assassination a secret. Despite a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration has won the right to keep that legal justification a secret.

Yes, that's right. Not only did Barack Obama target an American citizen for an extrajudicial assassination, not only did Barack Obama assassinate that man's 16-year-old son (who was born in the United States) in a separate drone strike, but he will now not even reveal why he was permitted to do that under U.S. law. The legal documents must be kept a secret, Obama says - and the courts agreed with him.

The fact that Obama is so opposed to open government that he would hide the legal justification for the extrajudicial assassination of an American citizen and his American-born teenage son is the most frustrating part of this situation. How can we be a nation of laws when we are not even allowed to know why the extrajudicial use of lethal force - the ultimate extension of the state's authority - is legal?

It bears repeating that Obama campaigned on respecting civil liberties after the Bush administration had seen a great deal of scrutiny over its record in the War on Terror, from the "Patriot Act" to harsh interrogations of captured terrorists. Obama's betrayal of his promises is brazen enough that one would expect much more outrage from Leftists, but civil libertarians have been either silent or muted.

That is unfortunate. We need a much more vigorous debate on this and more scrutiny of Obama's policies, and the Obama administration needs to be open about why this program is legal.

Previous articles:

Extrajudicial assassinations of U.S. citizens: simply wrong -- October 15, 2010

Paul and Kucinich are right: Targeted assassinations are wrong -- October 10, 2011

ABC "News" shamelessly lies about Ron Paul -- October 11, 2011

Barack Obama is to blame for his own policies. Period. -- January 3, 2013