Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Anwar al-Awlaki and Government Assassination

With the recent killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/01/world/middleeast/anwar-al-awlaki-is-killed-in-yemen.html ) there is some controversy regarding the legality of the U.S. government killing a U.S. citizen it deemed a terrorist without due process. The Constitution seems to address this issue.

U.S. Constitution Article III, Section 3.1

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”

U.S. Constitution 14th Amendment Section 1

“All person born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state where in they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

First quote mentions “convicted”, typically being convicted involves a trial. Additionally al-Awlaki neither confessed in open court nor did two witnesses testify in any court (that I am aware of).

The second quote mentions “nor shall any state deprive any person of life… without due process of law”. The issue should be handled in a way that leaves no doubt to its legality. The U.S. should not worry about how close to the line of legal and illegal its actions are, instead when the situation involves the constitutional treatment of U.S. citizens, the U.S. government should ensure there is no doubt whatsoever its actions are constitutional.

So what would be a solution? The U.S. should attempt to capture the individual and bring him back to the U.S. to stand trial. If he is found guilty, he should be executed, consideration should be given to making the execution public, possibly a public hanging in downtown D.C. on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by the symbols of the very country he was convicted of committing treason against. Public execution like this could serve to deter others from committing similar acts, as it would for domestic crimes if applied more frequently; yet I digress. For a U.S. citizen that has committed treason against his country, death by missile is too good for him, rather the trial and execution should be publicized in order that the traitor must go through the humiliation and stress that would accompany such a trial; then after conviction the execution would see to it that he was just as dead.

When we combat a threat in an any-methods-necessary approach, we risk losing what makes us different than our enemies. In the combat of terrorism, we need to act in a manner which leaves no doubt we are behaving in a righteous manner. President Kennedy said: “There is little value to insuring the survival of our nation, if our traditions do not survive with it.” Liberty and justice have always been traditions in this country, we must ensure their continued survival or risk losing all that is worth fighting for.

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