Ron Paul Condemns Al-Awlaki “Assassination”
US presidential candidate Ron Paul has condemned the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki as an “assassination” because, as an American citizen, the Islamic terror leader needed to be put on trial and convicted before being killed.
“If the American people accept this blindly and casually, we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are ‘bad guys,'” the Texas Congressman told reporters at a campaign stop Friday at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. “I think it’s sad.”
Paul then noted that another American terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, was arrested and convicted by a jury before being executed. “We didn’t assassinate him,” the conservative-libertarian said.
“To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very carefully about this.”
Paul made a difference between the killing of al-Awlaki and that of Osama bin Laden. The difference, Paul said, was that bin Laden was responsible for a specific crime, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, while al-Awlaki was not. Paul also noted that he voted in favor of going after those responsible for 9/11.
Civil libertarian groups also condemned the killing of al-Awlaki for the same reasoning. The ACLU branded the killing a “violation of US and international law,” reports CBS News.
“As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU. “The government’s authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the president – any president – with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.”
Another libertarian-Republican and presidential candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, also condemned the killing, reports The Hill. “We cannot allow the War on Terror to diminish our steadfast adherence to the notion of due process for American citizens,” Johnson said. “The protections under the Constitution for those accused of crimes do not just apply to people we like — they apply to everyone, including a terrorist like al-Awlaki. It is a question of due process for American citizens.”
However, The Christian Science Monitor reports that a case against the Obama administration brought by al-Awlaki’s father last year to stop the CIA from killing his son was thrown out of court. The ruling judge decided federal courts were in no position to evaluate whether someone was a terrorist whose activities threatened national security, and against whom the use of deadly force could be justified.
MSNBC also notesthat several legal scholars argue the president is within legal precident to kill American citizens who pose a threat to the country. Kenneth Anderson, an international law scholar at American University’s Washington College of Law, said U.S. citizens who take up arms with an enemy force have been considered legitimate targets through two world wars, even if they are outside what is traditionally considered the battlefield.”Where hostiles go, there is the possibility of hostilities. The U.S. has never accepted the proposition that if you leave the active battlefield, suddenly you are no longer targetable,” Anderson said.
Robert Chesney, an expert on international law at the University of Texas School of Law, concluded in a recent law review article that al-Awlaki could be legally killed “if he is in fact an operational leader within AQAP, as this role would render him a functional combatant in an organized armed group.”
The State Department’s senior legal adviser, Harold Koh, plainly stated last year the Obama administration’s view that it had authority to undertake drone attacks in countries where al-Qaida operatives were located.
“The U.S. is in armed conflict with al-Queda as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific acts of 9-11 and may use force consistent with its right to self-defense under international law,” Koh said in a speech to a Washington legal symposium.