Thursday, May 13, 2010

Targeting U.S. Citizens

The Obama administration is certainly winning no friends on the left with the news that a radical Muslim cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico has been added to the CIA hit list. But just because the left is unhappy, it doesn't mean conservatives should cheer. From the NYT article:

Administration officials take the view that no legal or constitutional rights can protect Mr. Awlaki, a charismatic preacher who has said it is a religious duty to attack the United States and who the C.I.A. believes is actively plotting violence. The attempted bombing of Times Square on May 1 is the latest of more than a dozen terrorist plots in the West that investigators believe were inspired in part by Mr. Awlaki’s rhetoric.

“American citizenship doesn’t give you carte blanche to wage war against your own country,” said a counterterrorism official who discussed the classified program on condition of anonymity. “If you cast your lot with its enemies, you may well share their fate.”

Seems fair enough, right, you engage in war against the United States and your "rights" are not protected, because, hey we're at war. But are we really? Consider this:

Section 8 - Powers of Congress
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
So, when did the Congress of the United States declare war on al-Qaeda? Never, to my recollection. Without a formal declaration of war that specifically calls out the theater of operations and the nation or group with whom we are at war; what are the constitutional limits on targeting U.S. citizens? None. Further, even if this cleric is engaged in anti-American rhetoric, targeting someone for assassination far from the actual war zones seems extra-legal and without constitutional precedent. As always, my concern is over reach and the potential for targeting of U.S. citizens for far lesser offenses, like criticizing Obamacare while in a foreign country. Any legal doctrine that ascribes powers to the President outside the lawful and constitutional framework essentially ascribes unlimited powers in that area. This is why the founders made clear the need to declare war before the President, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, could wage war.

How do we deal with such an individual? Certainly he is committing treason by his statements and actions. We should seek extradition from Yemen, and since that might not be forthcoming, then perhaps those Letters of Marque and Reprisal might have a salutary effect.

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