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Anwar Al-Awlaki Finally Gets a (Show) Trial

American Citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in Yemen solely on the authority of President Barack Obama. Al-Awlaki never received a trial, was never indicted, nor given any opportunity to address the allegations against him. But today during President Obama’s extensive terrorism speech Mr. Al-Awlaki finally received his trial, a show trial.

President Obama proclaimed to the world:

I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.

The Congressional authorization part is a little too cute. Obama is referencing the authorization of the use of military force of 2001 a law passed in the immediate aftermath (3 days) of the attacks on September 11th, 2001. That would be ten years before the Al-Awlaki killing. The second part, that Congress was “briefed”, is pretty meaningless. Not only did Congress not pass any enabling legislation they also do not have the authority to deny someone their constitutional rights.

Obama went on to present his case for firing missiles at the American:

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Anwar Al-Awlaki Finally Gets A (Show) Trial

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American Citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in Yemen solely on the authority of President Barack Obama. Al-Awlaki never received a trial, was never indicted, nor given any opportunity to address the allegations against him. But today during President Obama’s extensive terrorism speech Mr. Al-Awlaki finally received his trial, a show trial.

President Obama proclaimed to the world:

I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.

The Congressional authorization part is a little too cute. Obama is referencing the authorization of the use of military force of 2001 a law passed in the immediate aftermath (3 days) of the attacks on September 11th, 2001. That would be ten years before the Al-Awlaki killing. The second part, that Congress was “briefed”, is pretty meaningless. Not only did Congress not pass any enabling legislation they also do not have the authority to deny someone their constitutional rights.

Obama went on to present his case for firing missiles at the American.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team

That’s who Anwar Awlaki was – he was continuously trying to kill people.
He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S. bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab – the Christmas Day bomber – went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, and helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack. His last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil. I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took out Awlaki.

Those are some damning charges. But are they true? We’ll never know beyond a reasonable doubt of course but let’s examine the propaganda.

1. “Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP”

There is no such title in AQAP as “chief of external operations” though it appears the wording was used today to comply with Attorney General Holder’s standard in the OLC Memos for targeted killing – a “senior operational leader” of Al-Qaeda.

2. “That’s who Anwar Awlaki was – he was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S. bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009.”

The evidence is never provided for cargo planes and the evidence provided for the 2009 bombing involves Al-Awalki “approving” the operation and helping the underwear bomber make a video.

This evidence is not only not substantiated or offered for analysis by the public but by itself it’s pretty weak. Not a smoking gun by any stretch of the imagination.

Al-Awalki was, according to him and others, a spiritual teacher not an operative let alone a commander who “approved” missions and since when is helping someone make a last will and testament video a criminal act let alone one that justifies the suspension of due process?

3. “I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t.”

So why wasn’t Al-Awlaki indicted? The inability to apprehend someone does not invalidate the indictment process.

President Obama drew the analogy to a Swat Team killing a suspect but in those cases the Swat Team is acting as law enforcement – called in by police in the furtherance of a legal process such as an arrest. The Obama Administration went through no codified legal process and the AUMF of 2001 offers no justification for killing U.S. citizens or denying them due process. Obama followed no established legal process.

Furthermore, Al-Awalki was by no means a mysterious figure to the American government he had even met with DoD officials in the Pentagon after 9/11 to advise the government on issues relating to Islam and terrorism. Al-Awalki was also a guest preacher of the Congressional Muslim Staff Association. Al-Awalki had also been through the US legal system a number of times for passport fraud and solicitation of prostitution, he knew people and he knew the system.

Perhaps if he were formally charged, as an American citizen should be, he may have decided to engage the legal system and we would have an actual factual basis to go on rather than unsubstantiated assertions by Obama. None of that happened. Instead an American citizen was killed by the word of one unaccountable man, President Obama.

It is rather obvious now why President Obama waited until after Al-Awlaki was dead to present his case against him to the public, it is considerably unconvincing. The need to put a check on executive power has never been greater.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.