- Antiwar.com Blog - http://antiwar.com/blog -

Awlaki’s Rights Would Have Got in the Way of His Prosecution

Posted By John Glaser On October 4, 2011 @ 11:33 am In News | Comments Disabled

I almost pity the Washington Times for so naively publishing the truth, yet having no idea what it means. Herein it is reported [1] that Awlaki would have been eligible for too many rights if placed on trial…thus the decision for quick, easy, hassle-free murder.

Taking Anwar al-Awlaki alive would have presented a difficult challenge for U.S. government prosecutors seeking a terrorism conviction, legal experts say.

For one, the New Mexico-born al-Awlaki, as a U.S. citizen, would not be eligible for trial by a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where scores of foreign terrorism suspects are awaiting trial. The law establishing the commission system stipulates non-U.S. citizens only.

Criminal defendant al-Awlaki would have had more rights during a trial in a federal civilian court, which could have become for him an avenue to gain classified information on the war and a soapbox for his anti-West al Qaeda propaganda.

…“I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court,” said a former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets.

The Times actually presents a pretty accurate iteration of the US policy at this point: if we have to grant human beings their rights, better to just commit homicide than embarrass ourselves in a court where they have the chance to defend themselves.

One objection I have to this articulation is that the Obama administration was worried he would “gain classified information on the war and a soapbox for his anti-West al Qaeda propaganda.” First of all…what war? Or perhaps I should say “which war?”

Second, I don’t think they care about his anti-West views coming to light. This “propaganda” is already out there. In reality, they were scared he would be found not guilty; they were weary of judicial scrutiny that could expose them as criminal thugs who target Americans for assassination without any evidence that they broken any laws. Considering the fact that the US military just came out with a study which concluded that Awlaki’s death will not weaken al Qaeda in the slightest [2] and the fact that he was never an official member of al Qaeda [3], yes it would have been difficult to get him convicted of something he was not. Furthermore, given available evidence, it’s likely that Awlaki’s supposed role as Inspiration Provider is protected speech under the First Amendment [4].

Nobody should be flippant about this, though. We’re really at a point where the government can choose whether or not to afford its citizens with the rights guaranteed them under law. The government, even in the Imperial City, does not have the right to choose when to obey the Fifth Amendment [5] and when to ignore it.

Article printed from Antiwar.com Blog: http://antiwar.com/blog

URL to article: http://antiwar.com/blog/2011/10/04/hassle-free-justice-awlakis-rights-would-have-got-in-the-way-of-his-prosecution/

URLs in this post:

[1] Herein it is reported: http://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/3/al-awlaki-would-have-been-difficult-to-try-as-a-ci/

[2] Awlaki’s death will not weaken al Qaeda in the slightest: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1011/64970.html

[3] never an official member of al Qaeda: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,789427,00.html

[4] protected speech under the First Amendment: http://politics.salon.com/2011/06/01/free_speech_4/singleton/

[5] Fifth Amendment: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment05/

Copyright © 2009 Antiwar.com. All rights reserved.