The administration of President Barack Obama has itself tied up in quite a knot.
The administration that opposes enhanced interrogations, that wants to treat terrorists caught both on the battlefield and in country as common criminals, that wants to try suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a New York City courtroom, that read Miranda rights to the foreign-born underwear bomber right away but delayed it for hours for the naturalized citizen Times Square bomber, has targeted an American citizen living in Yemen for assassination.
Of course, since the United States government has a policy against assassination that’s not what it’s being called. But what else do you call the order designating American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a target for a strike by a drone missile?
Awlaki is suspected by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of actively plotting violence. He is described in The New York Times as “a charismatic preacher who has said it is a religious duty to attack the United States.” The CIA says it believes Awlaki’s rhetoric inspired Times Square attempted-bomber Faisal Shahzad.
Of course Shahzad’s visit to Pakistan where he met with a member of an intelligence group with ties to the CIA surely had nothing to do with the bomb attack, but that is a topic for another day.
Whether Awlaki gets blown to bits by a Hellfire missile or shot in the head by a sniper, he’s dead and the U.S. government has become judge, jury and executioner.
To eavesdrop on Awlaki’s telephone calls the CIA—because of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)—would first be required to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But to target him for death the CIA only needed approval from the National Security Council (NSC).
As former CIA lawyer Vicki Divoll told The Times, “Congress has protected Awlaki’s cell phone calls. But it has not provided any protections for his life. That makes no sense.”
I wonder if Awlaki will be read his Miranda rights before the missile explodes, or will Attorney General Eric Holder wait until afterwards and read them over Awlaki’s bits and pieces.
But wait. That might not be a problem because some in Congress want to take away Americans’ guaranteed citizenship rights if they target fellow citizens with terrorist violence.
Senator Joe Leiberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said recently, “If you’re attacking your fellow Americans in an act of war you lose the rights that come with citizenship.”
And this is where it gets really sticky. The Obama administration has yet to call the Times Square bomb plot an act of terrorism. On the White House website it is referred to as the “Times Square incident.” Or, to paraphrase Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, it was a potential man-caused disaster.
We are no longer sliding down a slippery slope. Now we are cascading down a steep mountainside.
It began soon after 9/11 with the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in the weeks following the attack. That act is already being used to strip U.S. citizens of their rights. Just ask Jose Padilla and Ashton Lundeby how that act is working out for them.
Now we have an administration that has shown a proclivity to use missile attacks from Predator drones to kill what it is calling insurgents or terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan—and killing innocents in the process—saying that it’s time to use them in a country we’re not currently at war with to kill an American citizen who hasn’t harmed anyone himself.
That same bunch doesn’t call planting a bomb in Times Square terrorism. But it warns that those who oppose its policies—and show their opposition by demonstrating and holding up signs outside the Capitol building and in cities and towns across the country—are potentially inciting attacks similar to Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
If they think the rhetoric of Tea partiers—or Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or whoever—is somehow inciting violence, how long is it before the administration starts authorizing drone missile attacks on them?
Apparently, all it takes to get on the CIA’s short list for a missile strike is for someone in the administration to decide you are inciting violence. That doesn’t bode well for a group that has drawn the ire of Obama, his administration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid, who are on record as considering Tea partiers, former military members and anti-healthcare reform protestors as Nazis and terrorists.
American citizens… beware… this administration thinks you’re more dangerous and deserve fewer rights than foreigners planting bombs on U.S. soil. And if you hear the far-off hum of an airplane or the whoosh of a missile being fired, run like Satan himself is on your heels.
But if you’re al-Qaida don’t worry. Holder will read you your rights and have a court appointed attorney standing by.