By lex, on October 11th, 2011
Roger Cohen has second thoughts on the killing of an American citizen abroad by agents of the US government:
(According) to those who have seen it, there is a hint in the Justice Department memo that this was never a pure and simple case. We are told that one reason Justice concluded Awlaki could be killed was because he was in the wilds of Yemen and could not be captured. It seemed some thought was given to his citizenship; otherwise, why even bother to consider his capture? About 2,000 militants have been killed by drones — and not because they couldn’t be captured. They were killed not only because they deserved to be but because they could be. Former attorney general Michael B. Mukasey even suggests in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that these militants were killed because the Obama administration, having ruled out harsh interrogation, had no use for them.
The Justice Department memo and its acknowledgment of Awlaki’s citizenship are ample proof that the Obama administration realized it was crossing a line. But it did so on the sneak — a memo, still secret, written by two lawyers you and I never heard of.
Neither of whom, it appears, are named “Obama” or “Holder.”
From a constitutional perspective, we’ve definitely crossed a line here. We sidestepped up to it over the years, little by little. And then vaulted over it in the dark, while no one was looking. It’d be nice if one of the aforementioned, named gentlemen explained to us where the new line has been drawn, if it has been. And if it has not, it would also be useful for a people of laws, governed by express consent, to know who will have a hand in drawing it.