Back in the good old nineteen fifties, we used to have Congressional hearings to ferret out the bad guys. You know, the pinko Commie traitors who advocated the violent overthrow of the United States government.
Civil libertarians screamed and hollered. Eventually, the head witch hunter, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, was debunked, censured, and faded from the scene.
I reflected on those days as I read news reports about the killing of Muslim Imam Anwar al-Awlaki.
Here’s an example of what the mainstream media were saying about it:
An American-born cleric killed in Yemen played a "significant operational role" in plotting and inspiring attacks on the United States, U.S. officials said, as they disclosed detailed intelligence to justify the killing of a U.S. citizen.
Anwar al-Awlaki was killed early Friday in a strike on his convoy carried out by a joint operation of the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, according to counterterrorism officials. Al-Awlaki had been under observations for three weeks while they waited for the right opportunity to strike.
Another U.S. official said a second American citizen died in the airstrike that killed al-Awlaki. Two other men also perished.
The second American, Samir Khan, edited the slick Western-style Internet publication Inspire Magazine that attracted many readers.
The online magazine published seven issues offering articles on making crude bombs and how to fire AK-47 assault rifles. U.S. intelligence officials have said that Khan — who was from North Carolina — was not directly responsible for targeting Americans.
I wrote a blog three years ago called “Murdering Presidents.” It’s worth another look in light of recent events.
President Obama enjoyed a spike in public approval when Navy Seals killed Osama Ben Laden on his orders. No doubt the pollsters will note a similar boost to his popularity as a consequence of this latest Mafia style hit.
I got to wondering how the people of the United States would have felt if Awlaki had been found in a condo in Colorado rather than a convoy in Yemen. Does the government’s “kill or capture” list specify when and where to kill?
And what about companions and bystanders? Does the official hit list include anyone who might be hanging around with the targeted wrongdoer?
Anyway, who makes up the hit list and when do they do it?
I was surprised to learn that Imam Awlaki led Muslim federal workers in prayer after 9-11, and that he was invited to speak at the Pentagon about the same time, as part of the government’s outreach to Muslims.
So many contradictions.
Cop killer Troy Davis is administered a lethal injection, while hundreds pray and protest in the street. Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood terrorist who killed thirteen people in November of 2009 has yet to be brought to trial. Magazine editor Samir Kahn is killed by the CIA and nobody cares.
At the risk of being branded a constitutional curmudgeon, I have to say that a “kill or capture” list that is prepared by officials of the federal government who decline to identify themselves or speak only on condition of anonymity, scares the hell out of me.
And I am not at all comfortable with the idea that CIA assassinations are OK as long as they are authorized by the President of the United States.
Especially a first term President who is up for re-election.
In the last analysis, liberty is all about due process of law. Before we put up a poster that says, “Wanted: Dead or Alive” there ought to be at least enough evidence to issue a warrant.
Where the heck is the ACLU when their man is in the White House?