Anwar al–Awlaki is a citizen of the United States. He has publicly advocated violence against the United States. He has been directly linked to — and taken responsibility for — several murderous attempts against US citizens, including the shootings attributed to Nidal Hasan at Ft. Hood, Texas. Mr. al-Awlaki — currently assumed to be operating out of Yemen — is perceived by many as a significant emerging leader of anti-US terrorist operations.
It is widely understood the President has authorized lethal action against Mr. al–Awlaki. Some have argued that the current military offensive in Yemen, largely funded and otherwise supported by the United States, among other purposes seeks to capture or kill the rogue citizen. The father of Mr. al–Awlaki has petitioned the federal district court in Washington D.C. to enjoin the extra-judicial killing of his son.
According to several news reports, earlier today the US Department of Justice invoked the state secrets doctrine in seeking to have the father’s lawsuit dismissed. This doctrine was recently sustained in a major decision of the typically “liberal” Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights are representing the father. In response to today’s Justice Department action the civil rights groups released a statement saying, “The idea that courts should have no role whatsoever in determining the criteria by which the executive branch can kill its own citizens is unacceptable in a democracy… In matters of life and death, no executive should have a blank check.” In late August the ACLU and CCR argued, “It is well established that the government cannot use extrajudicial killing to punish people for past acts, but only to prevent grave and imminent threats.”
I cannot yet find online access to the court documents. If you know where to get access, please let us know by leaving a comment.
Thanks to the Great Gray Lady — and her reporters and webmasters — you can access the DOJ Motion to Dismiss at http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/world/26AlAulaqi_MTD.pdf
The Times report on the legal action, written by Charlie Savage, is headlined: State Secrets Cited in Effort by White House to Block Suit.
The Center for Constitutional Rights provides background on the Plantiff’s case and the original complaint and motion (scroll to the bottom) at http://ccrjustice.org/targetedkillings
Fair warning to those ready to comment on this issue. I will “unapprove” any comment that does not demonstrate evidence of having read the MTD or otherwise gives attention to the substantive concerns on both sides of this case. Regular readers know I tend to be rather stubborn on the rights of citizenship. I bring that bias to this issue, but bias is not enough. There is too much noise to just generate more noise. A close reading and analysis of the contending issues would certainly be worthwhile.