Surrendering the Constitution

This morning, news broke in the US that a drone strike killed "radical cleric" Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen living in Yemen.

This is disturbing for multiple reasons, namely that the executive branch now has successfully subverted the 5th Amendment in a way that likely would have made George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's legal counsel blush.  This Presidential assassination now establishes the executive branch as judge, jury, and executioner of any American they deem a "threat" to national security.

Glenn Greenwald writes that in January 2010, when it first became public knowledge a US citizen was put on an "assassination list" the New York Times wrote:

"it is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing."

What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government.  Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President's ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki...

Judging by the twitter feeds of some prominently hawkish politicians (Senator Roy Blunt, Representative Pete King), Greenwald's prediction that Americans will celebrate the death of their fellow American is exactly right.

Listening to the justifications from warmongers on the right and left, so willing to sacrifice Due Process to seek vengeance, is reminiscent of George Bush saying "We had to abandon free-market principles to save the free market." 

In the end, we're not winning a "war on terror," we're surrendering the Constitution and sacrificing the principles that made this country great in the name of "national security."  Anyone who now feels safer after knowing Due Process can be tossed aside so quickly by so many who are sworn to uphold it, needs to have their head examined.

UPDATE: We now learn through Fox News that a second American, Samir Khan was also killed with Awlaki.

Kelley Vlahos writing at The American Conservative says:

Scarier still, is that by public accounts, Awlaki was targeted for what he saidnot what he didHe was an extremist and a propagandist in a war that has been just as much about moving hearts and minds as it has about tearing into flesh and imprisoning the enemy. Crazy people might have listened to him and acted on their own impulses — much like Anders Behring Breivik liked to listen to American Islamophobe propagandists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller before he went out and killed 76 people in Norway — but we have yet to hear any evidence that he picked up a gun or planted an IED or even plotted a successful attack against the United States. Judge, jury and executioner — it doesn’t matter much to Awlaki now, but we deserve to hear the proof.

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