On Friday, Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and propagandist Samir Kahn, both American citizens, were killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen. Al-Awlaki has been accused by the government of aiding terrorists, including training and motivating three of the 9-11 attackers, communicating with the Fort Hood Shooter and helping the Christmas Day bomber plan his failed attack. Kahn is behind the al-Qaida web magazine, Inspire.
Al-Awlaki is well known for his fiery sermons against the United States and for being one of the best recruiters al-Qaida has. Some even call him the "Pied Piper" of the terrorist organization. Government officials say because al-Awlaki was raised and educated in the United States and able to communicate in English and in Arabic, he was also an incredibly effective propagandist for Al-Qaida.
Last year, al-Awlaki became the first American to be added to the United States list of terror suspects who can be targeted and killed by government operatives. According to an unnamed American official at the time: “The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words.”
Later that year al-Awlaki’s father, along with the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, sued the government to have his name taken off the kill list. They said targeted killing violates the constitution and international law by denying a suspect his due process. In addition, the suit claimed that the government had essentially convicted al-Awlaki using standards and evidence that no one was allowed to review.
They lost the case, but now that the man is dead, what will their next step be? Are they right? Did al-Awlaki, as an American citizen, deserve a fair trial if the government could have routed him out of hiding? Or did he give up his citizenship when he joined the al-Qaida terror network? Was the radical cleric an immediate threat to American lives?
John Yoo, scholar at The American Enterprise Institute; professor of law at Berkeley Law School and a former Justice Department Official.
Jameel Jaffer, director of The American Civil Liberties Union’s Center for Democracy.