Vicki Divoll, observes that President Obama’s de facto death sentence for the American Muslim cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, indicates that in its application of the law, this administration has a greater regard for Awlaki’s right to privacy than his right to life.
According to media reports, the United States has taken the apparently unprecedented step of authorizing the “targeted killing” of one of its citizens outside a war zone — though the government has not officially acknowledged it.
Unnamed intelligence and counter-terrorism sources told reporters that the Obama administration had added Anwar al Awlaki, a Muslim cleric born in New Mexico, to the CIA list of suspected terrorists who may be captured or killed. Awlaki, believed to be in hiding in Yemen, has been linked to Nidal Malik Hasan, the Ft. Hood, Texas, shooter, and to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian charged with trying to blow up an airliner in December.
The reports indicate that the administration had concluded Awlaki had taken on an operational role in terrorist attacks. His addition to the CIA list shouldn’t “surprise anyone,” according to one anonymous U.S. official quoted in the New York Times.
It is surprising, however. As a matter of U.S. law, had the administration wanted merely to listen to Awlaki’s cellphone conversations or read his e-mails, it would have needed to check with another branch of government — the judiciary. But to target him for death, the executive branch appears to have acted alone.
It adds up to this: Awlaki’s right to privacy exceeds his right to life.
Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, has indicated that Awlaki enjoys no special privileges simply by virtue of being America, and that might be so. Yet it’s hard to believe that Awlaki would now be in the CIA’s hit list were it not for three additional enabling factors: that he possesses an Arabic name, that he is a Muslim, and that he is not white.