Obama wasn’t content to rest up after his illegal assassination of Osama bin Laden back in May, this time stepping up his game to take out American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki with a predator drone / Hellfire missile in Yemen. The audacity of conducting public assassinations on the territory of sovereign nations aside, the New York Times picks right up on the issue of due process:
The strike appeared to be the first time in the American-led war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that an American citizen had been deliberately killed by American forces, a step that has raised contentious constitutional issues in the United States. It was also the second high-profile killing of an Al Qaeda leader in the past five months under the Obama administration[.]
The White House decision to make Mr. Awlaki a top priority to be hunted down and killed was controversial, given his American citizenship.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which fought unsuccessfully in the American court system to challenge the government’s legal justification for its so-called targeted killings program, which was used to take aim at Mr. Awlaki, condemned that program in reaction to the news of Mr. Awlaki’s death. “As we’ve seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts,” Jameel Jaffer, the A.C.L.U.’s deputy legal director, said in a statement.
For what it’s worth, Foreign Policy’s blog agrees that Anwar was a US citizen due an appropriate trial. The correct course of action would have been extradition from Yemen to the US for trial.
What gave President Obama the right to order Navy Seals to invade the foreign sovereign nation of Pakistan, fly inland 50 kilometers from the Capital, and murder an unarmed foreign citizen? According to Reuters, “‘this was a kill operation,’ U.S. national security official [said], clarifying no desire to capture Osama bin Laden alive.” In the NY Times article New U.S. Account Says Bin Laden Was Unarmed During Raid, they clarify:
Bin Laden’s wife, who was with him in the room, “rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” said the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, reading from the brief account, which was provided by the Defense Department. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”
Despite expecting Bin Laden to put up a fight, Mr. Brennan said the assault team had made contingency plans for capturing, rather than killing him. “If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that,” he said.
After the atrocities of World War II, there were held a series of military tribunals called the Nuremberg Trials, where German leadership was tried under doctrine drawn up by the occupying powers. By attempting to create and follow a criminal war-crimes procedure rooted in justice, the trials dispelled notions of “victor’s justice” and “murder by court.”
So why couldn’t we do the same with Osama? Here are two reasons why we should:
In 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed into law this order which stated that “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” This restated Gerald Ford’s ban on political assassinations, and Jimmy Carter’s ban on indirect assassination. Of course, this does not apply to enemy combatants…
We haven’t seen any evidence that Osama was actively engaged against the United States; when he was confronted by Navy Seals, he was unarmed. He should therefore have been accorded protection as a prisoner of war, fairly treated, and granted a fair trial. Instead he was assassinated.
I’d like to leave you with this quote from Reason’s Did the killing of Osama bin Laden violate U.S. law?:
“We’re violating our basic values and our basic principles, which is that we accord everybody due process and we don’t engage in summary executions,” argued libertarian Fox Business Channel host Judge Andrew Napolitano. “Justice is not a summary execution by a Navy SEAL in your bedroom.”
The Economist’s obituary of Osama bin Ladin is also worth reading.
Update: In the LA Times article “Osama bin Laden’s son says U.S. broke international law ‘if’ his father is dead”, Omar bin Ladin says “We are not convinced on the available evidence in the absence of dead body, photographs, and video evidence that our natural father is dead.” Omar also accuses the US of “breaking international law by killing the unarmed terrorist leader without a trial.”
Hans Reiser was recently convicted for first degree murder for killing his wife in 2006. The six month trial and three days of Jury deliberation reached the guilty verdict primarily based on circumstantial evidence and poor testimony from Hans Reiser:
In a murder case with no body, no crime scene, no reliable eyewitness and virtually no physical evidence, the prosecution began the trial last November with a daunting task ahead. By the time prosecutor Paul Hora rested his case February 14, he had called some 60 witnesses, but presented mostly circumstantial evidence demonstrating animus between Reiser and his wife, and suspicious behavior by the defendant following Nina’s disappearance in September, 2006.
The turning point in the trial came when Reiser took the stand in his own defense March 3.
In his 11 days of testimony, Reiser offered lengthy and verbose explanations for every piece of circumstantial evidence. But Reiser’s version of events often drew disbelieving head shakes from jurors — and occasional smirks from the trial judge.
Namesys, who develops the ReiserFS and Reiser4 linux filesystems, is essentially dead after the verdict. The Namesys website is down due to a DNS problem, and a potential private sale of the company found no buyers. Worse, ReiserFS sucks, according to Kerneltrap:
Reiserfs might be suitable for very specific applications, but to use it in production machine, you need to have some guts.
My last reiserfs partition was blown up two days ago, because of a bad sector, plus a fatal oops, looping endlessly. This was the second time, and the last one, as none of my ext3 filesystems *ever* had similar problems, despite numerous other bad sector issues. Not mentioning the funny “recovery” tool, which generally finishes to trash your data.
And in a bit of off-the-mark dark humour, an anonymous Wikipedia editor added a new column to Comparison of file systems:
There are some irregularities surrounding the Hans Reiser trial, namely that “Sean Sturgeon, a one-time friend of Reiser, and alleged ex-lover of Nina, confessed to killing eight other people and leaving a ninth for dead. However, he claims he did not kill Nina. According to preliminary court testimony, Sturgeon dated Nina, but she broke off the relationship in January 2006.”
Update: Wired is reporting that Hans Reiser is offering the location of Nina’s body in exchange for a reduced sentence. Interestingly, he refused a deal of an “11-year term in exchange to pleading guilty to manslaughter” before the trial started.