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Why Was al-Awlaki Denied His Constitutional Rights as an American Citizen?

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On November 25, 2001, American citizen turned Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan by Afghan Northern alliance forces. Eleven months later, after confessing to fighting with the Taliban against the U.S. and its ally in Afghanistan, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison without parole. On September 30, in Yemen, American citizen and alleged terrorist organizer Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by two Predator drones firing hellfire missiles. Two Americans treated in two totally different ways. What could account for the difference in treatment?

Perhaps it’s racism? John Walker Lindh was a white man from California. On the other hand, Anwar al-Awlaki was a person of color and worse yet of Arab descent. Now, if I were a so-called progressive, this explanation would fit right in with my world view that whenever anybody who lacks even a drop of Caucasian blood is treated differently than their white counterparts, racism is to blame. But I am not a progressive and therefore have an open mind about why the two men were treated differently. There are many potential reasons why this happened, and I don’t believe racism was one of them.

Let’s not forget the reaction when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the administration intended to try Gitmo detainees in federal court in New York City. There was outrage from the families of 911 victims and Americans in general. Going into an election year with his approval rating at rock bottom anyway, Obama could ill afford to be in a position where he had to decide the fate of an American in custody accused of terrorism. Would he grant al-Awlaki his constitutional protections as an American citizen and try him in a federal court or would he throw the Constitution out the window and try him as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal? He certainly would have alienated a portion of voters with either decision. Maybe Obama decided that Americans have short memories and it would be politically expedient to murder al-Awlaki now more than a year before Americans cast their votes, to give them time to forget?

A third explanation for the difference in treatment of Lindh and al-Awlaki could be that our leaders have just become more fascistic over time. Way before al-Awlaki was murdered, the administration proclaimed its right to murder Americans “suspected” of plotting terror attacks against Americans. Under this edict, John Hinckley, Jr. Tim McVeigh, and Jared Loughner would simply have been killed after committing their heinous acts. But instead, the first two were afforded a fair trial and the third is awaiting his date with justice. What if al-Awlaki was insane like Hinckley? Because of Obama’s kill order we will never know.

And if anyone thinks congressional leaders or the top two Republican candidates for president were going to speak out against Obama’s homicide you had another think coming. Republican front runner Mitt Romney was quoted as saying, “The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki is a major victory in our fight against Islamist terrorism and proper justice for the numerous attacks and plots he inspired or planned against America”. Romney went on to commend Obama for his “continued efforts to keep Americans safe.” Not to be outdone by Romney, Texas Governor Rick Perry, also a Republican presidential candidate, called al-Awlaki’s demise “an important victory in the war on terror.” Perry also congratulated Obama for “sticking with the government’s longstanding and aggressive anti-terror policies — for getting another key international terrorist.”

Neither candidate expressed any concern whatsoever about Obama’s total disregard for the rule of law and the rights of an American citizen. It is not as if al-Awlaki was killed on the battlefield. The hit took place in a desolate part of northern Yemen. He was riding in a vehicle and had been tracked by intelligence sources. The U.S. military knew exactly where he was and could have dropped commandos in to capture him, as Seal Team 6 allegedly did with Osama bin Laden.

Killing al-Awlaki without regard for his constitutional rights as an American citizen is a threat to every American’s protection against tyrannical government. In fact, more killings may be coming soon. Reuters has reported that the White House has created a secret panel in charge of building a kill or capture list of suspected militant Americans. The panel was established under the authority of no law and without any requirements to keep public records of its decisions or operations. Reminiscent of what Nazi Germany did to its own citizens, Obama has fully assumed the power unilaterally to assassinate Americans he suspects are a threat to America.

Thus, the explanation for the difference in treatment between Lindh and al-Awlaki: our leaders have become more fascistic.

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About Kenn Jacobine

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Then WHAT should Obama have done, Kenn? I already showed you that the realities of military logistics made the ideal of simply capturing al-Alwaki a non-starter.

    You’re so worried about due process, so tell us all what, in YOUR opinion, Obama should have done. And make sure that it is a reasonable and workable solution.

    It’s amazing, really – SO many complaints on BC about Obama’s ordering the execution of al-Alwaki (who we all agreed richly deserved it)…but not a SINGLE reasonable and workable alternative has been presented!

    Doesn’t ANYone have a better idea, one that is reasonable, practical, workable? Apparently not – but who cares, as long as one gets to gripe about the guy in the White House, right?

  • Clavos

    but who cares, as long as one gets to gripe about the guy in the White House, right?

    He’s richly rewarded for it.

    More than he merits…

  • shipley130

    Exactly how does one know the “logistics” of capturing Al-Awlaki without being involved directly in it? Give the American soldiers a little more credit. People are now getting the unintended consequences of Obama’s effort to get reelected. Treason in Pakistan and the murder of an American in Yemen.

  • Kenn Jacobine

    Exactly Ship,

    Glenn will defend Obama no matter what.


    In my article I said they could have sent troops in to get him? But again, you show that you have a reading comprehension problem.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Um, Shipley –

    I am retired Navy, and I’ve studied war since before I was in puberty. I do have a clue.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Kenn –

    And when you said in a different thread that we could have sent troops in to capture him, I schooled you on the fine points of logistics, of how we’d have had to keep two teams of SEALS on station afloat, most likely on either a cruiser or a carrier within helo range (which would be quite expensive, FYI, to keep one there for weeks or months on end). There’s a helo on five-minute standby, and a SEAL team would have had to be kept on five-minute standby as well, 24/7.

    And THEN once Awlaki was spotted, the helo would (hopefully) have been aloft with a SEAL team on board in five minutes…and THEN there would be an hour or so of additional travel to wherever Awlaki’s vehicle was on its way to…which would in all likelihood have been a town or a city or a training camp – all of which would NOT be good places to try to take him down since we’d be trying to catch Awlaki in a moving vehicle in a populated area.

    So…did you ever watch “Black Hawk Down”?

    In other words, Kenn, Awlaki was NOT a stationary target as bin Laden was for months and months.

    So…NO, Kenn, you (and Shipley) do NOT know better than the military bigwigs who would have LOVED to have captured him alive, but did NOT want to risk the lives of more of their men.

    And here endeth the lesson. It’s on your thread this time, so you don’t really have an excuse for ignoring it this time.

  • I don’t agree that Awlaki deserved execution; I don’t think that anyone does, ever.

  • and, Glenn, it doesn’t matter that you are retired Navy or have studied war for a lifetime, none of that means that you have a clue, so your self-justification is meaningless.

    All I see here is yet another example of your over-confidence in your views but nothing solid as a base for them, a phenomenon that seems characteristic of your thinking across the board. A confidence trick basically…

  • That’s a new one — Glenn, the confidence man.

    It even rhymes.

  • I also disagree that ‘he deserved it’. I think that he thought YOU deserved it!

    Where has that thinking gotten us?

  • Kenn Jacobine


    Too expensive to guarantee an American citizen’ righs? The biggest things that are too expensive are Bush and Obama’s wars. End the loonacy, bring the troops home to defend America, and we will be much safer for it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Christopher –

    None of that guarantees that I have a clue, just as a PhD. doesn’t guarantee that a guy knows whereof he speaks…it just makes it a lot more likely.

    And confidence, sir, comes from not being afraid of being wrong…for one cannot learn if one is never willing to admit ignorance or fault. For example, that’s why a chess player who always wins CANNOT improve his game. No one here has owned up to error nearly as much as I have, yet you accuse me of overconfidence! Instead, shouldn’t you be castigating those who never (or almost never) admit error in aught that they write?

    So all that begs the question, Chris – who should be castigated for being “overconfident”? The one who has shown the guts again and again to admit error in matters large and small? Or the ones who never (or almost never) admit error in anything they write?

    I really, really wonder how you’ll respond.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Christopher –

    Get someone else on here who has real familiarity with military capabilities and logistics, and then we’ll talk. But until then, describing military logistics to those who have little or no experience with such is like describing music to someone who has been deaf since birth – it’s an exercise in futility.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Chris –

    I’m strongly against capital punishment, too – but this was in fact not a matter of law, but of war. Awlaki was willingly and publicly part of a group that had declared war on America of which 9/11 was only a part.

    One declares war on a superpower at the peril of one’s life…and I don’t think even the most liberal lawyer would argue otherwise.

  • Cannonshop

    There are some distinct differences between Awlaki and the Lindh case, most of which have zero bearing on ethnic background.

    Lindh wasn’t ‘targeted’, he was captured in the course of a larger operation in an active war-zone, on the ground, with a bunch of other Taliban.

    Lindh was a ‘footsoldier’-that is, he wasn’t acting as a leader or organizer, he was actually ON the front line.

    Lindh was captured, because he surrendered.

    Awlaki was an organizer, a higher-up, a “Leader” WHO AVOIDED RISKING HIS OWN LIFE. this is actually more important than you think-Awlaki was careful enough to arrange conditions so that he would not be placed in front-line jeopardy at any point, and careful enough to avoid being anywhere he could be extradited from.

    Awlaki HAD troops, Lindh WAS a troop, get it? It’s not just the logistics, it’s also the value of the target-Awlaki was a strategic target, Lindh was, for all intents and purposes, a lucky capture in the course of a larger operation.

    and nobody has answered the question I posed on one of the other threads, so…I’ll ask it here.

    DID Anwar Alwaki renounce his American Citizenship? If he did so, as is common with activists of his type, then he HAD NO CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS.

    I’m not saying that joining an organization, a foreign organization, that has declared war on the United States is necessarily renouncing citizenship, but it seems likely-esp. if one becomes a LEADER in that organization. There were, after all, many Americans of German Descent who returned to Germany and joined the NASDAP during the 1930’s and into WWII, many of those in turn joined the SS, or served in the Werhmacht. Those persons, you might note, were not tried under Constitutional rules. (though, one could argue that many weren’t tried at all-average of 2cents/bullet much cheaper than a trial, and there was plenty of rope at the front…)

  • Kenn Jacobine


    You just don’t understand why the Islamists have declared war on America. It is as Ron Paul has had the courage to say. We have committed imperialism against the Middle East for decades. We have supported Israel, at least for the last 40 years, unconditionally. We have propped up brutal dictators in places like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia.

    If I were a young, dirt poor Middle Easterner I would consider joining a jihad against the forces that have enslaved my people. I can understand why they fight us and it isn’t the ridiculous lie that they hate our freedom. It is because we have wronged them. Americans will continue to live in fear and give their lives in vain until they realize the truth and say enough.

  • Kenn Jacobine


    If I came back to America and joined a populist revolt against Washington, I don’t think that is renouncing my citizenship. It is fighting in a sense for my country. I’ve not heard that al-Awlaki has renounced his citizenship.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Kenn –

    What you just don’t understand is that I agree with your entire comment #16 – I don’t think I’ve ever said otherwise. All our problems in the Middle East are of our own making.

    But when it comes to the duties of the president of the United States towards protecting the American people, what he had to do is quite clear – he had to eliminate a traitor that he knew to be a threat to the American people. Right or wrong, that was his duty.

    The problem, Kenn, is that nearly everyone on BC is approaching this from “Obama was wrong and therefore…” instead of “Of the choices Obama had (and the consequences thereof), which was the best choice available to him?”

    That’s what I’m pointing out, that NONE of you are really taking into consideration the limited options he had. You’re ASSUMING that it was so simple, that we could just magically swoop in and capture the guy and let justice take its course.

    But it ain’t that simple – it never was.

    That’s why I continue to challenge all of you to show me what Obama could have done otherwise that was both reasonable and workable. None of you can. All you can do is complain.

  • Glenn, your constant bleating on about how fair minded and honest you are is tiresome. You think you are but clearly there are many who don’t and I am one of those.

    I also think you really DON’T have a clue and should shush, although the chances of that happening seem unbelievably low…

  • Kenn Jacobine

    The man wouldn’t have been a traitor if Obama wasn’t bombing another sovereign country like Yemen. Bush and Obama made al-Awlaki a traitor.

  • Cannonshop

    #20 No, Awlaki chose to be a traitor. Nobody MAKES you do anything except die.

  • @ 16

    A brave statement, Kenn, I respect it.

  • Interesting distinction, though, between joining a populist movement like the Tea Party or the 99 percent on the one hand, and declaring war on America. The latter course of action would seem to impose a moral imperative, as it were, to renounce one’s citizenship.

    Any thoughts?

  • Cannonshop

    #23 it all depends on whether or not one is willing to make that distinction-there are a lot of folks in government and on the Left who see the “Tea Parties” as MORE of a threat, than Al Quaeda, and were it not for geogpraphic location would be quite happy to use MQ-9’s to ‘solve’ the problem.

  • Sure, it’s a threat to their pro-establishment stance. If successful, it could put ’em out of work.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    The difference in between thee and me is that I’m not afraid of admitting when I’m wrong, whereas you’ve apparently made up your mind that you cannot be mistaken in any way, shape, or form.

    So let me see here – AFAIK you’ve never been in the military, but you are absolutely sure I know less about military logistics than you do…and, like almost everyone else here except for Cannonshop (who is, unlike you, a veteran), you seem to think that Obama had a wealth of better options when it came to al-Alwaki (though, like your fellow armchair generals who think they know what our military capabilities are, you REFUSE to even try to present what you would think is a better option, one that is both reasonable and workable).

    I suggest you take a long, hard look in the mirror, Chris. Maybe join the military while you’re at it and build some REAL character while you’re discovering just how much there is that you don’t know.

  • I thought Chris HAD been in the military.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    If he was, he didn’t stay long enough to see as much as he needed to see.

  • Perhaps Chris DID see all he needed to see about the realities of modern-day war and war-making. Perhaps it is YOU, Glenn, who, even after making a career out there on the waves, never saw as much as you needed to see.

    That’s not to say you didn’t learn anything in the Navy, Glenn. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have the family you have.

    Sometimes a change of setting is necessary before a lesson can be understood. Maybe it is from the vantage point you have now, Glenn, that you will see the rest of the things you need to see about war.

  • No, Glenn, you THINK “I’m not afraid of admitting when I’m wrong” but I don’t think you do admit when you’re wrong or are particularly able to make that judgement – and it isn’t really for you to claim that about yourself but for others to attribute that to you, which I and others clearly don’t.

    Plus which, you’ve no basis for saying “you’ve apparently made up your mind that you cannot be mistaken in any way, shape, or form”, so you have just made that up to support your bogus argument.

    When I want a lecture on character, I can think of millions of people I’d consult before a sanctimonious person like you, so please knock it off, it is really rather creepy and offensive.

  • Kenn Jacobine

    One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and vice a versa. The problem with most Americans is that they can only see things from their own perspective. Our government is as guilty as any other when it comes to imperialism. Terrorism is reaction to that imperialism. It makes understandable sense. If a foreign power were occupying a portion or all of America and our government either wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything about it, we would resort to acts of ‘”terrorism” to expel them.

    I don’t think one has to renounce one’citizenship to fight the foreigh aggressor or one’s own government who allowed itto happen. For me, the individual is much more important than the state.

  • Franco

    Kenn Jacobine

    Killing al-Awlaki without regard for his constitutional rights as an American citizen is a threat to every American’s protection against tyrannical government..

    I think the exact opposite is true: The death of al-Awlaki has made every Americans constitutional rights even more secure because of it.

    He was actively engaged in helping other Islamic terrorist who wanted to kill Americans in Afghanistan, and Islamic terrorist who wanted to gain greater insight for carrying out events/attacks within the United States, because he lived most of his life in the US.

    Who ever those American victims would have been, or still might be, whether home or abroad, men, women, and children, they too have constitutional rights.

    Additionally, no American citizen at home or abroad that supports and defends the constitutional rights of his/her fellow citizens is going to be under threat of death or any other kind of threat by the US government.

    It’s not going to happen because there are already three separate forces astablished within the constitution to stop it from happening.

    Force #1: If it happened, every lawyer in the county (including the ACLU) would all be fighting to make the case against the government until heads rolled. You know it and know it.

    Force #2: If the government started loosing its mind and continued to do it, the people would rise up in mass protests.

    Force #3: If the government went totally insane and tried to silence such protests, then you can thank God for the second amendment, because we the people, including many if not most of our military, would never stand for such a thing.

    It is not as if al-Awlaki was killed on the battlefield.

    Islamic terrorist are non-state actors. In their minds ever square inch of the planet is their battlefield. 9/11 was their battlefield, the subway bombing is London was their battlefield, the bombing of an Indonesian nightclub were Australians congregated was their battlefield.

    They kill each other between the two sect of Islam each and every day.

    A third explanation for the difference in treatment of Lindh and al-Awlaki could be that our leaders have just become more fascistic over time.

    Fascistic – definition: A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror

    President Obama is clearly a big expensive government freak, which is and will continue to hurt us deeply until brought back under control, but he is not even remotely close to being fascistic. Even if he or others wanted to be, I have faith in the three constitutional forces in place as outlined above.

    You can only exercise your constitutional rights if you are live. I am sorry that al-Awlaki choose to willfully put himself in harms way by helping terrorists find ways to take the constitutional rights away of other Americans in this war, but choose it he did.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Irene –

    I need to know nothing else about war. I hate war. I loathe it with all my being. I began realizing just how evil war can be when I read A Torch to the Enemy by Martin Caidin in my early teens, staring at the picture of a young Japanese woman with a baby strapped to her back, burned to a crisp in the firebombing raid on Tokyo on March 10, 1945. She wasn’t able to outrun the flames, a virtual tidal wave of fire traveling slower than one could run, but faster than one could walk. In the vernacular of the time, the fire was called by the sterile term “sweep conflagration”, and it was many times worse than the terrible firebombing of Dresden. The far more notorious atomic bombs only accounted for two percent of the total damage done to Japanese cities by American bombers.

    No, I hate war – and I despise those who frivolously spend our blood. Obama I can understand, because he’s trying to unf**k the clusterf**k that he inherited when he took the oath of office…and in Libya, he didn’t risk our lives at all. The previous occupant, on the other hand, wasted our blood, our lives, on his quest to be a popular war president. All for his political glory, tra-la!

    So why did I stay in the Navy, even though I knew considerably more of war than the normal American civilian? Why does a homicide detective stay to do what he does? He hates murders, the terrible, sickening crimes…and he knows that he won’t solve many of them. But that particular profession holds a type of fascination, too. So it is for many who stay in the military to retire – we desperately hope that we’ll never have to really do what we’ve been trained to do, that we’ll never have to take a life, and of course none of us can really know how we’ll perform when the moment of crisis comes (Dave and Clavos know more of this than I ever will)…but that was our chosen profession nonetheless.

    Call it hypocrisy if you will – you wouldn’t be far wrong. But as much as I hate war, I don’t regret my service for a minute, and the opportunities I had to gain experiences I only dreamt of as a child, and lessons I can pass on to my sons…neither one of whom has shown any inclination to join the military, thank God.

  • Igor

    I tend to agree with Jonathon Turley on this:

    NPR mention of Turley

    Obama and Civil Liberties
    Law professor Jonathan Turley argues in a recent op-ed that “the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties.” As president, he says, Obama continued or expanded many of the most controversial programs begun in the Bush administration. Even worse, Turley wrote, is what President Obama has done to the civil liberties movement itself , many civil libertarians don’t speak out against this president. Turley joins guest host John Donvan on the Opinion Page to talk about his Los Angeles Times op-ed entitled Obama: A Disaster for Civil Liberties.

    LA times, Turley

    Obama: A disaster for civil liberties

    He may prove the most disastrous president in our history in terms of civil liberties.

    September 29, 2011|By Jonathan Turley

    With the 2012 presidential election before us, the country is again caught up in debating national security issues, our ongoing wars and the threat of terrorism. There is one related subject, however, that is rarely mentioned: civil liberties.

    Protecting individual rights and liberties : apart from the right to be tax-free — seems barely relevant to candidates or voters. One man is primarily responsible for the disappearance of civil liberties from the national debate, and he is Barack Obama. While many are reluctant to admit it, Obama has proved a disaster not just for specific civil liberties but the civil liberties cause in the United States.

  • I’m glad you’re seeing it this way, Igor.

  • pablo

    A wolf in sheep’s clothing will always do more damage than the wolf. Hence the disguise.

  • Maurice

    We have the ‘killingest’ president ever! Water boardering is for amateurs! All nations now fear our president! FEAR!

  • “We have the ‘killingest’ president ever!”

    Got any statistics to back that up?

  • Igor

    24 – Cannonshop
    ¨…there are a lot of folks in government and on the Left who see the “Tea Parties” as MORE of a threat, than Al Quaeda, and … would be quite happy to use MQ-9’s to ‘solve’ the problem.¨

    Why that´s terrible!

    Do you have citations and quotes about such murderous desires?

    Where can I go to read such threats by leftists?

    If as you say ¨there are a lot of folks¨, why haven´t I seen them declaiming in public?