Monday, July 19, 2010

Assassinating Citizens

President Obama has authorized the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki. You may remember that Anwar al-Awlaki purportedly had communication with the Ft. Hood shooter and the failed Christmas Day bomber. US counterterrorism officials believe that he is a member of Al Qaeda, and that he is hiding in Yemen.

The problem is that al-Awlaki is a US born American citizen. And, if they can seek him out to assassinate him, what does that mean for other American citizens who may be suspected (possibly falsely) of terroristic ties?

Think about an American citizen, ordered to be killed by the President or government official, because he or she is suspected of having ties to terrorism. No trial, no due process, no chance to stand up for himself or herself. The implications are terrifying considering the Department of Homeland Security has already labeled tea party groups as "right-wing extremists" capable of terrorism.

I'm not standing up for al-Awlaki. He is probably guilty (notice the word "probably"). But, this is about liberty, and standing up for the rights guaranteed with American citizenship, no matter who that citizen is. This is about standing up for "innocent before proven guilty." It's about the Bill of Rights and the Constituiton, and the knowledge that when they are being threatened, we are all threatened.

Those who think, "Who cares, this doesn't affect me" remind me of a quote from Holocaust survivor Martin Niemöller:

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I
wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because
I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't
speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no
one was left to speak up.”

Perhaps the assassination of some terror-suspected American citizens would make America a safer place. But, as Ben Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

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