Last Updated: October 12. 2011 1:00AM
U.S.-born terror suspects deserve legal due process and open trials
The recent extrajudicial executions of two American citizens in Yemen is the latest and most troubling in a series of incidents that reflect the steady erosion of the United States Constitution under the Obama administration.
Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, who were citizens that advocated violence against fellow Americans, were deservedly on the radars of the CIA and FBI. Moreover, al-Awlaki clearly inspired Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to bring down an airplane over Detroit. And although al-Awlaki and Khan both projected a despicable message over the Internet, which I condemned in Metro Detroit mosques as well as online, I am extremely troubled by the undermining of the Constitution regarding their extrajudicial assassinations.
The facts are that al-Awlaki and Khan were never indicted, much less convicted, of any terrorism related crimes, were never formally requested to turn themselves in to the nearest United States embassy, nor were they actively engaged on a battlefield when they were executed via drone attack.
The Obama administration contends that it had the legal right to kill these two Americans through an executive order without providing evidence to the public because such evidence is a “state secret.” In addition, the administration killed them through the consultation of a secretive death panel in which there is no law establishing its existence or rules nor is there any public record of its operational procedures to conclude that any American is worthy of death without a trial.
If the same scenario were presented to the public without mentioning the name of the administration, many might conclude that this is the process of taking someone out in China or North Korea, not America.
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution clearly articulates no person shall answer for a capital crime without having been indicted by a grand jury to then face charges against them.
After being charged, the Sixth Amendment provides persons with the right to be informed of the nature of criminal accusations in which they can confront the evidence against them. Regarding al-Awlaki and Khan’s executions, the Fifh and the Sixth Amendments were completely circumvented.
Mr. Obama, who was formerly a constitutional law professor, ran on a platform of transparency and the re-establishment of law and order after revelations were made public of tortured detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. However, his ordering extrajudicial killings of citizens without any charges being levied and zero transparency of the process for them being added to a hit list goes far beyond policies of the Bush administration. The current extrajudicial killing policy is both a threat to the spirit of the Constitution and our national security.
GOP presidential hopeful and former Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson articulated the disturbing precedent that has now been established regarding al-Awlaki’s execution when he stated, “He was a U.S. citizen, and never before have we targeted a U.S. citizen for death.” If we as a nation compromise the Constitution for so-called good exceptions like extremists al-Awlaki and Khan, we truly do not know who this president and those to come will add to the hit list since there is no transparency in the process.
Our Founding Fathers foresaw this danger by conveying that Americans should be charged with crimes and have the ability to challenge evidence against them in a court of law.
The killings of al-Awlaki and Khan play right into the narrative of al-Qaida that America practices political hypocrisy by criticizing certain nations and people for certain behaviors then practices it herself.
While we confront adversaries from within and without that seek to harm us as a nation, our Executive Branch must exhibit and uphold the ethical standards set forth in the Constitution, which is one of the best weapons that we have in defeating the perverse ideology of al-Qaida.
Dawud Walid is CAIR-MI executive director.