The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, raises more questions about due process and the similar policies of the president and his predecessor, George W. Bush
President Obama's relentless program of wiping out top al-Qaida leaders around the world through unilateral covert strikes claimed another victim on Friday, when Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born radical cleric identified as "chief of external operations" for al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula, was killed in Yemen as he rode in a convoy.
Awlaki's death followed the takedown of al-Qaida's No. 2 official, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, in late August, and Osama bin Laden in early May. U.S. officials quickly sought to justify the strike against a U.S. citizen abroad. "Anwar al-Awlaki was one of AQAP's most dangerous terrorists, and was directly involved in planning attacks against the United States, including the 2010 cargo bomb plot and Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab's attempt to blow up a plane in December 2009," a U.S. official said. "His death takes a committed terrorist, intent on attacking the United States, off the battlefield."
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Still, the strike was the first that was known to be launched against an American (Awlaki had dual Yemeni-U.S. citizenship). The nature of Awlaki's death once again raised legal and moral issues about the evidence against him, whether he was given due process of law, and the constitutional basis of the administration's covert strike program. Awlaki was believed to have "prepared" Abdul Mutallab's attempt to blow up the Northwest Airlines plane on Christmas 2009, according to a previous statement by James Clapper, director of national intelligence. "Awlaki and AQAP are also responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in Yemen and throughout the region, which have killed scores of Muslims," the U.S. official said.