The federal government has been wrong about accused terrorists in the past. Assassinating Americans without due process is folly.
Maybe President Obama is for death panels after all.
In the words of the Associated Press, "Anwar al-Awlaki, and a second American, Samir Khan, were killed by a joint CIA-U.S. military air strike on their convoy in Yemen early Friday. Both men played key roles in inspiring attacks against the U.S., and their killings are a devastating double blow to al-Qaida's most dangerous franchise." Aside from the fact that they were killed, is that true? Let's just ignore Khan on the "what's one more dead body" theory that is apparently the convention guiding most commentary on the day's events. Do we know that al-Awlaki has played a "key role" in inspiring attacks against the United States, and that his death is a "devastating blow" to al-Qaida? My colleague Max Fisher makes a persuasive case, elsewhere on this site, that "though the Yemen-based branch of al-Qaeda has been tied to recent attempted terrorist attacks the U.S., those attacks have all failed. And even those failures might have had little to do with Awlaki, a man with no operational experience, battlefield experience, or skill-set known to extend beyond shouting into a webcam and posting to YouTube."
Lest readers think I am quibbling about the effectiveness of an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operative, rest assured that I'd have been perfectly happy to see him tried in absentia for treason, provided with legal counsel, convicted, and then subjected to the death penalty though a drone strike. My point comparing the certainty of Associated Press's language with the facts we're actually in a position to verify is that the media readily traffics in dubious assertions about the man. That is particularly troublesome in this case because al-Awlaki, denied due process by the Obama Administration, has effectively been charged, tried, and sentenced to death in the American press.