A bigger worry than rogue presidents killing Americans willy-nilly is that Americans don't question their leaders on national security
Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen alleged to be a senior al-Qaeda figure, was reportedly killed this morning in Yemen by an American drone strike. President Obama reportedly authorized his assassination more than two years ago and several unsuccessful attempts had previously been made.
This raises troubling questions about the limits of presidential power.
The 5th Amendment to the Constitution explicitly declares that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Awlaki, who was not a member of the U.S. armed forces, was not afforded these rights.
Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer and Salon columnist, notes: "No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was 'considering' indicting him). Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even has any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt. When Awlaki's father sought a court order barring Obama from killing his son, the DOJ argued, among other things, that such decisions were 'state secrets' and thus beyond the scrutiny of the courts. He was simply ordered killed by the President: his judge, jury and executioner."