On Citizenship, Terror, and Assassination

Came across this terrifying article on Tumblr today: Confirmed: Obama authorizes assassination of U.S. citizen.

Goodness, that title sure jumps out at you doesn't it? I don't know if it's possible to see that link without at least glancing over the article. It's incredibly troubling that the President/the CIA have the authority to assassinate anyone; it goes against most Americans' core beliefs about the role of our government.

The article mentions it, but remember when all the liberals went up in arms with Bush's domestic spying program (which, by the way, Obama has not done away with)? If the title of the article were accurate, then you'd expect us all to be 1000x more enraged by this.

But as you read the article and the coverage of the issue you learn that the point of contention for most of these people is not that the president is assassinating someone. The problem is that this person is a U.S. citizen. Nevermind that he is an Al-Qaeda operative apparently actively participating in terrorism against the United States:

"The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday..."

Wait, why again can't we kill a terrorist? We kill tens of thousands of terrorists (or civilians, who can tell them apart?) every year. Oh right, because he's both a terrorist and a U.S. Citizen! You can't assassinate a U.S. Citizen.

What is war if not large-scale assassination? Does the CIA have assassination targets that aren't U.S. Citizens (yes)? If so, does anyone care? That's just what war is, right? We are allowed to kill "enemy combatants." But apparently, by definition, U.S. Citizens cannot be classified as "enemy combatants" without due process:

"Even more strikingly, Antonin Scalia, in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, wrote an Opinion (joined by Justice Stevens) arguing that it was unconstitutional for the U.S. Government merely to imprison (let alone kill) American citizens as "enemy combatants"; instead, they argued, the Constitution required that Americans be charged with crimes (such as treason) and be given a trial before being punished."

My question is, if we are allowed to murder on a grand scale (i.e. war) and on a small scale (assassination of high-level terrorist leaders) as part of the "War on Terror," why does it matter whether our "enemies" are citizens or not? The above quote implies that it is constitutional to imprison/kill non-Americans as "enemy combatants." Why is that OK?

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