U.S. Drone Strikes on American Citizens Legal: Why Wasn’t al-Awlaki Charged Tried Citizenship Revoked?

A Justice Department memo said to be “confidential” holds that the U.S. Government can kill Americans believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida. We killed New Mexico born Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen by a drone strike. Two weeks later we killed his 16-year-old son, also an American citizen, by the same method. The question should be, why wasn’t Anwar al-Awlaki indicted, tried and citizenship revoked – even if in abstentia? Awlaki’s passport was revoked six months before the strike. He held dual citizenship, U.S. and Yemen. While it is tempting to say “good riddance,” we have trampled the U.S. Constitution, which gives every American citizen the right to due process, yet again and in a most egregious way.


Instead, it says [the confidential memo],  an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American  has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”  Source: NBC News, Michael Isikoff (see the DOJ memo here)

At one point, Al-Awlaki was an Imam at a Virginia mosque where Ft. Hood murderer, Nidal Hasan attended a funeral for his mother. Two of the 9/11/01 hijackers on AA Flight 77 were his congregants. The FBI found al-Awlaki’s phone number among one of the hijackers belongings. Many people in U.S. Intelligence, and some in Congress believed al-Awlaki was involved in 9/11/01 but we did nothing.

Oh but wait, we did do something. We invited him to Capitol Hill in 2002 to conduct a prayer service for the ever-swelling Congressional Muslim Staffer Association. His story is rife with terrorism connections, passport fraud, arrests and convictions of prostitution, and he made frequent trips to Yemen. He left the U.S. for good in 2002.

We could have done something in the right and proper way.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S Constitution:

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 subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, withoutdue process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

In 2010, Senator Joe Lieberman introduced legislation to strip terrorists of citizenship:

The lawmakers argued that those who engage in terrorism have shown an intent to renounce their citizenship – the standard set in a 1980 Supreme Court ruling that rejected an effort to void the 1940 law. The court said Congress can decide there are some actions people take that prove they intended to renounce their citizenship.

Leaders on both sides of the aisle played with the bill and did nothing.

The Constitution means nothing to this Administration and now that the election is over, I doubt drone strikes will be top on Obama’s list. Do you know that you as an American citizen, you can be detained, militarily, with no trial – forever? the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),  involving rendition and detaining Americans passed Congress without being read because they didn’t have time to read it – for the third year in a row submitted after the deadline. Oh yes, and the bill also funded all facets of the military. So…You need to know about this, read it here.