The Rule of Law

As you already know, alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed by a Predator drone strike in Yemen. A lot of people who should know better are cheering for his death.

The most common reaction seems to be “Good riddance, he was a scumbag.”

I don’t know if he was a scumbag or not. Frankly I don’t give a shit. Besides, being a scumbag isn’t a crime.

I believe in the rule of law. The law says he was entitled to due process. The 5th Amendment to the Constitution says:

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, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Anwar al-Awlaki was not charged with any crime. He wasn’t a fugitive from justice. He wasn’t killed fleeing or resisting arrest. The government has not even made a specific allegation of a capital crime.

I don’t mourn the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. I mourn the death of the rule of law.

“If the law protects a scumbag like me, it will protect all of you.” – Larry Flynt

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57 Responses to The Rule of Law

  1. crawdad says:

    What I find amusing is the people who don’t trust the government to make decisions with money but trust it to make life or death decisions.

  2. myiq2xu says:

    Ron Paul:

    Ron Paul aggressively criticized President Obama today for al-Awlaki’s death.

    “No I don’t think that’s a good way to deal with our problems,” Paul said in a media avail after his remarks at the Politics + Eggs event here. “He was born here, Al-Awlaki was born here, he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. We know he might have been associated with the underwear bomber. But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad.

    “I think what would people … have said about Timothy McVeigh? We didn’t assassinate him, who certainly he had done it. Went and put through the courts then executed him. To start assassinating American citizens without charges, we should think very seriously about this.”

    If Ron Paul is making more sense than the POTUS we’re in deep shit.

  3. HELENK says:

    I may think this guy is a fruitcake and do not agree with his beliefs,but this ruling is nuts. He is NOT threatening anyone.

    Judge orders blogger’s guns taken away

    • WMCB says:

      I LOVE MY GUNS and am a big 2nd amendment defender. Huge. But this is alarm over nothing. It is standard operating procedure in almost every state that if you are put under a restraining order for harassment, you cannot carry a weapon.

      Even in gun-lovin’ TX, if you are under a restraining or protective order, the you are not allowed to have firearms.

      Whether or not the protective order should have been granted in the first place is unknown, but this was not some special “gun grab” – it is a normal part of ANY order of protection in almost any state.

      A commenter on one of the threads said this:

      this was a Protective Order. All the complainant had to do was show that the defendant harassed her. I’m guessing you haven’t actually read the blog …. I suggest you do so. The blogger is obsessed with a dead woman who slighted him; now, he is obsessed with the complainant. He even went so far as to post links to her place of work and other personal information about her whereabouts and actions. Under AZ law, that is enough proof of harassment. This was not a trial by jury, it’s a bench order and the standard of proof was met. For more information:

      Dunno if that’s true, but if it is. looks like the standard was met for an order. The “no guns” was not an arbitrary “extra” decision by the judge, it is normal in these cases.

  4. yttik says:

    It is really is sad. I mourn the loss of the rule of law, too.

    I also mourn for some of my friends who still don’t seem to understand that of course he was a “bad guy.” Nobody, all through human history, has ever violated the rights of a “good guy.” You have to make sure you label them bad first. It’s the rule.

    • WMCB says:

      I think the label was correct in this case. I actually believe he actually was a very bad guy. Not because the govt told me so, but because there has been enough coverage, and enough out there in the man’s own words and youtubes, etc, that convince me that yeah, he was an evil fucker bent on murder.

      Doesn’t matter. You still can’t execute an American citizen without trial.
      If some kind of treason law is needed that provides for trial in absentia or something for specific terror related crimes, then write the law and get it passed. I understand that home-grown jihadis run away to states where we will never extract them, and it’s a problem. I get that. So make a law or amend the Constitution to address it. It might be a bit of a sticky and hypocritical law, but at least it’s better than no process at all.

      I’d rather a legal process with parameters and requirements, even a flawed one, than being at the govt’s discretion entirely.

      • Dario says:

        There have been cases of people tried in absentia, but the government chose not to do it because an arrest would have to be the next step, not the execution of the individual.

      • “I understand that home-grown jihadis run away to states where we will never extract them, and it’s a problem.”

        So McVeigh isn’t the best comparison.

    • Karma says:

      It makes it so much easier for the cheering crowds….laws and rulz are for suckers….but labels they stick.

    • Karma says:

      Speaking of labels. He received a posthumous promotion.

      U.S. officials have given Anwar al-Aulaqi a newly elevated designation on the day of his death by drone strike, describing him as “chief of external operations” for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.

      The new title, cited by officials at the White House and the CIA, reflects Aulaqi’s evolution from Muslim cleric to alleged terrorist plotter, as well as a desire by American officials to persuade the public that the extraordinary killing of a U.S. citizen overseas was warranted.

      • DeniseVB says:

        Sounds like WaPo is calling bullsh*t on the whole operation and actually reporting a few facts 🙂 Also pointing out, despite the “promotion” this still isn’t as big as capping OBL.

        The wires are starting to report all the details of the operation now….who, what, where, when and why style……they shouldn’t do that and put the troops at more risk.

        OH WAIT, what am I thinking …. today is the last day for quarterlies on fundraising. I better go send a check to our big brave tough President right now !!!!!!!!1 /snork.

  5. insanelysane says:

    A light went out in America. It’s anything goes now.
    We have just shredded our Constitution.

    It is just a damn piece of paper anyway

  6. timothy2010 says:

    So he says Americans have gone soft and then he goes all Dirty Harry and assassinates a US citizen without due process. Coincidence?

  7. 1539days says:

    myiq aluded to this in the picture above, but this is actually worse than Gitmo. Guantano is a detainment center for people who are considered enemy combatants. I’m not sure if there are any actual American citizens there. Regardless, these people are being held without trial, but they all have some legal representitive. All the prisoners will eventually be released, put on trial or deported. No one is under a death sentence at Gitmo

    In this case, however, al-Awlaki was a US citizen. He had no other technical recourse than to appeal to his government. His own country instead made him a citizen of nowhere and oredered his international execution. Bush never did this. Had he, he might have been impeached. From a legal standpoint, Obama could use this precedent to require Warren Buffet pay his back taxes or be consided a traitor to the state. It is that serious.

    As a matter of law, I could not call anything Obama did an impeachable offense. Until today.

  8. Dario says:

    On a day the military and Obama execute an American, Hillary is making loud noise about Iran’s human right’s violations. American officials don’t see their own shit.

  9. Mary says:

    OT, but speaking of the “rule of law:”

    DOE Secretary Chu now admitting that he okayed Solyndra’s restructurin of their loan even after they violated the terms of said loan.

    He APPROVED putting Solyndra’s investors ahead of the American people in getting repaid if they went under.

    Ruh roh.

  10. WMCB says:

    Still not a peep out of Talkleft on this. Not. A. Peep.

    Curious to see if Jeralyn “never met a defendant she didn’t think was being oppressed” will have anything to say about this.

    My guess is that she will reluctantly say “yeah that was technically wrong – now can we talk about something else?” And drop it like a hot potato.

    Anyone want to lay some bets with me? 😀

  11. ralphb says:

    Update from Glenzilla.

    What amazes me most whenever I write about this topic is recalling how terribly upset so many Democrats pretended to be when Bush claimed the power merely to detain or even just eavesdrop on American citizens without due process. Remember all that? Yet now, here’s Obama claiming the power not to detain or eavesdrop on citizens without due process, but to kill them; marvel at how the hardest-core White House loyalists now celebrate this and uncritically accept the same justifying rationale used by Bush/Cheney (this is war! the President says he was a Terrorist!) without even a moment of acknowledgment of the profound inconsistency or the deeply troubling implications of having a President — even Barack Obama — vested with the power to target U.S. citizens for murder with no due process.

    Also, during the Bush years, civil libertarians who tried to convince conservatives to oppose that administration’s radical excesses would often ask things like this: would you be comfortable having Hillary Clinton wield the power to spy on your calls or imprison you with no judicial reivew or oversight? So for you good progressives out there justifying this, I would ask this: how would the power to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process look to you in the hands of, say, Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann?

    • Dario says:

      And if I may add, the left was upset with Bush for abusing his powers against foreigners. Abuse of power against Americans is worse, but because it’s Obama doing it, the left approves.

      To echo WMCB, it’s hypocrisy.

  12. votermom says:

    I am betting few will agree with me, but here’s what I think. If Al-Wacky was really a clear and present danger and could not be arrested, then the President should have told the CIA – take care of it but give me deniability.
    That’s the way past presidents have dealt with problems like this.
    It’s not nice but it at least pays lip service to the law. It keeps the system intact.

    But Obama is willing to publicly shred the 5th amendment to get a poll bounce. I think that angers me the most.

    • ralphb says:

      It could even have been contracted out. There’s even more separation that way. He may get a dead cat poll bounce but he has also succeeded in creating two more martyrs to the cause. There is no telling how many recruits they will get because of this action.

      It seems that every time the “war on terrah” seems to have the chance of a small wind down, the government does something else like this to kick it back up again. Sometimes I think it’s what they want.

    • WMCB says:

      votermom, I have often felt the same way. In reality, the govt is less likely to abuse that tactic if they know damn well they are doing it outside the law, so use it sparingly and know your ass is grass if you made a bad decision. Second best is creating some law as to how to actually try people like Awlaki in absentia if they refuse to show up. Worst is announcing a public, open policy that we can do this whenever we think it’s warranted, just because.

      I said the same thing about torture. I’m not so stupid as to think that the situation could never arise where you KNEW a terrorist had a specific piece of information that you needed right now to avert catastrophe. Not a general fishing expedition, but info you knew he had that was urgent. You know, the doomsday dirty bomb dilemma. Any sane person in that circumstance will do whatever it takes, even if it means beating them to death. You might hate it, but you’d do it, if it really was a big enough threat.

      You don’t take that kind of extreme circumstance in which breaking the law is the most moral thing to do and enshrine it in law and codify it as normal operating procedure. That was my beef with the “torture isn’t torture” legalese of the Bushies. It makes it too easy to make, in the future, what should be an exception a common thing.

      I guess some might call that hypocrisy, but I’d call it reality. Sometimes keeping something illegal, with the unwritten understanding that that law is possibly going to be broken in extremis is the best compromise. And if you break it, and you are found out, take your lumps and hope the people support you and understand why you did it.

      • WMCB says:

        IOW, if the situation is not dire enough for a president to say, “I know it’s illegal. I know I could lose my presidency over this. But God help me, I must or a lot of people are going to die.” then it’s not dire enough to justify torture.

        If he or she is going to make that decision (and I readily admit there might be circumstances where he’d need to), then he/she has to bear the weight of it and own it.

        • Dario says:

          As I understand it, the U.S. used torture before Bush, but it was understood that it was illegal and hidden.

        • 1539days says:

          Bush used a legal argument that waterboarding is not torture. I think there is some room to argue that. American soldiers are waterboarded in training exercises. But you can’t redefine assassination. If the person is dead, you killed them, especially when you announced it beforehand.

    • Dario says:

      Presidents are elected mostly for their domestic policies.

      Obama is not going to get a poll bounce. He didn’t get it from the big guy, and much less from assassinating an American. In the end Americans rarely give lasting political bounce to presidents for foreign actions. FDR had more going for him than just WWII. Truman finished WWII and was barely reelected. Bush I lost all his poll advantage from the Gulf War. W won against Kerry, but Kerry was not a good candidate and the economy wasn’t so bad by election time.

      • votermom says:

        Well, yeah, but he got a temporary bounce before so he’s doing this in the hopes of getting another temporary bounce. He’s probably hoping for just enough of a bounce to improve fundraising, probably.

  13. timothy2010 says:

    Have any of the GOP candidates aside from Paul issued a statement or are they all waiting to see which way the wind blows?
    Checked out a number of blogs this afternoon as well as comments on several newspapers. and very few seem to have a problem with the shredding of the Constitution. Sad.

  14. Dario says:

    Romans gave its citizens the right to a trial court to defend oneself. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, but he demanded a trial in Rome because he was a Roman citizen, he was given that right. In the end he was executed, but he got his day in court.

  15. Three Wickets says:

    The Fort Hood shooter will be going to trail. He could have testified on his alleged connection to al-Awlaki.

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