Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bushism Redux: Charge 'em if you can't kill 'em

More on the ACLU/CCR filing I reported on last month. It seems, as Glenn Greenwald put it in an article on Wednesday, Obama has adopted a Red Queen strategy: "Sentence first -- verdict afterward."

Marcy Wheeler caught what a very odd point in the AP story on the government's turn in strategy: "The Obama administration is considering filing the first criminal charges against radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in case the CIA fails to kill him and he’s is captured alive in Yemen." Wheeler added:
And the claim that they’re charging al-Awlaki just in case they happen to capture him alive rather than dead (opps!)? I’d suggest it probably has a lot more to do with the suit CCR and ACLU have taken against the government. I’m guessing that following shortly on formal charges, DOJ will tell the courts they can’t litigate the al-Awlaki suit because it pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation. Voila! No discovery in the lawsuit!!
For myself, I found a good deal of dry, wry humor in the ACLU/CCR comment that the changes "would be a step in the right direction." Damn. I'd hate to see what a step in the wrong direction would look like at this point.

Here's the press release from CCR and ACLU. Please support these organizations with some donations so they can do this necessary work for all of us.
CCR and ACLU Respond to Report that the Government Will Bring Charges Against Anwar Al-Aulaqi

EW YORK – The Obama administration is considering filing criminal charges against Anwar Al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen located in Yemen whom the U.S. government has already targeted for death without charge or trial, according to an AP story today.

In August, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit challenging the government’s asserted authority to carry out “targeted killings” of U.S. citizens located far from any armed conflict zone. The groups were retained by Nasser Al-Aulaqi to bring the lawsuit in connection with the government’s decision to authorize the targeted killing of his son, Anwar Al-Aulaqi. The groups charge that if the government has evidence that a U.S. citizen is involved in terrorist activity, he should be charged with a crime and prosecuted.

The following can be attributed to the ACLU and CCR:

“Our organizations have long stated that if the government has evidence that Anwar Al-Aulaqi is involved in terrorist activity, it should present that evidence to a court – not authorize his execution without charge or trial. Now, months after the government announced its intent to kill Al-Aulaqi, it may finally bring charges against him. This would be a step in the right direction. The constitutional guarantee of due process relies on the critical distinction between allegations and evidence. If the reports that charges may be brought against Al-Aulaqi are true, the fact that it has taken the government this long – months after having announced his death sentence – suggests that, in this case, the government’s allegations were far ahead of its evidence.

“While bringing charges against Al-Aulaqi based on credible evidence would be a step in the right direction, it would not mean that he could now be targeted for killing without trial. It is well established that the government cannot use extrajudicial killing to punish people for past acts, but only to prevent grave and imminent threats. A criminal charge for past crimes does not provide a license to kill.

“We continue to believe that the courts must play a role in establishing legal standards for when the government can take the life of one of its own citizens without charge or trial. For that reason, we will continue with our litigation.”

For more information on the case, including fact sheets and legal papers, visit: and

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