This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
As a couple Supreme Court justices and others have noted, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. It doesn’t require the president to passively watch international terrorists mount attack after attack on Americans from safe havens beyond the reach of the law.
Barack Obama’s decision to kill an al-Qaida leader hiding in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, was thoroughly justified regardless of al-Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship.
Some civil libertarians complain that this American-bred terrorist was denied his constitutional right to due process. U.S. agents, presumably, were supposed to try to arrest him in some terrorist snake pit, risking his escape and their lives, in hopes of spiriting him off to America to receive a court-appointed attorney, a proper trial and the usual rounds of appeals.
There’s no real doubt that al-Awlaki was an eager would-be murderer of Americans. His fiery calls for terror attacks were openly posted on the Internet; by all accounts he was complicit in the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger jet in 2009 and the 2010 plot to detonate bombs concealed in printer cartridges at various U.S. targets, including a Jewish center in Chicago.
Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of massacring 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, reportedly exchanged many emails with al-Awlaki prior to the attack.
Al-Awlaki’s nationality seems about as relevant as the U.S. citizenship of a few German soldiers who fought against Americans in World War II. The struggle with al-Qaida abroad is a war, not a courtroom drama.
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