Obama Sets Dangerous Precedent With Awlaki

The killing establishes a precedent by which a president can order the death of an American citizen without outside review, blogs Adam Serwer at Mother Jones.

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President Barack Obama (Getty Images)

Adam Serwer, in a blog entry at Mother Jones, writes about the death of American-born extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and whether President Barack Obama should be allowed to secretly order the death of a U.S. citizen without outside review. 

The central question in the death of American extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki is not his innocence. That really misses the point. Awlaki was the only publicly known name on a covert list of American citizens the US government believes it can legally kill without charge or trial. Awlaki's killing can't be viewed as a one-off situation; what we're talking about is the establishment of a precedent by which a US president can secretly order the death of an American citizen unchecked by any outside process. Rules that get established on the basis that they only apply to the "bad guys" tend to be ripe for abuse, particularly when they're secret. 

Terrorism, as compared to traditional warfare, naturally brings up different legal and moral issues. Chief among these is the fact that because terrorists don't wear uniforms, they're hard to identify as terrorists.

Read Adam Serwer's entire blog entry at Mother Jones.

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