An Associated Press story reports that two “U.S.-born” terror suspects were killed in a U.S. attack in Yemen. In fact at least one of the citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki, was the intended target of the attack.
The other man, Samir Khan, may not have been directly targeted but, as the article continues, he “had published seven issues of Inspire Magazine, offering advice on how to make bombs and the use of weapons. The magazine was widely read.”
Both men were killed by armed U.S. fighter drones and the attack has been heralded as “the latest in a run of high-profile kills for Washington under President Barack Obama.” Kills for Washington.
Article III of the Constitution addresses the judicial powers of the United States and, in Section 3, specifically speaks about treason against the nation. It reads: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
So far, it would be agreed that Khan and al-Awlaki were both guilty of treason. Their actions and admissions make that much clear. But section 3 continues: “No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.”
There can be little doubt that were Khan and al-Awlaki apprehended and tried, they would have either been found guilty or confessed in open court. But they were not tried. They were not even charged. They were killed by an armed drone.
Citizens and political leaders throughout the nation are and will continue to rejoice over this fresh “kill for Washington” and the deaths of these Americans will even be used for political capital. It is election season, after all.
But, what are we to make of the Constitution? Any right given to the government is one less right retained by the citizens. In this case, no matter how one may spin it, we have witnessed the calculated assassination of two American citizens by their own government, without being charged and without a trial. So, what happens when the government defines “bad men” a bit differently?