Piece for Danger Room. Break you off with a little taste of the remix:
It would also mean that the Obama administration assassinated an American citizen without due process of law. Ever since evidence emerged in late 2009 that Awlaki communicated with both Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and would-be Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the U.S. has launched numerous air strikes in the hope of killing him. A bevy of U.S. counterterrorism officials have testified that Awlaki plays an “operational” role in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. None have offered any evidence for that conclusion.
Whether or not Awlaki in fact had any operational role in al-Qaida, his influence over its propaganda operations is undisputed. For years, Awlaki has preached al-Qaida’s message in English on YouTube. It was a clear propaganda coup for the terrorist network: an American citizen, speaking English, constructed religious arguments for killing his fellow Americans. The administration prevailed on YouTube to take many of Awlaki’s videos down, out of the fear that YouTube trollers would heed the call, but keeping them down has been difficult. A YouTube search on Friday yields several of Awlaki’s conspiracy-soaked sermons.
So let's say you're the Obama administration. You don't want to deal with the nettlesome question of why it's legal to kill an American citizen without due process of law. You also don't want to release evidence of Awlaki's active operational membership in al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Would the smart play be to not claim responsibility for Awlaki's death? The Yemeni government statement announcing it left the circumstances of the killing nebulous.
On the other hand, since it's prooooooobably gonna come out that Awlaki was iced in an air strike, maybe that's not tenable. And it denies Obama a political victory, since the public would much rather care about Dead Al Qaeda Guy than Assassinated American Citizen. (Although probably no more than a few thousand people in the Northeast Corridor know who Awlaki is.)