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Paul Gottlieb

In a few short years, perhaps under a different administration, our Star Chamber will be deciding to off some American-born environmentalist who's standing in the way of Exxon's profits in Nigeria

Daniel Serwer

You are asking a lot: not only that the standard be clear, but that the evidence be presented in public. That would in essence require a trial in absentia, assuming that capture is not feasible. Is that what you are proposing?

Another question, again not meant to be rhetorical: is your refusal to consider protection of non-citizens well-founded? I'm not a lawyer either, and I think of it more as a foreign policy question. Is it wise to treat non-Americans as if they are not protected by either the American constitution or their own?

Daniel Serwer


I'm a lawyer. An in absentia trial seems like the minimum you'd want to see before you even put a citizen on a list saying he/she can be killed.

Unlike Gingrich, I can find nothing in the Constitution which says the President saying so is considered due process.

Hamdi said that citizens who are also terrorists still have due process rights.

People are again throwing around Ex Parte Quirin but those folks at least got military trials.

Additionally, and as an aside, as Awliki was in Yemen it seems unlikely that capturing him was simply out of the question.

Fernando Gimenez

I second Daniel Serwer with the last part. As a non-American, I see it with unease that US government can be lighter on deciding someone's innocence before killing him just because he is not a citizen. It would be wiser if the US raises the bar when it comes to target killing, otherwise it can backslash (at least in public opinion).

Nevertheless I agree with the need of a publicly stated logic and well defined processes to be considered before taking such decisions. I also believe the government should come out and speak clearly about this case as soon as possible in order to avoid further ambiguety.

All this made me reflex on the dangers of a legal system which makes the killing of a US citizen easier than judging him.


Our lack of ability to capture a suspect or prove guilt of one accused of a crime does not give us the right to even establish a criteria in which the government can avert due process. Instead police, military, intelligence, and the judicial communities should focus on improving their skills, technologies, and operations to bring suspects in to prove guilt using due process to deliver justice. In any circumstance, all humans are entitled to due process in our system regardless of the danger to our society especially since our very foundation requires letting the guilty go to protect the innocent. We may not like the outcome, but when we sideskirt our own ideals and refuse to honor them in the worst situations, we destroy our right to live free.


I am a lawyer, but my specialty is far away from this area.

In fairness, you missed that Wittes IS trying to require an escalated proof threshold. Note, in the first point, "high degree of confidence", "best available evidence" and "heightened internal review". That said, the standard of proof to which such a motion would be subjected is ALSO a matter of considerable importance: there is a grave problem with any standard below 'beyond a reasonable doubt'--and motions are usually subjected to a much lower standard of scrutiny.


This is fucking hilarious. Here we are, a bunch politigeeks sitting around discussing this as if it's really some sort of hard-to-determine legal issue.

Look, it feels good that this guy is dead. But don't you fucking kid yourselves that this was in any way legal - or that it would have been legal had this guy been German, Pakistani or Japanese. You all know deep down that this was an outrageous abuse of presidential power, unheard of and deeply antithetical to the supposed ideals of this country. You all know it, and now you're trying to figure out ways of proving yourself wrong, intellectually. But you all know that this, no matter how good it feels to kill this asshole, was wrong.

This is how the country is circling the drain. It's all going to shit, and a bunch of wonks sit around discussing the legal merits of the shithole.

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