Law as an M.C. Escher painting

There’s that phrase again: “State Secret!

The Obama administration urged a federal judge early Saturday to dismiss a lawsuit over its targeting of a U.S. citizen for killing overseas, saying that the case would reveal state secrets.  The U.S.-born citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, is a cleric now believed to be in Yemen. Federal authorities allege that he is leading a branch of al-Qaeda there.

Government lawyers called the state-secrets argument a last resort to toss out the case, and it seems likely to revive a debate over the reach of a president’s powers in the global war against al-Qaeda.

Actually, by now it’d be nice to actually HAVE a debate.  Struggling to so much as get a word in edgewise as some blowhards yell that anyone with a question is a Marxist terror-sympathizin’ Hater of Real ‘Merkins doesn’t count.

Civil liberties groups sued the U.S. government on behalf of Aulaqi’s father, arguing that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command’s placement of Aulaqi on a capture-or-kill list of suspected terrorists – outside a war zone and absent an imminent threat – amounted to an extrajudicial execution order against a U.S. citizen. They asked a U.S. district court in Washington to block the targeting.

In response, Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that the groups are asking “a court to take the unprecedented step of intervening in an ongoing military action to direct the President how to manage that action – all on behalf of a leader of a foreign terrorist organization.”

“Ongoing military action”?  Has the U.S. government declared war on Yemen?  What’s that you say?  No?  Then technically speaking, any “military action” there is better described as “criminal action”.  Besides, the entire point of having C.I.A. agents carry out hits is that they’re not part of the military command, providing cover for plausible deniability.  You know, in case some particular opponent should suddenly take a lead shower while in traffic.

Instead, they’re operating off of the same list a section of the military is using.  Explain that.

Miller added, “If al-Aulaqi wishes to access our legal system, he should surrender to American authorities and return to the United States, where he will be held accountable for his actions.” (emphasis mine)

This implies that were he to show up in the U.S. & turn himself in, he’d get the opportunity to challenge his charges in court.  Problem: he hasn’t been charged yet.  In fact, charges only came up as a possibility as fallback in case they couldn’t simply whack him.  On paper, even if you are charged with something, no matter how much evidence beforehand*, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but the Justice Department spokesman speaks as if he’s already been convicted.  In fact, he basically says that your rights are null & void outside of U.S. territory: “on this side of the line, you get a trial and a judge & jury; on THAT side of the line, I can just blow your damned brains out and forget about proving anything.  Now, have fun trying to get to this side…”

Of course, hypothetically speaking, they could upon Anwar al-Aulaqi turning himself in just skip charges & try that Jose Padilla thing again.  Not much incentive for him to comply, is there?

(* – That is, this isn’t to say he’s not at the least a religious nutjob.  Still, a law that applies only to nice folks isn’t a law, it’s a suggestion.  This kind of constant loop-holing of the law shows why “the rule of law” itself is, conceptually speaking, a load of horseshit.)


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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2 Responses to Law as an M.C. Escher painting

  1. ricketson says:

    If I were in his shoes, I would not even consider surrendering.

    First, they might just shoot me on sight. This is especially true if I approached an embassy, since they would probably assume that I had a bomb. Also, it’s not like surrendering to the local authorities is an option–they are probably more likely than the Americans to shoot on sight (or lock him up without trial and torture him).

    At the best, he can count on being tackled and roughed up if he decides to surrender.

  2. Pingback: Glenn Greenwald asks a question « Phil Ebersole's Blog

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