The idea that everyone is inocent until proven guilty – also referred to as Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat – has been a staple of civilized law for centuries. I grew up with this idea that if accused of anything that I would have the chance of rebuttal. I grew up with the notion that in America I couldn’t be taken away, thrown in a cell, and held indefinitely unless someone had proven that I had done something worthy of such treatment.
Things have apparently changed in today’s world in this regard. Today as Americans we are filled with fear of the unknown. We seem far removed from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words which were later echoed by John F. Kennedy where they said, the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Today we fear something on every corner – we fear that a terrorist is standing in line with us to blow up a plane, we fear that we will die of some new super-flu, we fear that Iran will bomb us tomorrow, and we fear that our neighbor will use their AR-15 to shoot down our children. Many of these things are largely unfounded – very few planes have been hijacked and used as weapons in the history of humanity, very few people die from some contagious virus, nobody has indefinitely proven that Iran is building a bomb, and you’re more likely to die from a kitchen knife or a hammer than an AR-15.
But it is fear that motivates us to do things or to give up things we normally wouldn’t do with logic and reason. Fear is irrational and our government knows this – Rahm Emanuel infamously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” In other words, when people are confused and cowering in fear, the impossible then becomes possible.
I am specifically speaking today about the idea of what we allow when we fear uncertainty. Nobody wants to be killed by a terrorist so to combat this fear we allow our government to handle the issue. However, when we allow the government to handle the issue we allow them to impede on us and our freedoms. In recent history our American government has passed legislation, implemented agency policy changes, or signed Executive Orders to seek out Americans they deem unsavory and assasinate them… without trial… or without any definitive proof that they have actually done anything other than talk bad about America or hang out with bad people who don’t like America.
When will Americans find such an action intolerable? For now the policy is distant – we are killing American citizens in other countries. Our news barely reports on it and when they do they are sure to invoke two American fears – that they are an Islamic and that they are a terrorist. In doing so, we disregard teh fact that the person was just as we are – an American citizen who is supposedly protected under law practice such as due process, burden of proof, and starting an investigation with a valid probable cause. This is what we citizens here are afforded here in Arizona, Ohio, and the rest of the United States so why isn’t this courtesy also afforded to citizens overseas?
I believe this is a very slippery slope and especially true when you consider how many times the government has accidentially killed the wrong person (for example, there was no wrongdoing found at Ruby Ridge but that didn’t stop them from shooting half a family). I am sure that Americans won’t care about this policy until they are the ones being detained or killed. Sounds like something Martin-Niemöller wrote about with Nazi Germany.
See associated article here.
Of the scores of people dubbed terrorists and taken out by American military drone strikes, three men — all killed in the fall of 2011 — were U.S. citizens.
And their lives illustrate the complexity of the issue, recently brought to light amid a newly discovered government memo that provides the legal reasoning behind drone strikes on Americans.
Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed by a missile strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011, while al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, was killed in the country just weeks later.
Since the attacks, family members have called the deaths unjust and sued the U.S. government, calling the killings unconstitutional.
Anwar al-Awlaki, born in New Mexico, became well known for his fiery anti-American sermons posted throughout the Internet.
Samir Khan, who’d lived in both New York and Charlotte, N.C., produced a magazine called “Inspire” that became known for its extreme jihadist views.
But the most controversial drone strike took place on Oct. 14, 2011, when 16-year-old Abdulrahman was killed by U.S. forces.
Family of the Denver-born teenager say he had no ties to terrorist organizations and was unjustly targeted because of his father.
Nassar al-Awlaki, grandfather of Abdulrahman and father to Anwar, said he tried to protect his grandson as Anwar al-Awlaki’s profile grew.
In December, Nassar al-Awlaki told CNN, “In Anwar it was expected because he was under targeted killing, but how in the world they will go and kill Abdulrahman. Small boy, U.S. citizen from Denver, Colorado.”
Nassar al-Awlaki said his grandson snuck out of their Yemen home one night, leaving a note for his mother saying he would return in a few days. The boy never returned, killed instead while eating at an outdoor restaurant.
“Since the issue regarding Anwar came, I tried to insulate the family of Anwar from everything, regarding this matter,” Nassar al-Awlaki told CNN. “I took care of him, and suddenly after 2 year absence from his father, he decided to go to our government in Yemen to seek information from his father. That was the only reason he went, and he did not tell us.”
The Obama administration has remained mostly mum regarding Abdulrahman’s death, and at times has struggled to explain it.
“I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children,” former White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs said to a gaggle of reporters in October. “I don’t think becoming an al-Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”
During his presidential campaign, Republican Rep. Ron Paul criticized the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, saying: “Al-Awlaki was born here, he is an American citizen. He was never tried or charged for any crimes. No one knows if he killed anybody. … But if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad.”
Anwar al-Awlaki’s ties to the United States go back to his father Nassar, who came to the country to earn a master’s degree. His son was born in New Mexico, and though the family returned to Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki came back to the U.S. for college, eventually becoming an iman.
Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, he became a popular spokesman for moderate Islam, and was often used to juxtapose perceptions that Islam is a religion that spreads hate. But less than a decade later, he was hiding in Yemen as a name on the CIA’s kill list.
“I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding on every other Muslim,” he said in an audio message in March 2010.
Conversely, Khan was never interested in the peaceful side of Islam. The New York Times reports that as a teen, Khan’s attraction grew exponentially to militant sites on the Internet after 9/11. Parental concerns and intervention from community leaders proved unsuccessful. Khan was 25 when he died in Yemen.
In July 2012, Samir Khan’s mother, Sarah, joined Nassar al-Awlaki in a lawsuit against four senior national security officials.
“I don’t really necessarily agree with some of the things Anwar said against the United States, but does that mean they should kill him outside the law?” asked Nassar al-Awlaki.