What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government.
The counter-argument here is that Awlaki effectively lost whatever constitutional protections citizenship affords when he took up arms against his country and was found on a battlefield. … in this specific case, it looks like Awlaki was a traitor to his country and had given aid and comfort to its enemies. But is executive decree of guilt enough to have Americans – even loathesome ones – killed?
Ackerman hopes the government will explain itself:
Senior U.S. counterterrorism officials have spent the early morning vouching for Awlaki’s death. The big questions facing them now: will they release any evidence confirming Awlaki’s “operational” role in al-Qaida? And will they explain their legal rationale for killing a vile, noxious propagandist who was nevertheless an American citizen? When the ACLU — where, full disclosure, my wife works — sued to learn why targeting Awlaki is legal, the government shut the case down by arguing that very rationale was a state secret.
I agree that explaining the rationale would be a good thing. But my broader take on Obama's remarkable conduct of the war against Jihadist terror – in stark contrast with his hapless, incompetent predecessors – is here.