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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

10/7/2011 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Existence of the list raises moral and legal questions.

Research into the killing of American Al Qaeda operative, Anwar al-Alaki, has revealed that the White House has a hit list. The names of the people on that list are unknown. Also unclear, is the manner in which the list is compiled and if the names on that list are subject to any kind of meaningful judicial review.

Like it or not, a national hit list raises moral and legal questions that we must answer.

Like it or not, a national hit list raises moral and legal questions that we must answer.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/7/2011 (2 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: hit list, terrorists, judicial review, war on terror, Obama, White House, drone strikes


WASHINGTON DC (Catholic Online) - US government officials have confirmed the existence of the list, but have not spoken clearly on how the list is compiled, or if keeping such a list is even legal. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor was asked to discuss the process with reporters but declined to do so.

What is understood is that a secret panel places people on the list based on various criteria. Those criteria have not been explained. The rules by which this secret committee works are also unclear. It is clear, however, that the secret panel was squarely behind the decision to add Awlaki, an American citizen, who joined Al Qaeda as a high-ranking operative in Yemen, to its hit list.

It is believed that the panel is made of high ranking government officials including Cabinet members, and representatives from the National Security Council, and the US military. It is believed that depending on the individual nominated for the list, the White House may or may not be consulted in advance. In the event that the president should disapprove of a name, officials said that person could be removed from the list.

Administration officials have emphasized that the Justice Department is always consulted prior to adding a name.

Few people will question the White House's motivation to go after foreign Al Qaeda operatives overseas. And most experts acknowledge that the use of drone strikes may be the only practical way to take down highly dangerous, high value terrorist targets.

However, when one of those targets is an American citizen, legal questions arise. American citizens, regardless of their criminal behavior, are entitled to constitutional protections. Being placed on a secret government hit list without judicial review, is very likely a violation of due process.

Although none are likely to shed tears over the takedown of an American Al Qaeda operative such as Awlaki, two basic concerns arise. First, under what circumstances is a person placed on the list? What legal protections and recourse might one have once targeted? And second, President Obama during his 2008 campaign, made explicitly clear that he was opposed to using such methods in the war on terror, and even criticized the Bush administration for their tactics.

As the White House portrays the takedown of Awlaki as a great victory in the war on terror, others are concerned that the White House has participated in a form of extrajudicial murder.

Granted, terrorists are probably as equally concerned about the legal ramifications of the list as are the service personnel who handle the strikes, but the rest of the nation should pay attention to the moral and legal implications of maintaining what amounts to a national hit list. 

While the United States clearly has the right to defend itself from imminent danger, the manner in which the president oversees the defense of the country is of vital importance. From a moral standpoint, we have a solemn obligation to take the high road and how we deal with those accused of committing crimes, and yes, that even includes terrorists.

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