Judge Dismisses Awlaki Assassination Suit

by Andrew C. McCarthy

Federal Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C., has dismissed the lawsuit brought by the family of al Qaeda operative and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki which alleges that President Obama’s reported authorization of his (Awlaki’s) assassination violated his constitutional rights.

Judge Bates’s opinion is 83 pages long and I haven’t been able to do more than skim it so far. Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism gives what appears to be the bottom line: the judge concluded (the quote is from the opinion) that a federal court “lacks the capacity to determine whether a specific individual in hiding overseas, whom the Director of National Intelligence has stated is an ‘operational’ member of [al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula], presents such a threat to national security that the United States may authorize the use of lethal force against him.”

I want to digest the ruling before saying much more. Suffice it to say for now that if the judge is saying courts lack the institutional competence to second-guess the commander-in-chief’s wartime judgments about how the enemy should be fought overseas, I would agree with that. But better to take the time to analyze exactly what the court said … and to remember that this is just Round One.

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