Al-Awlaki Decision Leaves Key Questions Unanswered

"How is it that judicial approval is required when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for electronic surveillance, but ... judicial scrutiny is prohibited when the United States decides to target a U.S. citizen overseas for death?"

That's just one of many intriguing questions raised -- but not answered -- by the D.C. District Court today in its decision dismissing the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, a challenge to the government's authorization to kill a U.S. citizen allegedly tied to Al Qaeda overseas. Ultimately, the court won't answer any of these critical questions because it decided that Al-Awlaki's father lacks standing to sue, since he's not directly harmed by the U.S. action.

Significantly, though, Judge John Bates did not dismiss the case on the merits. Instead, he went out of his way to write that the case raises important legal questions regarding whether the government can target its own citizen for death in a foreign country without so much as a hearing to determine that he's done anything wrong.

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Time for 'A Full and Open Debate' about Drones


Last week, in a rare public interview, Michael Leiter, the nation's counterterrorism chief, acknowledged that the government's drone and targeted killing strategy, which appears to have become a cornerstone of the Obama administration's "war on terror," demands "a full and open debate."

Leiter was responding to a question from Newsweek's Michael Isikoff about the fact that the Obama administration

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