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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Never Let Your Skill Exceed Your Virtue

The title of this diary is a Korean saying, oft-repeated by Harold Koh, Dean of the Yale Law School.  Dean Koh deserves recognition as an outstanding lawyer, scholar, and and teacher, but I sincerely hope that he is considered for appointment to the Supreme Court or Department of State in the coming Obama administration because he is a truly humane person.  As proof, I wanted to share an excerpt of a speech he gave at my graduate a few weeks back.

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