Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Anwar Al-Awlaki: ACLU Wants Militant Cleric Taken off US 'Kill List'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Anwar Al-Awlaki: ACLU Wants Militant Cleric Taken off US 'Kill List'

Article excerpt

The US government has linked Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen in Yemen, to the Fort Hood shootings and the Christmas Day bombing. But the ACLU filed a lawsuit Monday to stop an alleged plan to assassinate him.

Two US civil rights groups are asking a federal judge to halt an alleged Obama administration plan to kill an American citizen believed to be allied with Al Qaeda and hiding in Yemen.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the lawsuit Monday in Washington. It asks US District Judge John Bates to order the government not to carry out the alleged plot to conduct a targeted killing of Anwar al- Awlaki.

Mr. Awlaki is a militant Islamic lecturer who used the Internet to spread the ideology of Al Qaeda. Born in the US and educated at American colleges, Awlaki has provided a bridge between militants overseas and some radical Muslims based in the US.

He is reported to have encouraged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan. He allegedly helped train Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged with attempting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day, and is said to have inspired would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.

According to the lawsuit, US officials placed Awlaki's name on a "kill list" in early 2010. The suit says that American officials are using secret criteria to determine who goes on the list.

It says the killings are carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency or the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

"The right to life is the most fundamental of all rights," says ACLU lawyer Arthur Spitzer in the complaint.

"US citizens have a right to know what conduct may subject them to execution at the hands of their own government," Mr. Spitzer writes. "Due process requires, at a minimum, that citizens be put on notice of what may cause them to be put to death by the state."

The complaint adds: "Both the Constitution and international law prohibit targeted killing except as a last resort to protect against concrete, specific, and imminent threats."

Government officials have defended the program, saying that after the 9/11 attacks Congress granted the executive branch wide latitude to take action to protect the country from Al Qaeda. …

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