Barack Obama used military drone weapons to kill reputed terror leader Anwar al-Awlaki
, who happens to be American-born. I have little doubt that al-Awlaki was a very bad guy, and I do not mourn his passing. But this assassination of an American citizen was extrajudicial and illegal. He received no trial. We don't really know the true nature of the evidence against him; we must take the government's word.
Hate to admit it, but Ron Paul is right about this one.
"Al-Awlaki was born here, he's an American citizen, he was never tried or charged for any crimes," Paul said. "To start assassinating American citizens without charges - we should think very seriously about this."
Whenever government officials decide to erode the protections of due process, they always begin by targeting someone genuinely detestable. Anyone who criticizes the assassination of an al-Awlaki may stand accused of being a terrorist sympathizer.
Much the same thing occurs when the government uses "Big Brother" tactics to spy on (or to entrap) a pedophile.
Terrorists and child molesters. Those are the big, scary monsters used to goad us into giving up our civil liberties.
Americans are asked to accept, and even to applaud, the end of the rule of law and the right to privacy, because terrorists and child molesters are just so damned evil that any counter-measures are justified. Well...yes. They are
evil. But if we do not extend legal protections to our worst citizens, then very soon those protections will be denied to everyone, especially to those whose only real crime is dissent.
Republican congressman Peter King defended Obama's action against al-Awlaki:
"It was entirely legal. If a citizen takes up arms against his own country, he becomes an enemy of the country..."
Those very words could be used to justify the assassination of militia members -- or even the assassination of G. Gordon Liddy, who once counseled his listeners to fire "head shots" at federal officers. They could even be used to target Ron Paul, who has flirted with advocating secession. (Al-Awlaki was not accused of literally
bearing arms against the U.S.; he offered advocacy, instigation and planning.)On a related note:
A couple of days ago, a Florida customs official was arrested for possession of child pornography
on his computer. Most people read such news stories and automatically presume the charge to be true. Frankly, so do I -- in this particular case.
But step back for a moment. How do you really know
that the charge is true?
In the 1980s (according to an oft-told story), a gang lord stood accused of being involved with the cocaine trade. The government proved that cash in his possession tested positive for trace evidence of the drug. The defense countered by proving that all
folding money contains trace evidence of cocaine.
Similarly, perhaps your computer has kiddie porn imagery nestled somewhere on it. Perhaps most computers do.
We all download freeware programs -- including the firewall ZoneAlarm, which is provided to you gratis
by people who are at least rumored to be connected to Israeli intelligence. There are numerous other free apps out there: Video converters, music players, anti-spyware, registry utilities, so on and so-forth.
How do you know -- how can you be 100% certain
-- that these apps do not place a tiny illegal image in some deeply hidden folder on your system? Perhaps the program automatically erases the illegal image seconds after placing it on your computer. The image would still be visible to a cop or federal agent doing a forensic analysis of your system.
From the standpoint of a totalitarian ruler, it would be very useful to engineer a society in which nearly everyone can (potentially) be proven in court to be a lawbreaker. Let's posit that the "Occupy Wall Street" movement whelps up an actual leader. To discredit him, the government need merely gin up an accusation of pedophilia -- and lo, the evidence will appear on his system. The forensic computer detective who examines the drive will believe that he has made a legitimate find.
Something similar happens on the streets everyday. In most places, the cops tolerate a flow of traffic about five m.p.h. above the posted speed limit. This situation turns everyone into a lawbreaker -- and that, in turn, gives cops the right to pull over anyone they choose, for reasons that have nothing to do with speeding. (Such as "driving while black.")
The Florida customs official referenced above was probably a legitimate threat to society. I feel confident that al-Awlaki was an evil bastard.
Nevertheless, I advise my readers to question everything
You should even question me