A Dangerous Precedent


by Ron Paul
October 11, 2011

According to the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution, Americans are never
to be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The
Constitution is not some aspirational statement of values, allowing exceptions
when convenient, but rather, it is the law of the land. It is the basis of our
Republic and our principal bulwark against tyranny.

Last week’s assassination of two American citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir
Khan, is an outrage and a criminal act carried out by the President and his
administration. If the law protecting us against government-sanctioned assassination
can be voided when there is a "really bad American," is there any
meaning left to the rule of law in the United States?

If, as we learned last week, a secret government committee, not subject to
congressional oversight or judicial review, can now target certain Americans
for assassination, under what moral authority do we presume to lecture the rest
of the world about protecting human rights? Didn’t we just bomb Libya into oblivion
under the auspices of protecting the civilians from being targeted by their
government? Timothy McVeigh was certainly a threat, as were Nidal Hassan and
Jared Lee Loughner. They killed people in front of many witnesses. They took
up arms against their government in a literal way, yet were still afforded trials.

These constitutional protections are in place because our Founders realized
it is a very serious matter to deprive any individual of life or liberty. Our
outrage against even the obviously guilty is not worth the sacrifice of the
rule of law. Al-Awlaki has been outspoken against the United States and we are
told he encouraged violence against Americans. We do not know that he actually
committed any acts of violence. Ironically, he was once invited to the Pentagon
as part of an outreach to moderate Muslims after 9/11. As the US attacks against
Muslims in the Middle East and Central Asia expanded, it is said that he became
more fervent and radical in his opposition to US foreign policy.

Many cheer this killing because they believe that in a time of war, due process
is not necessary – not even for citizens, and especially not for those overseas.
However, there has been no formal declaration of war and certainly not one against
Yemen. The post-9/11 authorization for force would not have covered these two
Americans because no one is claiming they had any connection to that attack.
Al-Awlaki was on a kill list compiled by a secret panel within President Obama’s
National Security Council and Justice Department. How many more Americans citizens
are on that list? They won’t tell us. What are the criteria? They won’t tell
us. Where is the evidence? They won’t tell us.

Al-Awlaki’s father tried desperately to get the administration to at least
allow his son to have legal representation to challenge the "kill"
order. He was denied. Rather than give him his day in court, the administration,
behind closed doors, served as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.

The most worrisome aspect of this is that any new powers this administration
accrues will serve as precedents for future administrations. Even those who
completely trust this administration must understand that if this usurpation
of power and denial of due process is allowed to stand, these powers will remain
to be expanded upon by the next administration and then the next. Will you trust

History shows that once a population gives up its rights, they are not easily
won back. Beware.



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