Government transparency has long been an ideal unrealized in America. The latest example of government indirection comes from U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who denied a Freedom of Information Request from the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the death of Adbulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American born son of an Al-Qaeda member, who himself was killed two weeks earlier.
The judge seemed none too pleased to judge for secrecy:
“However, this Court is constrained by law, and under the law, I can only conclude that the Government has not violated FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and so cannot be compelled by this court of law to explain in detail the reasons why its actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States. The Alice-in Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me; but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22. I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
President Barack Obama had said that the decision to put Anwar a-Awlaki on the kill list (what brutal rhetoric the state has adopted) was “an easy one.” American born himself, he was, after all, a traitor to the country, having joined forces with al-Qaeda. How his son came to be killed is another matter.
A presidential advisor answered the question in this way.
When asked the rationale about killing the adolescent, “It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor,” Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, answered:
“I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”
The child had been bidding farewell to his second cousin who had accompanied his journey to find his father. As he and other boys were eating dinner at an open roadside fire, an American drone descended from the sky and destroyed them all with missiles.
If this is what America has come to, how can we reverse it? Having some access to the “kill list” would be a start, and its justification; but ideally, we’d drop the draconian drones altogether.
Among many who are repulsed by Gibbs answer and the whole program is the Atlantic, whose Conor Friedersdorf wrote:
“Again, note that this kid wasn’t killed in the same drone strike as his father. He was hit by a drone strike elsewhere, and by the time he was killed, his father had already been dead for two weeks. Gibbs nevertheless defends the strike, not by arguing that the kid was a threat, or that killing him was an accident, but by saying that his late father irresponsibly joined al Qaeda terrorists. Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment.”