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CIA Predator versus ACLU Subpoena: Warfare and Lawfare in the War on Terror

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last April, President Barack Obama placed al-Qaida terrorist and unabashed American traitor Anwar al-Awlaki on the CIA's "capture or kill" list. Obama's authorization means Awlaki can be killed by U.S. security agencies, with the likely bullet a laser-guided Hellfire missile fired by a CIA Predator as it flies over Awlaki's hideout somewhere in Yemen.

The president determined Awlaki poses a clear and present danger to America. Awlaki is a skilled terrorist motivator and recruiter, a malignantly gifted fanatic who dupes susceptible minds with vicious propaganda then turns his brainwashed minions into mass murderers. For example, Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square terrorist, told police Awlaki inspired him to launch an attack.

Awlaki, however, doesn't just talk the talk, he walks it. U.S. intelligence says he has played a key operational role in planning several attacks. He helped orchestrate the attempted Christmas Day terror attack on a Detroit-bound airliner. He spiritually advised Ft. Hood terrorist and fellow traitor Nidal Hasan. Spiritual adviser in this case is a euphemism for operational handler.

Awlaki was born in New Mexico, so by birthright he is a U.S. citizen. He certainly despises the U.S. Constitution and particularly disdains free speech. In July, Awlaki demanded the death of Seattle-based cartoonist Molly Norris. Norris had promoted the "Everyone Draw Mohammed Day" project as a public demonstration of free expression. Norris is now in hiding. She fears assassination.

You would think American civil libertarians would treat Norris as a heroine. You would expect civil libertarians to commend the president for taking action to protect her life. She is, after all, an artist silenced by death threats issued by a savage killer espousing a rigid, tyrannical ideology.

Scotch those thoughts and expectations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defends Awlaki. In a case filed on behalf of Awlaki's father, the ACLU questions the president's right to sanction a Predator attack on an American citizen. The fact Awlaki is voluntarily engaged in hostilities against the U.S. under the aegis of an enemy power gives the ACLU little pause. One hyperbolic ACLU lawyer claims Obama is "imposing the death penalty without trial."

The claim is sophistry masquerading as sophistication. If all the world were a courtroom, where the decisive weapons are precedent, persuasive arguments and subpoenas, the ACLU might have a case -- if Awlaki's father has legal standing, which is doubtful. Earth, however, is populated by people who have profound disagreements over values that undergird the most basic laws. The civilized are willing to negotiate those disagreements. Barbarians like Awlaki are different. They will murder Molly Norrises en masse to impose their will. The barbarians are outlaws.

Which is why we give the president authority to decide to kill them when they try to kill us, since they are beyond the reach of law.

ACLU grandstanders may have objectives beyond Awlaki. Their sneaky little case ultimately challenges the president's authority to fight any war, but particularly the Global War on Terror. Its Oct. 8 court filing fixates on Predators and U.S. targeting methodology. It appears the ACLU doesn't care much for either. Essentially, ACLU lawyers are asserting the right to oversee and overrule real-time battlefield decisions made by U.S. security agencies.

Al-Qaida banked on this kind of lawfare waged by legalistic pettifoggers to blunt U.S. counter-terror capabilities. In 2001, al-Qaida plotted a war without borders, one designed to frustrate nation-states that recognized political boundaries. Laws al-Qaida flouted would thwart America's counterattack. Al-Qaida would fight and win in the gray zone while lawfare litigators tied down American power with legalistic knots.

Predator, however, surprised al-Qaida. Its deadly shadow haunts the nowheres al-Qaida thought were sanctuaries.

Keep the Predator circling over Awlaki. The ACLU case should be dismissed with extreme prejudice.

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