Today’s news has yielded several reports out of Yemen that military authorities have surrounded American–born terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki (Aulaqui) in a village in south Yemen and are closing in fast. Awlaki has been considered a “top priority” of the U.S. government ever since he was linked to Major Nidal Hassan, the now infamous Fort Hood shooter, as well as to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a bomb inside a commercial aircraft over Detroit on Christmas Day.
Regardless whether Awlaki is apprehended or killed in Yemen, these latest developments may very well render moot a misguided lawsuit filed late last month by The Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, essentially asks U.S. District Judge John Bates to order the U.S. government not to conduct a targeted killing of Awlaki.
In doing so, the lawsuit seeks to thwart the U.S. government’s successful targeted killing program, by requiring the permission of a federal judge before such a plan can be carried out. But as early as the Prize cases during the American Civil War, the law has recognized that judicial consultation is not required where an American citizen is acting in concert with a hostile armed force. As such, the lawsuit is simply the latest manifestation of a disturbing trend to submit crucial issues of national security to the federal judiciary. Such review is neither legally required nor desirable.
Among other deficiencies, the lawsuit may face a serious jurisdictional hurdle, as the attorneys do not even purport to represent Mr. Awlaki himself, but rather his father, whose standing to bring such a suit on his son’s behalf is dubious at best.
The federal government’s deadline to respond to the complaint is this Friday, September 24.