Al-Awlaki Family: Let’s Make a Deal

Glenn Greenwald just tweeted this fairly unsurprising article reporting that Anwar al-Awlaki’s family would like the US to take him off their kill lists.

His father, Nasser al-Awlaki, a former minister of agriculture and rector at the University of Sanaa, called on the US on Sunday to end the hunt for his son.

“If Washington stops targeting [him] by threatening to abduct, capture, or kill him, Anwar will cease his statements and speeches against it,” he told Al Jazeera.

Somehow, I think a lawsuit challenging the legal basis under which the US would kill a US citizen with no due process would be a lot more effective than this sort of offer.

What’s even more interesting about the story, however, is the claim from Yemen that there is not sufficient evidence to target al-Awlaki.

But Yemeni authorities said on Saturday that they had not received any evidence from the US to support allegations that the US-born al-Awlaki is recruiting for an al-Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.

“Anwar al-Awlaki has always been looked at as a preacher rather than a terrorist and shouldn’t be considered as a terrorist unless the Americans have evidence that he has been involved in terrorism,” Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, the Yemeni foreign minister, said.

His announcement came after a powerful Yemeni tribe threatened to use violence against anyone trying to harm al-Awlaki.

Recall that David Ignatius reported last month that the idea of targeting al-Awlaki first came from Yemen, not DC. Yemen requested that the US government conduct an intelligence collection-capture-kill operation against al-Awlaki last October.

Last October, the Yemeni government came to the CIA with a request: Could the agency collect intelligence that might help target the network of a U.S.-born al-Qaeda recruiter named Anwar al-Aulaqi?

What happened next is haunting, in light of subsequent events: The CIA concluded that it could not assist the Yemenis in locating Aulaqi for a possible capture operation. The primary reason was that the agency lacked specific evidence that he threatened the lives of Americans — which is the threshold for any capture-or-kill operation against a U.S. citizen. The Yemenis also wanted U.S. Special Forces’ help on the ground in pursuing Aulaqi; that, too, was refused.

Now, if powerful tribes are promising violence if al-Awlaki is targeted, I can imagine that Yemen might want to deny not only making this request, but also that sufficient intelligence exists to kill al-Awlaki.

But it raises the question of whether there really is any intelligence justifying al-Awlaki’s targeting. If Yemen, who first asked for us to move against al-Awlaki, now claims it has no justification to do so, then who does have intelligence justifying such an act?

10 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It’s always possible the official Yemeni position is a subterfuge, that it is for public consumption and that Yemeni intelligence holds to its collect-capture-kill order in private. Another possibility is that there was no intelligence “justifying” the order; he was simply put on an enemies’ list. Alternatively, the US elicited the Yemeni request as a cutout for its own independently arrived at determination to “take him out”.

    Regardless of the possible rationales, I agree that his representatives would be better off attempting to file suit in the US, challenging the basis for assassinating a US citizen without arrest, trial or appeal.

  2. prostratedragon says:

    Speaking as a citizen, it disturbs me to see such an offer, but would disturb me quite a lot more if the government should accept it.

    Actually, could Al-Awlaki deal away lawful exercise of his speech rights, so long as that were all he was doing?

    As for the “intel” on him, weren’t there claims that he was somehow closely instrumental in getting Abdulmutallab into the suicide bomber business? (Even if true, that of couse would be in the past, so it’s still hard to see how it could justify the summary punishment of a drone assassination rather than the bringing of an indictment.)

  3. klynn says:

    Let’s Make A Deal has been our US policy with Yemen since the beginning of our relationship in 1946.

    Some of this just reads like US-Yemen relations as opposed to addressing the real issue – a kill order on a US citizen.

  4. orionATL says:

    but wait,

    i thought our gov was basing its decision to whack al-awlaki on statements by the fort hood shooter or the no-nuts-now nigerian airplane bomber.

    so why would they give a fig what the yemeni gov wants now or wanted last year?

  5. bmaz says:

    “Anwar al-Awlaki has always been looked at as a preacher rather than a terrorist

    Yeah, funny thing is the US was forced to admit the same thing not all that long ago. What IS the new infor and is there any of it not come from Fruity of the Loom??

  6. scribe says:

    “Powerful tribes threatening violence if al-Awaki is targeted” sounds like precisely the best reason TPTB would have for targeting him. What good is a military-industrial complex in a peaceful world, after all?

  7. JohnJ says:

    By the descriptions of this guy’s crimes; If I were Glen Beck, I’d be looking up a lot when outside. (I doubt those drones make much noise).

  8. Mary says:

    I can’t think of a more interesting area of questioning for a possible Sup Ct Justice – when can the President assassinate Americans?

    I’d like to see the official Republican position on that, with the Tea Partyers likely both supporting assassination without trial of Awlaki and at the same time pretty worried that the socialist Muslim in office might decide to assassinate them.

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