According to ABC News, the US may have missed an opportunity to kill radical US-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki because those prosecuting the attack feared “the possibility of criminal prosecution without approval in advance from the White House.”
White House lawyers are mulling the legality of proposed attempts to kill an American citizen, Anwar Awlaki, who is believed to be part of the leadership of the al Qaeda group in Yemen behind a series of terror strikes, according to two people briefed by U.S. intelligence officials.
One of the people briefed said opportunities to “take out” Awlaki “may have been missed” because of the legal questions surrounding a lethal attack which would specifically target an American citizen.
A spokesperson said the White House declined to comment.
While Awlaki has not been charged with any crimes under U.S. law, intelligence officials say recent intelligence reports and electronic intercepts show he played an important role in recruiting the accused “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Awlaki also carried on extensive e-mail communication with the accused Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, prior to the attack that killed 12 soldiers and one civilian.
According to the people who were briefed on the issue, American officials fear the possibility of criminal prosecution without approval in advance from the White House for a targeted strike against Awlaki.
One wonders if the same thinking is going on regarding Adam Gadahn, or Abu Azzam al Amriki, the American wanted for treason who serves as an al Qaeda propagandist?
As shown by the confusion over the interrogation and eventual reading of rights to Umar Farouq Abdulmuttalab, the Christmas Eve bomber who nearly destroyed an airplane over Detroit, the administration clearly has not thought through the implications of treating the battle against al Qaeda as primarily a legal battle instead of an all out war. Until these issues are resolved, there are going to be a lot of missed opportunities, and there will be plenty of finger-pointing from the military and the intelligence services.