WASHINGTON - A judge threw out a lawsuit aimed at preventing the United States from targeting anti-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki for death Tuesday, but questioned whether a president or his aides can unilaterally order a U.S. citizen assassinated for terrorist activity.
U.S. District Judge John Bates said that he does not have the authority to review the president's military decisions and al-Awlaki's father does not have the legal right to sue to stop the United States from killing his son. But Bates also said the "unique and extraordinary case" raised vital considerations of national security and for military and foreign affairs.
Among the "stark and perplexing questions" Bates said the case raises is why courts have authority to approve surveillance of Americans overseas but not their killing. And he questioned whether the president or his advisers can order the assassination of a U.S. citizen without "any form of judicial process whatsoever, based on the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization."
"The serious issues regarding the merits of the alleged authorization of the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen overseas must await another day or another nonjudicial forum," wrote Bates.
Al-Awlaki, believed to be hiding in Yemen, has urged Muslims to kill Americans. He also has been linked to last year's shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and the attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound flight last Christmas.
Obama administration officials have confirmed to The Associated Press that al-Awlaki is on a capture or kill list.
The cleric's father, Nasser al-Awlaki of Yemen, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, argued that international law and the Constitution prevented the administration from unilaterally targeting his son for death. - AP