Relatives of Samir Khan, the former Long Island man killed last week in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, broke their silence this week to question the government's tactics in pursuing American citizens who were deemed terrorists.
Khan, 25, published Inspire, an online magazine encouraging terror acts, but relatives who live in Charlotte, N.C., asked why the killings took place without trials.
A statement from Zafar and Sarah Khan said, "Our late son Samir Khan never broke any law and was never implicated of any crime. . . . Why couldn't there have been a capture and trial? Where is the justice?"
The statement went on to cite the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment due-process clause, which says no person should be deprived of life without due process, "yet our government assassinated two of its citizens."
Jibril Hough, a family spokesman affiliated with the Islamic Center of Charlotte, said Khan's relatives, who are citizens, felt it necessary to speak out as Americans.
"They know this is a broader discussion that America needs to take up," he said.
But David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, in Durham, N.C., said al-Awlaki and Khan had turned themselves into enemies of the state.
"If you join an armed foreign force that is in conflict with the U.S., you have become a legitimate target," Schanzer said.
President Barack Obama said the strike that killed al-Awlaki and Khan was "a major blow to al-Qaida's most active operational affiliate" and gave no signs of stepping back such operations. "We will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist networks that aim to kill Americans."
Hough said the American Civil Liberties Union has been in touch with the Khans.
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer criticized the killings: "The government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific and imminent."