Yemen’s official news agency, Saba, reported that the attack also killed Samir Khan, an American citizen of Pakistani origin and the editor of Inspire, Al Qaeda’s English-language Internet magazine. Mr. Khan proclaimed in the magazine last year that he was “proud to be a traitor to America.”
The missile strike appeared to be the first time in the United States-led war on terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that an American citizen had been deliberately targeted and killed by American forces. It was also the second high-profile killing of an Al Qaeda leader in the past five months under the Obama administration, which ordered the American commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last May.
Al-Awlaki had been on a U.S. capture or kill list since at least spring 2010. That resulted in a lawsuit on Al-Awlaki’s behalf alleging that being placed on the hit list violated U.S. and international law. Though the lawsuit was dismissed last year, the assassination still raises a significant legal question.
Salon’s Glenn Greenwald argues that the assassination is an attack on the due process the Constitution affords U.S. citizens—even one who had incited attacks against the United States. Conversely, law professor Kenneth Anderson, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, said:
The government has maintained throughout all this that Al-Aulaqi was deemed a lawful target not on account of his expression of opinions, including calls to violence against the United States and its citizens, but instead on account of his operational involvement in AQAP, in ways going to leadership of an associated force terrorist organization and operational and planning involvement. My view of this targeted killing is straightforwardly, congratulations, Mr. President. What has been visible publicly leaves little or no doubt in my mind that Al-Aulaqi was deeply involved in AQAP in operations, and indeed at the highest levels.