In recent months, we have seen several monumental events transpire in the Global War on Terror, as well as the Arab Spring uprising. United States forces have succeeded in killing Osama Bin Laden, and Muammar Gaddhafi has been killed by Libyan citizens. However, there is one event in this case that seems to be in an entirely different realm of consideration. The event in question is the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. Anwar al-Awlaki was a Muslim cleric who was said to have been instrumental in attacks against the United States. On the surface, this killing may seem to be a necessary step for the United States to advance its aims in fighting terrorism across the globe.
There is one problem with this conclusion: Anwar al-Awlaki was a United States citizen by virtue of being born on American soil. This begs the question of whether it was legal or in keeping with the American spirit of citizenship to kill a citizen abroad without due process. This is not a question of whether or not al-Awlaki was innocent or guilty. This is simply a question of whether citizenship seems to matter in matters of governmental action in a global military conflict. According to Shklar, al-Awlaki was not a citizen. Since he was wanted by the government, he would not have been able to vote in this country. However, according to United States law, he was a citizen of the United States of America.
If the United States government wanted to issue an order for a citizen to be killed on American soil without due process, the person in question would have to be in the process of (or proven to be soon) committing a heinous crime and deemed unable to be apprehended without the use of force. Otherwise, the criminal would be subject to due process and could only be subject to the death penalty after being convicted in a court of law. As far as we can tell, al-Awlaki was deprived of any semblance of due process.
The question I wish to pose is this: Does displaying a desire to see the United States come under grievous harm and taking residence in a country with a group dedicated to committing acts of terror against the United States mean that one has automatically lost American citizenship? I would personally answer this question in the affirmative. However, it appears that the United States made no effort to formally strip al-Awlaki of his citizenship. I discussed this issue briefly with Jennet, and she felt that the United States could have taken some action such as trial in absentia to achieve this aim. I agree with this notion wholeheartedly, and I question the motives of the government in proceeding with this killing without taking some action to ensure that the person they were killing was not an American citizen deprived of due process. Have we come into an era in which executive power has increased to an uncontrollable extent? I believe we need to place a bit more power in the legislature for matters of this sort of urgency, particularly in cases where the law is not clear.