Collaborating With the Enemy in the War on Terror

The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights leap to the defense of one of the world’s most lethal jihadists.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) have injected themselves into the war on terror as never before, leaping to the defense of the man often described as the spiritual leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula: Anwar Al-Awlaki. There’s little doubt that Al-Awlaki provided aid and inspiration to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian "underpants bomber," and to the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad. He has also called for the murder of civilians like Salman Rushdie and the young Seattle cartoonist who initiated “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” Yet, despite the danger that Al-Awlaki continues to represent to the free world, the ACLU and the CCR filed suit in federal court to protect the radical cleric’s “rights.”

Al-Awlaki's father, Nasser Al-Awlaki, asked the two groups for help after he learned that the Obama administration has targeted his son for assassination. Because the cleric was born in New Mexico, the ACLU and CCR maintain that he is entitled to due process in America’s legal system. Defending his organization’s decision to defend Al-Awlaki, Vincent Warren, the executive director of the CCR, said:

That's what we do. We file lawsuits. …[W]e don't believe the US should be wreaking violence for political reasons. It should be up to a court, not just the US government, to decide whether al-Awlaki poses a threat. The US should not be conducting the killing of US citizens outside the legal process, far away from any battlefield.

The proposition that the US is “wreaking violence for political reasons” is patently ludicrous. The United States is at war with a determined enemy and the fact that this particular conflict involves asymmetrical warfare does not relieve the president of the United States from his duties as commander in chief. Al-Awlaki isn’t “far away from any battlefield” because he and his fellow terrorists have defined the battlefield as the whole planet earth. Furthermore, the congressional war resolution passed on September 14, 2001 remains in force. That resolution authorizes the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against nations, organizations or persons that he deems to have helped bring about the 9-11 attacks and to use such measures to prevent future acts of international terrorism. Thus, when Al-Awlaki decided to join forces with al-Qaeda, he not only became an enemy of America, he forfeited his rights as an American. He’s a combatant.

Al-Awlaki is no more entitled to legal protections in a time of war than a Confederate soldier was in 1863. What the ACLU and the CCR are suggesting is the equivalent of requiring Union soldiers to obtain writs from a judge approving each and every target wearing a grey uniform before pulling a trigger at Gettysburg. In time of war, it is both the president’s right and his duty to decide how to prosecute that war and where to attack the enemy.

At least one CCR board member has gone public with her misgivings over the organization’s decision to take this case. Karima Bennoune, a law professor at Rutgers School of Law who is of Algerian descent, broke with the CCR on this issue. It should be noted that Bennoune leans far to the Left when it comes to prosecuting this war. She has supported CCR’s efforts to oppose both enhanced interrogation methods and rendition. Nevertheless, Bennoune had this to say about her organization’s efforts to defend Al-Awlaki: “Anwar al-Awlaki is not a detainee; he is still at liberty and able to gravely harm others by inciting and advocating murder,” she said. Bennoune continued:

Since the inception of the case there has been increased mystification of who Anwar al-Awlaki is in liberal and human rights circles in the United States. This may in part have resulted from the fact that a highly reputable organization like CCR was willing to represent his interests, and described him only as "a Muslim cleric" or "an American citizen," and repeatedly suggested that the government did not possess evidence against Awlaki.

Both the CCR and the ACLU have drifted well beyond their stated purpose over the years and their defense of Al-Awlaki is the latest example of this trend. Rather than defending the rights of all American citizens, both organizations now act as advocates for their preferred causes. For example, the ACLU uses some of its considerable resources to oppose the rights of ordinary Americans to protest against mosques being built in their communities and to speak the truth about Islam. A statement by the ACLU asserts in part:

The Constitution guarantees the right of private citizens to protest, and the ACLU would vigorously defend that right if infringed by the government. But making Muslims – or any other religious group – feel unwelcome in local communities conflicts with our Founders' vision of religious liberty and tolerance.

Yet the ACLU's outrage here is clearly selective. Citizens stand up to make the reprehensible Westboro Baptist Church feel “unwelcome” all of the time. These Americans aren’t in conflict with the “Founders’ vision of religious liberty and tolerance.” Rather, they are standing up to a group of hateful bigots who are making a mockery of religious liberty and tolerance. Many Americans oppose the construction of mosques in their communities for the same reason. It is more and more apparent that Islam, even when presenting itself as "moderate," is all too often a front for the Islamist program, which is fundamentally inconsistent with religious liberty and tolerance. Yet the ACLU seeks to deprive concerned Americans of the right to say so.

This is the very brand of Islam that Anwar Al-Awlaki believes in. He speaks for that portion of the worldwide Muslim community which believes that Islam and Islamic law must be the dominant forces in the world. Toward that end, Al-Awlaki, like all of his fellow true-believers, stands ready to lie, cheat, steal and murder to defeat anyone who gets in the way of his mission. At the top of that list stands a powerful and determined nation: the United States of America. When an individual is part of an organization that has publicly avowed its willingness to do anything in order to take down a nation, most reasonable people would conclude that such an organization is at war with that nation. When a top lieutenant in such an organization has planned attacks against that nation and has repeatedly called for even more attacks, most reasonable people would conclude that such a fellow is in fact an enemy soldier. It’s disturbing and sad that the ACLU and CCR have drifted so far to the Left that they are incapable of understanding this obvious truth. We can only hope that the courts, like Barack Obama and Karima Bennoune, recognize just how foolish and naïve efforts to defend an enemy like Anwar Al-Awlaki truly are.