This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Washington • A judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit aimed at preventing the United States from targeting anti-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki for death, 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 ruled 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 U.S. from killing his son.
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."
Al-Awlaki, believed to be 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. flight last Christmas.
The cleric's father, Nasser al-Awlaki of Yemen, argued that international law and the Constitution prevent the administration from targeting his son for death unless he presents a specific imminent threat to life or physical safety and there are no other means to stop him.