Hellfire for treason?
The CIA sequence for a Predator strike ends with a missile but begins with a memo. Usually no more than two or three pages long, it bears the name of a suspected terrorist, the latest intelligence on his activities, and a case for why he should be added to a list of people the agency is trying to kill.For some reason there is a reluctance to use the word treason to describe what Awlaki is doing, but it seems to fit the definition. Someone who acts as a traitor should expect to be treated like an enemy.
The list typically contains about two dozen names, a number that expands each time a new memo is signed by CIA executives on the seventh floor at agency headquarters, and contracts as targets thousands of miles away, in places including Pakistan and Yemen, seem to spontaneously explode.
No U.S. citizen has ever been on the CIA's target list, which mainly names Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, according to current and former U.S. officials. But that is expected to change as CIA analysts compile a case against a Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico but now resides in Yemen.
Anwar al Awlaki poses a dilemma for U.S. counter-terrorism officials. He is a U.S. citizen and until recently was mainly known as a preacher espousing radical Islamic views. But Awlaki's ties to November's shootings at Ft. Hood and the failed Christmas Day airline plot have helped convince CIA analysts that his role has changed.
"Over the past several years, Awlaki has gone from propagandist to recruiter to operational player," said a U.S. counter-terrorism official.
Awlaki's status as a U.S. citizen requires special consideration, according to former officials familiar with the criteria for the CIA's targeted killing program. But while Awlaki has not yet been placed on the CIA list, the officials said it is all but certain that he will be added because of the threat he poses.
"If an American is stupid enough to make cause with terrorists abroad, to frequent their camps and take part in their plans, he or she can't expect their citizenship to work as a magic shield," said another U.S. official. "If you join the enemy, you join your fate to his."