Far-Left Center for Constitutional Rights Promoted to 'Human Rights Group' Once Again

The Times labeling philosophy is out of whack, as far-left group working on behalf of Yemeni terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki is called a "human rights group."

The Times is engaged in still more lousy labeling of a far-left group, the Center for Constitutional rights. Legal reporter Charlie Savage has already christened the group with the glowing term "human rights lawyers."

Intelligence reporter Scott Shane joined in the secular deification in his Tuesday story on the "human rights group," "Rights Groups Sue U.S. On Effort to Kill Cleric."

That description is particularly unfitting, given that the Center for Constitutional Rights (along with the ACLU) are acting on behalf of a man with no regard for "human rights" or human life: Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen promoting terrorism against the United States from Yemen.

Founded in 1966 by left-wing lawyer William Kuntsler, the Center for Constitutional Rights represents defendants at Guantanamo Bay. Times Watch has previously documented that CCR president Michael Ratner said in a December 2005 press release (during the Bush administration): "Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country." Ratner has also written an admiring book on the murderous Che Guevara - not exactly a "human rights" icon, unless you're of the far left.

Two human rights organizations went to court on Monday to challenge the Obama administration's decision to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical Muslim cleric now hiding in Yemen.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington on behalf of Mr. Awlaki's father, Nasser al-Awlaki, argues that the United State government should not be permitted to kill an American citizen away from the battlefield and without judicial review.

The human rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, asked the court to prohibit the government from killing Mr. Awlaki until the lawsuit is heard. They also demand that the government disclose the standards it uses to determine who should be singled out for killing.

The lawsuit is the first legal challenge since administration officials disclosed that Mr. Awlaki was the first American citizen to be designated for capture or killing by the Central Intelligence Agency. The authorization, which also applies to the Defense Department, came after intelligence agencies concluded early this year that Mr. Awlaki was actively participating in plotting attacks against the United States, including the failed bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.


Obama administration officials have argued that Mr. Awlaki, now believed to be an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen branch of the terrorist network, has essentially joined the enemy in a time of war. The government does not need a court's permission to kill an enemy soldier, the officials say.

But some legal experts and human rights activists have noted that the law requires the government to get a court warrant to eavesdrop on Mr. Awlaki or other American citizens. An order to kill him should require at least the same degree of review, the activists say, to meet the Fifth Amendment's requirement of "due process" before depriving an American of life or liberty.

Adam White of the Weekly Standard dug deeper and found the lawsuit goes further than what the Times is reporting:

Media coverage has centered on the fact that the complaint focuses primarily on the government's authority to target U.S. citizens. (See here, here, and here.) But in fact, the complaint goes much further: In the closing paragraphs, where the ACLU and CCR state their specific "prayer for relief," they ask the court to declare that "outside of armed conflict" international law prohibits the government from carrying out the targeted killing of all "individuals" - not just U.S. citizens specifically - unless one poses a concrete, imminent threat and no other means could reasonably be used to neutralize the threat.

Shane concluded his article anti-climatically with an expert on national security law "The arguments in this lawsuit are creative, but I think it's unlikely to succeed."