Leonard Pitts Jr.: U.S. hiding behind tortured definitions

BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Published: February 17, 2013
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That's what happened to Anwar al-Awlaki, the Muslim cleric, born in New Mexico, who was dispatched to meet Allah in 2011 after a career of planning and inciting terrorist attacks in the United States, including the failed bombing of Times Square in 2010.

No one weeps for this man. Yet it is possible to be glad the planet is rid of him and yet, deeply concerned about the means used to achieve that goal. Not for his sake, or for the sake of any other plotter against this country but, rather, for the sake of the country itself.

Barack Obama came to office decrying just this sort of Bush-league overreach, the end-justifies-the-means rationalizations of an administration that reserved the right to imprison without trial and issued memos contemplating the legality of scalding a prisoner with water or putting his eyes out. Of course, Michael Corleone was critical of the Don, too, until he assumed that power.

So it was welcome to hear the president pledge greater transparency, in the State of the Union address. Aministration officials say they have been pondering ways to create independent oversight of the counterterrorism program.

But it is time to stop pledging and pondering and just do. The idea of a secret killing program, answerable to no one, is jarringly inconsonant with who and what we are supposed to be. One fears that, in the name of expedience, we will become what we abhor. Indeed, the danger is imminent.

Whatever that means.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES