Trans-Border Exclusion and Execution

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5 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    The Administration argues that he is not a mere “propagandist” but was an operational operative. But, the term is rather open-ended. Was those inciting people to kill Tutsis in Rwanda “propagandists” too? The term is tossed around by some to belittle his role here (not saying current company is doing this) and even putting aside that the Administration argues (claims) he has a bigger role, propaganda that actually incites, particularly if the person is part of the organization we are authorized to use force against, would be a factor to consider.

  2. Tim Zick says:

    True, the Administration argues that far more than emails and videos were considered in the decision to target Al-Awlaki. If Al-Awlaki was fighting for the enemy, we’re no longer talking about speech. But all we know so far is what the CIA has been willing to leak, and the Administration has publicly asserted. And there was no decision to target Khan — he was merely collateral damage. Whether any of the speech in question constitutes incitement remains unclear — indeed, the question whether the incitement standard ought to apply in these circumstances remains unanswered.

  3. Joe says:

    Yes, we are resting on supposition, since — as usual — complete behind the scenes decision making details regarding targets isn’t shared with the public at large. If Khan is collateral damage, he wouldn’t have been targeted for his propaganda by definition. I’m not sure what that adds to the conversation. As to the indictment question, that would be a key matter for debate. For instance, in the Rwanda situation, would killing the broadcaster be appropriate, etc.

  4. The “incitment to genodcide” issue seems ripe for examination in terms of trans-border First Amendment issues: do you address this in your book-in-progress (perhaps you mentioned it in a prior post and I missed it)? Cf. for instance this article and the responses:

  5. Tim Zick says:


    One question is whether Al-Awlaki or Khan could have been properly indicted and convicted for their activities. Perhaps the government could prove that Al-Awlaki engaged in unlawful conduct (planning bombings, fighting against U.S. troops, etc) and was not targeted for his speech or associational activities. At least according to public reports, Khan’s activities would seem arguably to fall on the legal side of the incitement line — advocacy and provision or information regarding bomb-making. We’ll never know. One interesting note I did not address in the post — much of Al-Awlaki’s and Khan’s speech will remain available on the Internet. In the digital era, execution of a speaker does not guarantee he will remain silent.


    Thanks for raising the incitement to genocide issue. I’m most interested in the First Amendment’s intersection with territorial borders, rather than more general trans-border free speech issues. But I’ll think about how this might relate to my project — beyond the troubling reality that speakers can now incite violence beyond their own borders.