Transcript: Immigration debate continues

The following is a transcript from an August 3, 2010 appearance on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let’s dig deeper on that radical American cleric accused of inciting terror and holy war against the United States. Should the U.S. government be able to put him and other American citizens abroad on a list for targeted killing? That is at the center of a lawsuit filed today by these civil liberty groups. Our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has the details for us. What is going on?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here is the deal, civil liberty groups want to bring the suit about the targeting list, but in effect, they say they have to get the government’s permission to challenge government policy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: The government says that Anwar al Awlaki is an enemy of America, but two civil liberty groups say that in pursuing him, the U.S. government is betraying its own constitutional principles.

ANTHONY ROMERO, ACLU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: In America, we give all citizens and all individuals due process of law before putting them to death.

MESERVE: The government alleges that Awlaki who is a U.S. citizen now believed to be in Yemen communicated with the Ft. Hood shooter and aided the unsuccessful underwear bomber. The U.S. government has never explicitly acknowledged that he is targeted for assassination but read between the lines.

JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: Individuals shouldn’t be able to hide behind their U.S. passport or U.S. citizenship and if they are challenged to us, we need to make sure we address that threat.

MESERVE: Al Awlaki’s father hired the American Civil Liberty Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights to contest the government’s right to target his son without charges or trial or verdict, but because the treasury department has placed Awlaki on a special terrorist list, they say they are required to get a government license to represent his interests.

ROMERO: Groups like ours should not play mother may I with the federal government when our goal is to challenge governmental policies that target U.S. citizens for assassination.

MESERVE: But a former justice department lawyer says that whether Awlaki gets representation should be the government’s call.

DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER JUSTICE DEPT. LAWYER: This is a war. The citizenship of an individual is not relevant. What is relevant is whether this individual is an enemy combatant who can be lawfully attacked with deadly force.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: The treasury department said this afternoon that it will work the civil liberties group to make sure he will get legal services, and the ACLU says that if they are going to give him license, they should do it quickly, because he has already been targeted by multiple drone strikes. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Multiple drone strikes in Yemen where he is right now. All right. Thanks very much.

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