U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was assassinated by the U.S. government Friday [front page, Oct. 1], without charge or trial, for the sole reason that he said things that Uncle Sam did not care to have said. Though many Americans will be celebrating his death as killing a spiritual counselor of our enemies, this is a dark day for the Constitution and the rule of law. 

The Constitution demands extra process be granted to Americans accused of treason, but the executive branch alone judged this American guilty, sentenced him to death and assassinated him without so much as a word, let alone process, from the judiciary or a jury. The phrase “judge, jury and executioner” is typically reserved for hyperbole.  Not anymore.

If the executive branch has the legal authority to summarily assassinate Americans in Yemen, on what logic does it not also have the authority to do so in Virginia? Such an act would be politically unpopular, to be sure, but is political reality the extent of our protection against the violent machinations of our own government?

Before we pop the corks and start the party, let us reflect on precisely what it is we’re celebrating.

Adam Bates, Washington