Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16 year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in a drone strike. His father was killed earlier. While the father was accused of being a member of Al-Qaeda and acting against the U.S., the son had never been accused of anything.
Robert Gibbs is a long time adviser to President Obama. He has worked with Obama since 2004. For some time he was Press Secretary for the White House. He left his post on February 11, 2011 but remains an outside adviser to the administration. As you can hear on the appended tape, when Gibbs is asked about the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki's 16 year old son, he answers that the son should have had a more responsible father. He does not really explain what would justify his killing.
The Huffington Post reports the exchange as follows: "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business," Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, told the interviewer from We Are Change, when asked to justify "an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial -- and, he's underage, he's a minor."
A number of critics, including Anwar al-Awlaki seemed to have associations with Al Qaeda. U.S. officials claim that Awlaki preached to and influenced a number of Al Qaeda-linked figures including the accused Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Hassan, and the "Underwear Bomber". Awlaki was active in Yemen for Al Qaeda and posted a number of sermons on You Tube. Many have been removed at the request of the U.S Congress.
The U.S. reserves the right to kill, supposedly in self defense, anyone who threatens the security of the U.S. This is a totally bizarre extension of the notion of self defense but the doctrine was said to extend to U.S. citizens by the attorney General Eric Holder. Even if the father's targeted killing were accepted as jusifiable, this does nothing to justify the killing of his son, who has never been accused of plotting against the U.S. and presumably was not on a target list. The only sensible way around the question would have been to claim that the son's death was unintentional collateral damage in an attack that targeted militants who were with him at the time. Yet, this was not done.
Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic noted that Gibbs defended the killing not by showing that the son was a threat or that the killing was an accident but by noting that his father had irresponsibly become a member of Al Qaeda. Friedersdorf went on: “Killing an American citizen without due process on that logic ought to be grounds for impeachment.” Somehow I doubt that anyone will suffer impeachment for this deed. However, it is significant that on this matter the administration does not even seem to feel it is necessary to provide even a remotely reasonable justification for what happened.