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In the book and the film, you present a nuanced picture of Anwar al-Awlaki. Two of the 9/11 hijackers briefly attended his mosque. But say a Catholic priest performed a mass, and Timothy McVeigh once attended that mass in his parish. Would they do the same to him?
I never heard somebody put it that way. I wish I had talked with you before I started writing the book. That would have been a good example to give.
I'm willing, for the sake of debate, to concede that Awlaki is guilty of everything that the president and his advisers have leaked to the media and have now publicly said about him. To me, the question is, what do we do with a [U.S.] citizen like that, who is a reprehensible individual? It's more about who we are as a society than who Awlaki was. My biggest problem has always been why the secrecy in it. Why not just say, "This is a man who did XYZ. Here's the evidence against him. We're going to indict him, and if Yemen doesn't hand him over, then we're going to take our own action against him to bring him to justice."
But none of that happened. We basically fast-forwarded past the indictment phase, the trial phase and the verdict phase, and just went right into the sentencing phase with him where he's sentenced to death. I don't think that he was a noble man at all. And he may well have been guilty of all sorts of things. But how we are going to treat someone like that is relevant to all Americans.