From Attorney General Eric Holder’s prepared remarks today on the topic of why it’s okay to kill U.S. citizens without charges or trial:Read the rest here.
Let me be clear: an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.Sounds like a highly rational three-part test, but it’s actually loaded with assumptions and turns mostly on subjective determinations to be made by the Executive Branch alone, based on facts that will of course remain secret from you, the American public.
At least three questions pop up before we even get to the three-part test: Was Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, also a “senior operational leader” of al Qaeda “or associated forces” who was “actively engaged” in planning to kill Americans? Depends how you define those terms. My guess is that his 16-year-old son – also a citizen – did not qualify, but we dropped a bomb on him, too. But let’s assume that al-Awlaki himself did qualify. By Holder’s own argument, killing him would still have been illegal unless his further three conditions are met, but those are even less well defined.
I agree with Johnathon Turley's observation... "The good news is that Holder did promise not to hunt citizens for sport."