Introduction

It is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible— among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them; but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority— and, I would argue, the responsibility—to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force. . . . The unfortunate reality is that our nation will likely continue to face terrorist threats that, at times, originate with our own citizens. When such individuals take up arms against this country and join al Qaeda in plotting attacks designed to kill their fellow Americans, there may be only one realistic and appropriate response.1

—Attorney General Eric Holder, February 27, 2012

 

Holder . . . [has] argued that the Executive Branch, alone, should determine whether te due process requirement is satisfied when the government claims law of war or self-defense authority to kill. In a system of constitutional checks and balances, that simply cannot be the case. Courts must have a role in determining whether the government’s authority to kill its own citizens is legal and whether a decision to kill complies with the Constitution. Otherwise, the government can wield the power to take life with impunity. We should not trust any president—whether this one or the next— to make such momentous decisions fully insulated from judicial review.2

—ACLU statement responding to Holder

• Since 2004, the United States has conducted roughly 300 counterterrorism drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other areas.3


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1. Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, Speech at Northwestern University School of Law (Feb. 27, 2012).

2. Nathan Wesler, In Targeted Killing Speech, Holder Mischaracterizes Debate Over Judicial Review, ACLU, March 5, 2012 (https://www.aclu.org/blog/nationalsecurity/targeted-killing-speech-holder-mischaracterizes-debate-over-judicialreview).

3. The Year of the Drone, COUNTERTERRORISM STRATEGY INITIATIVE, March 13, 2012 (http://counterterrorism.newamerica.net/drones).

 

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