By CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden
After months of promises from the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder Monday will finally lay out at least some of the legal arguments that the Justice Department developed to support its targeted killing of a U.S. citizen with alleged terrorist ties in Yemen last year.
One official familiar with the speech said it was doubtful Holder would mention by name Anwar al-Awlaki, who was targeted in a September drone attack. Another American who was active in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Samir Khan, was not the target of the strike but was with al-Awlaki and killed at the same time.
Both the operation and the legal opinion that supported it remain classified.
Another official familiar with the speech confirmed the attorney general will discuss the legal framework on the use of lethal force. The official, who asked not to be identified because the speech is still under wraps, said the targeted-killing issue is just one aspect of a broad-ranging look at national security issues from a legal perspective.
The official said Holder will use the occasion to declare the administration is carefully adhering to the rule of law as it presses its approach to counterterrorism. Holder will defend the use of civilian criminal courts to convict and sentence terrorists.
Republican critics in particular have pushed for the administration to use military courts where possible because the terror suspects may be viewed as enemy combatants. The attorney general also is expected to discuss reforms that the Obama administration has made in military commissions.
The decision to kill a U.S. citizen abroad who had not been provided the rights provided by the American judicial system has raised protests from the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil liberties groups.
Holder's late-afternoon speech Monday at the Northwestern University Law School in Chicago will mark the attorney general's first extended comments on the controversy over "targeted killings."
However, other top government lawyers have previously spoken on the subject.
Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson last month said U.S. and international law allow for the targeted killing of terrorist suspects with known ties to al Qaeda. In a speech at Yale law school, Johnson said laws including the "authorization of the use of military force" - approved by Congress in the immediate aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks - grant government officials the authority to pull the trigger on suspected terrorists.
Similar comments have been made by State Department legal adviser Harold Koh.
Lawyers in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel wrote a 50-page legal opinion for the executive branch, with the opinion approving of targeted killing. The full text of the opinion is expected to remain classified
By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer