March 5th, 2012
05:30 PM ET

Holder: Not 'assassination' to target Americans in terror hunt

By Terry Frieden

Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday defended the targeted killing of U.S. citizens abroad who are suspected of plotting to kill Americans, rejecting critics' arguments that those strikes amount to assassinations.

While not referring directly to the government's drone attack on U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last year, Holder was unflinching in providing publicly for the first time the Justice Department's legal justification for using lethal force, saying attacks like the strike that killed al-Awlaki fell within "our laws and values."

RECOMMENDED on GPS blog: Evaluating Holder's speech on targeted killings

"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 force, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful," he said.

Security Clearance: Covering terrorism, military, intelligence and diplomacy

The attorney general's speech to an audience at the Northwestern University Law School in Chicago marked his most expansive comments on the subject of deadly attacks against Americans since his lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel wrote a still-secret opinion declaring such lethal attacks are legal and justifiable.

But he said three conditions must exist. The U.S. government must have determined that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against America; capture of the suspect is not feasible; and the operation would be conducted within the principles of the law of war.

Holder argued that al Qaeda has the ability to spring surprise attacks and is considered to be continuously planning against to attack on America. Therefore, the law allows for striking even before the "precise time, place, and manner of an attack becomes clear."

"Such a requirement would create an unacceptably high risk that our efforts would fail, and that Americans would be killed," he said.

Holder rejected the charge that the deadly operations violate the government's ban on assassinations and dismissed the notion the strikes fit the definition of assassination at all.

"Some have called such operations 'assassinations.' They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced," he said. "Assassination are unlawful killings," while killings under the conditions he outlined would be lawful.

Holder also took issue with those who have charged the government agencies must get permission from a federal court before taking action against an al Qaeda target.

"This is simply not accurate," Holder said. "Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

Al-Awlaki and another American, Samir Khan, were killed in September when a drone operated jointly by the CIA and a military unit destroyed a vehicle in which the men were riding in Yemen. Al-Awlaki, who U.S. intelligence officials have said was an operational planner for attacks, was the target of that strike.

Khan was traveling with al-Awlaki and was not specifically targeted.

Court documents show that Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the so-called "Underwear Bomber," told U.S. authorities that al-Awlaki had played a major role in the plot to blow up a commercial airliner en route to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. President Obama later said al-Awlaki had "directed the failed attempt."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the administration's drone program on behalf of al-Awlaki's father, said the speech was "a gesture towards additional transparency," but continued to object to the legal rationale.

"Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact," Hina Shamsi, the director of ACLU's National Security Project, said in an e-mailed statement. "Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power."

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said Holder's speech left questions unanswered.

“For example, the government should explain exactly how much evidence the President needs in order to decide that a particular American is part of a terrorist group," Wyden said in a statement released on Monday.  "It is also unclear to me whether individual Americans must be given the opportunity to surrender before lethal force is used against them.  And I’m particularly concerned that the geographic boundaries of this authority have not been clearly laid out.  Based on what I’ve heard so far, I can’t tell whether or not the Justice Department’s legal arguments would allow the President to order intelligence agencies to kill an American inside the United States."

Holder also used the speech to defend the use of civilian courts to try terrorists, noting numerous successful prosecutions.

"The calls that I've heard to ban the use of civilian courts in prosecutions of terrorism-related activity are so baffling, and ultimately are so dangerous. These calls ignore reality," Holder said. "If heeded, they would significantly weaken - in fact, they would cripple - our ability to incapacitate and punish those who attempt do us harm."

And Holder indicated more targeted killings are possible.

"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," Holder said. "We must take steps to stop them in full accordance with the Constitution. In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out, and we will not."

He concluded, "This is an indicator of our times, not a departure from our laws and values."

Follow Security Clearance on Twitter


Filed under: Al Qaeda • Anwar al-Awlaki • AQAP • drones • Intelligence • Justice Department • Living With Terror • Terrorism • Yemen
soundoff (1,459 Responses)
  1. 과유불급

    I am new to blogging. What website is good for blogging for a summer reading book assignment?

    https://trueviagras.com

    January 16, 2021 at 10:52 am | Reply
  2. Roland Basara

    Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

    http://yourmatrixcashmachine.com

    January 11, 2021 at 10:34 pm | Reply
  3. Adan Kalisek

    As a Newbie, I am always exploring online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 11, 2021 at 1:23 am | Reply
  4. Jeffrey Bramer

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I'm very glad to see such great information being shared freely out there.

    https://Dreamproxies.com/buy-proxies

    January 7, 2021 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  5. pharmacious

    is chloroquine an antibiotic
    where to buy aralen
    cheapest erectile dysfunction
    erectile functioning
    hydroclorizine
    hcq medication
    top erectile strength products
    plaquenil 200 mg tablet
    tadalafil 25mg
    tadalafil 40
    z pak indications
    zithromax zpak

    January 6, 2021 at 9:00 pm | Reply
  6. Micaela Dobert

    Real fantastic info can be found on weblog.

    https://proxyti.com/buy-private-proxies

    January 4, 2021 at 11:38 am | Reply
  7. plumbing services sites

    Pretty great post. I simply stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I've truly enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing for your feed and I am hoping you write once more very soon!

    http://business.ricentral.com/ricentral/markets/news/read/40738331/

    January 2, 2021 at 12:41 am | Reply
  8. kartal escort

    This excellent website truly has all of the information I wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    http://www.istanbulescorthatun.net/kartal-escort/

    December 29, 2020 at 8:27 am | Reply
  9. 700k money system

    MONSTERMODE 700K is a cutting-edge funnel-based app that can generate 100 commissions – – 90 Second Set Up – Beta Tested Proven 24-7 AUTOPILOT Income – 100 FREE Multi-Tier Traffic Built In More details: https://bit.ly/2YfQFcC

    https://bit.ly/2YfQFcC

    December 26, 2020 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  10. Milo Dunny

    The apex stock to actually buy for 2021 range with small-cap diamonds in the rough like URBT to dominant growth stocks. If you have $300 free currently, the subsequent revolutionary stock could be perfect for opportunistic long-term shareholders. Urban Television Network Corp stock character URBT. I needn't what you think, but when I think of technology, streaming services stocks can certainly be considered. Over the past decade, we have now witnessed amazing developments in streaming bitrates and devices which have been developed to support those services. We have seen foremost streaming services similar to HBO & Netflix grab market dominance, except this little recognized corporation Urban Television Network Corp. have introduced magnificent streaming services URBTPlus Movies + Live TV. I believe this business is going to secure the urban streaming markeplace. The stock market forever has a few shocks in store, each and every investor in 2020 would corroborate. URBT has already been amazing that has a 400 increase over 12 months. But by and large, the major element experts are looking at it as they identify the best stocks to procure for 2021 is the same variable that led 2020: Corona Virus. And streaming service URBTPlus is addressing the call. So as an investor take a look at Urban TV Network Corporation. stock symbol URBT. #urbtplus

    https://www.otcmarkets.com/stock/URBT/profile

    December 26, 2020 at 4:52 am | Reply
  11. Kira Antolik

    I really like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and coverage! Keep up the excellent works guys I've you guys to my blogroll.

    https://extraproxies.com/tag/silicon/

    December 24, 2020 at 6:25 pm | Reply
  12. Leonardo

    เผย รับทำ seo สายดำ seo freelance 2021
    ยังไง ให้อยู่หน้าแรก
    หากคุณคือContent Creator
    ย่อมเข้าใจคำว่า SEO (Search Engine Optimization) หรือการปรับปรุงเว็บไซต์เพื่อให้ปรากฏในอันดับต้นๆ ของ Search Engine
    เพราะ SEO คือเครื่องมือทรงพลังที่ช่วยเพิ่มปริมาณคนเข้าเว็บไซต์ สร้างความประทับใจแก่กลุ่มเป้าหมาย
    เนื่องด้วยผลตอบแทนจากการทำ
    SEO แล้วประสบความสำเร็จช่างดีต่อใจ SEO จึงเป็นเหมือนเกมที่มีการแข่งขันอย่างเข้มข้น ไม่ใช่ทุกคนจะสมหวัง หลายเว็บไซต์ทำ SEO แต่ล้มเลิก
    เนื่องจากไม่สามารถแข่งขันกับเว็บไซต์ที่มีความเชี่ยวชาญเรื่อง SEO และเงินทุนที่มากกว่าได้
    การทำ seo คืออะไร ถ้าตอบแบบเข้าใจง่ายๆ คือ การผลักดันเว็บไซต์ตัวเองให้ติดหน้าแรกเวลาค้นหาบน
    google ด้วยkeywordที่ต้องการ
    ซึ่งจริงๆแล้ว คำนี้ย่อมาจากคำภาษาอังกฤษว่า Search engine optimization

    December 24, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Reply
  13. lakecity thats sells cbd oil

    what staes have cbd stores

    https://www.luxurylifestylemag.co.uk/health-wellbeing/5-of-the-best-relaxation-techniques-for-an-instant-calming-effect/

    December 23, 2020 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  14. zortilo nrel

    I am continuously looking online for ideas that can assist me. Thank you!

    http://www.zortilonrel.com/

    December 23, 2020 at 4:13 am | Reply
  15. zortilo nrel

    I am very happy to read this. This is the type of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

    http://www.zortilonrel.com/

    December 21, 2020 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  16. zortilonrel

    Some truly great info , Sword lily I discovered this. "Reprove thy friend privately commend him publicly." by Solon.

    http://www.zortilonrel.com/

    December 21, 2020 at 3:10 pm | Reply
  17. zortilonrel

    Thank you, I've recently been looking for information about this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I have discovered so far. However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you certain concerning the source?

    http://www.zortilonrel.com/

    December 21, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  18. Sophie Derensis

    I was suggested this blog via my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else realize such particular about my trouble. You are incredible! Thank you!

    http://6dollarmillion.xyz

    December 20, 2020 at 2:44 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to zionismbuster


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.