Holder to Explain Legality of US Killing Its Own Citizens

The case of Anwar al-Awlaki figures heavily in AG's speech
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2012 7:56 AM CST
Holder to Explain Legality of US Killing Its Own Citizens
In this Feb. 2, 2012 file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

In a major national security speech today, Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to finally offer a more detailed rationale for the legality of killing of US citizens abroad, the Washington Post reports. Though Holder may not address Anwar al-Awlaki by name, the alleged al-Qaeda operative killed in an airstrike in Yemen was the first such citizen to be targeted by the US, and critics have long called for an explanation of the legal framework that allowed for it. Holder is expected to argue that the 2001 congressional authorization of the use of military force makes such targeting legal, officials say.

Until now, the administration has cited the Justice Department's classified opinion that killing US citizens overseas was legal, but has not released that opinion. Holder's speech will be the most high-profile attempt to date to justify lethal action against US citizens who join up with terrorists, and will resemble earlier reasoning but will go further. He is also expected to argue that, in the War on Terror, the US' right to self-defense extends to non-traditional battlefields. Holder will also address new waivers allowing US law enforcement agencies to hold suspected terrorists rather than turning them over to the military, and he is expected to tout the success of trying terrorism suspects in civilian courts. (More Anwar al-Awlaki stories.)

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