In a March 5th speech at Chicago’s Northwestern University , Attorney General Eric Holder outlined what the White House billed as the legal rationale for its claimed right to kill U.S. citizens who belong to al-Qaeda or associated forces.
Attorney General Eric Holder: “Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen, even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land, is among the gravest that government leaders can face. The American people can be, and deserve to be, assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws. So, although I cannot discuss or confirm any particular program or operation, I believe it is important to explain these legal principles publicly.
“Now, 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.”
Holder emphasized U.S. presidents do not need to seek permission from the federal court before acting against a U.S. citizen.
“Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qaeda or associated forces. This is simply not accurate. Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process. It does not guarantee judicial process.”