Attorney General Eric Holder offers legal justification for targeted killings of U.S. citizens abroad

On March 5, 2012, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder offered a legal justification for U.S. targeted killings directed against U.S. citizens abroad.

For the text of the speech as prepared for delivery, see “Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago ~ Monday, March 5, 2012,” Department of Justice, March 5, 2012 .

For news reports, see

Peter Finn and Sari Horwitz, “Holder: U.S. can lawfully target American citizens,” Washington Post, March 5, 2012.

Eyder Peralta, “Attorney General Holder Defends Targeted Killings Of Americans,” The Two-Way (NPRs News Blog), March 5, 2012.

Spencer Ackerman, “Here’s Why the Government Thinks It Can Kill You Overseas,” Wired, March 5, 2012.

For earlier articles by the Trenchant Observer, use the search box in the upper right-hand corner of the home page, and search for “targeted killings”, “targeted assassinations”, “extrajudicial executions”, “al-Aulaqi”, and “drones”.

Among the more astonishing assertions contained in the speech is the claim that the “due process” requirement contained in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not mean “judicial process”. The implications of this statement are so far-reaching as to be almost mind-boggling, as it would presumably apply also to actions by state governments in the United States whose constitutionality is governed by the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment.

Further critical comment and analysis will follow.

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"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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