The Case For Targeted Killing

Attorney General Eric Holder makes the Obama case for targeted killing. A top Bush lawyer and the head of the ACLU debate it with us.

A drone firing a Hellfire missile. (U.S. Air Force)

A drone firing a Hellfire missile. (U.S. Air Force)

President George W. Bush took a lot of heat for a lot of the extraordinary measures he ordered after 9.11 in what was dubbed the global war on terror.  A lot of that heat came from then-Senator Barack Obama.

Now Barack Obama is president, and key, controversial elements of Bush’s anti-terror strategy go on.  At the top of the list:  targeted killing, assassination – even of American citizens.  Last week Attorney General Eric Holder gave his defense.

This hour, On Point:  Anthony Romero, national head of the ACLU, and Bush-era justice official Jack Goldsmith debate Obama-era justice on terror.

-Tom Ashbrook


Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law School, he served in the Bush administration as United States Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. He’s the author of Power and Constraint: The Accountable Presidency After 9/11.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

From Tom’s Reading List

Salon “When Obama officials (like Bush officials before them) refer to someone “who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” what they mean is this: someone the President has accused and then decreed in secret to be a Terrorist without ever proving it with evidence.

Huffington Post “Ten years have passed since the U.S. government opened the military detention facility at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, symbolizing an energetic effort to round up suspected terrorists. Perhaps a decade might have been long enough for the constitutional issues over war-on-terrorism policies to get settled. That hasn’t happened, though.”

Washington Post “The U.S. government has the right to order the killing of American citizens overseas if they are senior al-Qaeda leaders who pose an imminent terrorist threat and cannot reasonably be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Monday.”

The New York Times “President Obama, who came to office promising transparency and adherence to the rule of law, has become the first president to claim the legal authority to order an American citizen killed without judicial involvement, real oversight or public accountability. That, regrettably, was the most lasting impression from a major address on national security delivered last week by Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. ”

Excerpt: Power And Constraint

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Video: Holder Talks Targeted Killings

Attorney General Eric Holder discusses national security issues in a speech at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago.


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