When Eric Holder said in a speech last week that the President has the authority to order the killing of U.S. citizens abroad, many wondered if the rationale offered by the Attorney General for targeting Americans for non-judicial killing would also apply within the borders of the United States. Testifying at a congressional hearing, FBI Director Robert Mueller (photo) said he did not know and would have to check with others at the U.S. Department of Justice.
"I have to go back. Uh, I'm not certain whether that was addressed or not," Mueller said in response to a question from Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) about whether a legal distinction had been made between targeting here and overseas those U.S. citizens who, government officials believe, are plotting or carrying out deadly terrorist activities against the United States. "I'm going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice," Mueller said in his testimony on March 7, just two days after Holder, in a speech at Northwestern University in Chicago, laid out the administration's three-part test to determine whether a U..S. citizen involved in terrorist activity with al-Qaeda or other organizations may be legally targeted for killing.
"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 said.
Last October a U.S. drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Muslim cleric believed to have conspired with "underwear bomber" Farouk Abdulmutallab in the failed attempt to set off an explosion aboard Northwest flight 253 as it was landing in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.
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Photo: FBI Director Robert Mueller