Department of Justice White Paper on Targeted Killings of Americans

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Synopsis of Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld: Image by Decoded Science

Synopsis of Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld: Image by Decoded Science

Due Process vs. Assassination: Constitutional Rights of American Citizens

Americans have constitutional protection even when outside of the United States. What is at issue in targeted killings is the Fifth Amendment: The Due Process Clause.

The White Paper uses the 2004 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld to justify the government’s lawful ability to kill Americans without trial.

The White Paper justifies the killing of Americans by concluding the right of the U.S. to protect the country would outweigh the Due Process Claus protection of American citizen terrorists who pose an imminent threat to the country.

Vicki Dovall, a former general counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called the White Paper’s justification for the killing of an American citizen by applying the Hamdi case “very odd from a legal analysis point of view and very dangerous.”

While the court concluded Hamdi had some rights to challenge his detention, the White Paper predicts the court would conclude the right of the United States to protect its citizens would be found to outweigh a targeted person’s most important right—the right to life.

Can Americans Lawfully be Killed Within the United States as Well?

U.S. citizens have been asking this question since the White Paper was released to the public by NBC. There has been speculation that if Obama can legally order drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, he could just as easily assassinate citizens in Texas or Alabama. A drone could be sent to kill a terror suspect in Virginia, and the next thing you know. drones will fill American airspace dropping bombs on NRA meetings, Tea Party gatherings, and any other groups the government doesn’t like.

Is it possible, legally speaking, for the President to order assassinations of U.S. citizens via drone and still be within the rules set forth in this White Paper? To determine the answer to this question, it is necessary to look at international law.

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