Department of Justice White Paper
By Mary Grinman – Edited by Laura Fishwick
Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force (hosted by NBCNews)
On Monday, February 4, NBC made public an unsigned and undated Department of Justice (“DOJ”) White Paper, which concludes that the United States can lawfully use lethal force in a foreign country against a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force who is a U.S. citizen if the following three conditions are met: First, the individual must “pose an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” Second, capture must not be possible. Third, any U.S. action must be consistent with the law of war. Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force [hereinafter “White Paper”], at 1. While the White Paper presents legal analysis separated from any factual scenario, it resembles the legal justification advanced for the 2011 drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki and could be the basis for future drone attacks.
The New York Times summarizes the DOJ’s argument and describes its current political environment. Wired criticizes the legal rationales behind the document’s conclusions. Lawfare comes down against the media hype generated by the document, and suggests that it is only a more fleshed out version of Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech at Northwestern University last March. (more…)