Today in Yemen, U.S. air strikes killed American citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi. Al-Aulaqi has never been charged with a crime. Last year, the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights represented Al-Aulaqi's father in a lawsuit challenging the government's asserted authority to carry out "targeted killings" of U.S. citizens located far from any armed conflict zone. We argued that such killings violate the Constitution and international law, but the case was dismissed in federal court last December.
In response to today's killing of Al-Aulaqi, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said:
The targeted killing program violates both U.S. and international law. As we've seen today, this is a program under which American citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process, and on the basis of standards and evidence that are kept secret not just from the public but from the courts. The government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent. It is a mistake to invest the President — any President — with the unreviewable power to kill any American whom he deems to present a threat to the country.
In a hearing before a federal court last November, government lawyers argued the president should have unreviewable authority to kill Americans he has unilaterally determined to pose a threat. As National Security Project Litigation Director Ben Wizner added today: "If the Constitution means anything, it surely means that the President does not have unreviewable authority to summarily execute any American whom he concludes is an enemy of the state."