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Legality of Lethality: Paradigm Choice and Targeted Killings in Counterterrorism Operations

18 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2010  

Adam R. Pearlman

United States Department of Defense

Date Written: March 23, 2010

Abstract

Since 9/11, academics and government officials alike have debated whether counterterrorism efforts fit into the laws of war, or are instead criminal law enforcement endeavors. Each legal paradigm, in addition to the authorities granted to the intelligence community, brings with it specific powers and limitations. This paper briefly surveys the legal authorities and implications for the targeted killings of terror suspects within each paradigm: the law of armed conflict, criminal law, and covert action, and argues for the justification of the practice within each. It is not meant to be an exhaustive analysis, but rather serves to raise the key legal issues involved, and concludes by pointing out the policy aspects that ultimately drive whether and how we continue the practice.

Keywords: Terrorism, Counterterrorism, Targeted Killing, Armed Conflict, War, Intelligence, Covert, Criminal, Law Enforcement, Predator, International, 12333

Suggested Citation

Pearlman, Adam R., Legality of Lethality: Paradigm Choice and Targeted Killings in Counterterrorism Operations (March 23, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1583985 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1583985

Adam R. Pearlman (Contact Author)

United States Department of Defense ( email )

Arlington, VA 20301
United States

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