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The Rule of Law at the Crossroads: Consequences of Targeted Killing of Citizens

71 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2011 Last revised: 27 Jul 2012

Ryan Patrick Alford

Lakehead University - Bora Laskin Faculty of Law

Date Written: March 7, 2011

Abstract

The article explains why the targeted killing of American citizens is unconstitutional under the Bill of Attainder Clause, which prohibits not only legislative acts marking out citizens for death but also executive death warrants. Understanding the meaning of the Bill of Attainder Clause requires a return to the context of the Framing, since no lethal bill of attainder -- until 2010 -- had been passed in the nation's history. Careful analysis of English constitutional history demonstrates that executive attainder was anathema to the Framers. The Founding Fathers' connection to a constitutional tradition hostile to executive emergency powers illustrates that the Bill of Attainder Clause bars both executive and legislative attainder, and accordingly that the killing of American citizens in Yemen breaks with a seven hundred year-old constitutional norm.

Keywords: Targeted Killing, Al-Awlaki, Attainder, Constitutionalism, Rule of Law, Bill of Rights, Treason, Due Process

JEL Classification: K33, K42

Suggested Citation

Alford, Ryan Patrick, The Rule of Law at the Crossroads: Consequences of Targeted Killing of Citizens (March 7, 2011). 2011 Utah L. Rev. 1203. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1780584

Ryan Alford (Contact Author)

Lakehead University - Bora Laskin Faculty of Law ( email )

955 Oliver Road
Thunder Bay, ON P7B 5E1
Canada

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