Killing Al-Awlaki: The Domestic Legal Issues
Idaho Journal of Law & Public Policy, 2012
46 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2011
Date Written: 2011
The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, by a US drone strike in Yemen last September, caused considerable controversy. Some critics of the Obama Administration's decision to target and kill al-Awlaki objected that the President lacked statutory authority to conduct military operations against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Other critics argued that al-Awlaki may have been an effective publicist and recruiter, but had not been shown to be engaged in AQAP's operational activities against U.S. targets. Still others claimed that as a U.S. citizen, al-Awlaki had a constitutional right to more due process than he had been given by a so-called "death panel." This essay examines the domestic legal arguments on both the "powers" side (i.e., whether the President had sufficient legal authorization) and the "rights" side (i.e., that al Awlaki was entitled to greater process). It focuses on open source material relating both to al Awlaki and AQAP. It concludes that under domestic law, the killing was lawful.
Keywords: law of war, national security, foreign policy, war on terror, drones, due process
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