A high ranking Pentagon lawyer argued Wednesday that US citizens accused of having ties to terror groups can legitimately be targeted for assassination.
In a speech at Yale Law School, Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department general counsel, also said that US courts do not have the right to review such cases, or pass judgment on decisions taken by the Executive branch on such matters.
“Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives,” said Johnson.
According to a report in The New York Times, while not discussing detail of last year’s killing of US born Islamist radical Anwar Al-Awlaki, “Johnson invoked a lawsuit filed by Mr. Awlaki’s father before the killing that had sought an injunction against targeting his son, citing with approval a district judge’s decision to dismiss the case and saying that targeting decisions are not suited to court review because they must be made quickly and based on fast-evolving intelligence.”
The US government has long operated a policy of targeted killing against so called enemies of the state. However, it is one thing to be carrying out such targeted killings in secret, it is quite another to publicly proclaim such actions as legitimate.
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