"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Holder's Rules on Assassinating Americans

The three part test that must be met, according to Attorney General Eric Holder, before the extra-judicial killing of an American citizen is legal are:

1. Must present an imminent threat of attack against the United States.

Would be interesting to know how the AG defines imminent.

2. Capture cannot be feasible.

This point is particularly interesting given the OBL raid and news reports like this one from CBS News:
Harrier jets flying from an amphibious carrier off the coast were ready to take a shot if the CIA drone missed. There was even an option for sending in Marine Ospreys with Special Operations Forces to collect any intelligence left after the strike, but that was never used. It was all part of a secret buildup which has occurred in and around Yemen as that country emerged as home to one of al Qaeda's most active branches.
3. Must be consistent with the laws of war.

Many groups are calling for the legal memo to be released by the administration, so that the public can get a better understanding of the legal reasoning that shows such a killing is consistent with the laws of war. At this point, the government is fighting the release of that legal reasoning in court.


  1. Check the 2006 Israeli Supreme Court guidance on targeted killing. I believe they actually came up with a more satisfactory legal test than "we can't get the guy otherwise."

    The court established four primary criteria that must be met in order for a targeted killing to be justified.

    First, "well based, strong and convincing information" regarding the individual's terrorist activities.

    Second, "a civilian taking a direct part in hostilities cannot be attacked if a less harmful means can be employed."

    Third, an independent, thorough investigation must be conducted after the attack to determine "the precision of the identification of the target and the circumstances of the [targeted killing]."

    Fourth, every effort must be made to minimize harm to innocent civilians, and "harm to innocent civilians caused during military attacks (collateral damage) must be proportional."

    The court also ruled that, since a targeted killing is essentially an attack on a civilian that is engaged in hostile activities, the attack is only justified if carried out against a civilian currently involved in terrorism. Therefore the IDF cannot target former terror operatives who have distanced themselves from terror activity.


  2. Sadly I didn't comment earlier to this remark. First, we are not Israel. Second, we have a bill of rights that includes protection from a government that takes our lives without due process of law, and a section that requires an open trial before conviction for treason. Israel has nothing at all to do with this topic.