According to a report by NBC News:

A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.

This would seem to violate the constitutional prohibition against the violation of the due process rights of the targeted individuals. Seeing as these citizens are not members of military, and are not necessarily involved in operations against the US, it would seem to preclude the military exemptions authorized in a time of war.

This policy and the actions taken in its name seem to be nothing short of state sanctioned murder. Is there any authority granted to the Executive branch of the government to take these actions?

  • 1
    Wouldn't that only be answerable if SCOTUS ruled on it?
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 19:33
  • 2
    @DVK - It would only be binding if SCOTUS ruled on it. The question can be answered by anyone who understands it. Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 19:37
  • @gerrit - executive branch leader (President) IS the Commander in Chief of US Armed Forces.
    – user4012
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 17:02
  • 2
    @gerrit - That is off topic for this question... this is strictly about the constitutionality of the policy. Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


Amendment V No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Therefore, it is Constitutional only if the person in question is involved with or directly against the military, and only if we are in a time of war.

Also, the Constitution doesn't say

Whatever the SCOTUS says is law

It just says that we trust its judgement on the Constitution when a particular issue is in dispute.

  • However, I believe the 'justification' would be war on terror
    – Phil Lello
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 19:57
  • 2
    Answer could use clarification on what a "time of war" is, and if the US is in one.
    – bobsburner
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 11:02
  • Actually, the only sense in which the Constitution says we trust the SCOTUS on such matters is because the SCOTUS said it did. It was originally not entirely clear who decided things like what is constitutional, and it wasn't until the Marbury v. Madison case that the SCOTUS asserted that it held that power. Then-President Jefferson believed it was the President's power to do so, under his authority to enforce and uphold the constitution and its laws. But SCOTUS claimed it for itself, and largely prevented any further contestation of that because the decision did almost nothing else. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 6:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .