Can the president kill an American simply because the person is dangerous and his arrest would be impractical? Can the president be judge, jury and executioner of an American in a foreign country because he believes that would keep America safe? Can Congress authorize the president to do this?
Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder attempted to justify presidential killing in a speech at Northwestern University law school. In it, he recognized the requirement of the Fifth Amendment for due process. He argued that the president may substitute the traditionally understood due process – a public jury trial – with the president's own novel version of it; that would be a secret deliberation about killing. Without mentioning the name of the American the president recently ordered killed, Holder suggested that the president's careful consideration of the case of New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki constituted a substituted form of due process.