Michael Isikoff at NBC News has obtained a Justice Department white paper that purports to explain when it would be lawful for the government to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen believed to be affiliated with a terrorist organization. Many of the white paper's arguments are familiar because Attorney General Eric Holder set them out in a speech at Northwestern University in March of last year. But the white paper offers more detail, and in doing so it manages to underscore both the recklessness of the government's central claim and the deficiencies in the government's defense of it.
The 16-page white paper (read it here)
is said to summarize a 50-odd page legal memo written in 2010 by the
Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to justify the addition of
U.S. citizen Anwar Al-Aulaqi to the government's "kill lists." That
legal memo is one of the documents the ACLU is seeking in an ongoing
Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. Needless to say, the white paper is not a substitute for the legal memo. But it's a pretty remarkable document.