Four years ago, Anwar al Awlaki—an American citizen—was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen, marking the first targeted killing of a U.S. citizen by the U.S. government. While the attack occurred almost four years ago, the legality, morality and prudential nature of the strike, and others like it that occur nearly daily in a scattershot of countries around the world, remain a subject of much debate.
Last week, Jefferson Powell joined Lawfare’s Jack Goldsmith at the May Hoover Book Soiree for a discussion of Targeting Americans: The Constitutionality of U.S. Drone War, a new book that takes a deep look into the constitutionality of the program. Powell is a Professor of Law at Duke University, and over the hour, he argues that the killing of Anwar al Awlaki under the 2001 AUMF was constitutional, but that the Obama administration’s broader claims of authority are not. He also asserts that American citizens acting as combatants in al Qaeda are not entitled to due process protections. Yet constitutional claims should not be confused with what is moral, or indeed, what is legal under international norms. Those answers, Powell suggests, must be examined through means other than constitutional law.