Terrorism and the Law

Primary Sources

President Obama's Speech at National Defense University: The Future of our Fight against Terrorism, May 2013

President Barack Obama outlined on May 23, 2013, at the National Defense University, his administration's counterterrorism strategy, which include three areas: "targeted action against terrorists; effective partnerships; and diplomatic engagement and assistance." He discussed legal and moral concerns, and congressional oversight regarding the use of lethal targeted drone attacks and terrorist detention centers, and signed a policy directive to guide future operations.

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Attorney General Holder's Letter to Congress on Counterterrorism Operations, May 2013

Author: Eric H. Holder Jr.

Attorney General Eric Holder sent this letter on May 22, 2013, to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, addressing accountability, transparency, and legality of U.S. counterterrorism operations. He discloses previously classified information regarding the deaths of four U.S. citizens involved in terrorist groups, who were "outside the area of active hostilities" and were targeted by lethal drone attacks. This letter came before President Obama's speech at the National Defense University and his Presidential Policy Directive, which outline the administration's policies regarding counterterrorism operations, including drones and terrorist detention camps. See also the Department of Justice Memo: Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa'ida or An Associated Force.

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Department of Justice Memo: Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force

NBC News published this Department of Justice confidential white paper on February 5, 2013, which outlines the legal framework that would allow the U.S. government to "use lethal force in a foreign country" against a U.S. citizen highly involved with al-Qaeda or its associates. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators requested all classified documents related to the legality of targeted killings of Americans be released.

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