Franken questions administration’s authority to kill Americans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Al Franken is one of a bipartisan group of senators who have sent a letter to President Obama that asks for more information on the legal basis for the administration’s claim that it can kill American citizens as part of efforts against terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.

On Monday, NBC News unearthed a memo from the Department of Justice arguing that the United States government has the legal authority to kill American citizens despite a ban on assassinations that has long been U.S. policy.

The memo came to light ahead of the confirmation hearings of John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The letter, signed by 11 senators from both parties including the top members of the Judiciary Committee, asks for Obama for the “secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations.”

“It is vitally important, however, for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority,” the letter continues, “so that Congress and the public can decide whether this authority has been properly defined, and whether the President’s power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards.”