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.”

  • Bill Weir

    Thank you, Sen. Franken, for raising these questions that need to be asked of the Administration.

  • John

    If they are trying to kill American soldiers or supporting al Qaeda they should be considered enemies and killed if possible. I rather have a live soldier than a live traitor and a dead soldier.

    If Sen. Franken was being shot at by al Qaeda, I wonder if he would return fire if an he thought an American was the one doing the shooting at him. How many of his fellow soldiers would he let be killed because there was an American traitor shooting at them?

    These so called Americans are traitors and deserve to die!

  • Mike Supina

    The FBI just killed an American citizen yesterday on US soil – the guy holding the kid hostage in Alabama. How is that any different? If someone is plotting or threatening to kill Americans, especially if they are affiliated with an organization like Al Qaida that has demonstrated the ability to do so, then they have chosen to be a target. I don’t care if they are from the US, a foreign country, or the planet Neptune. If they are concerned about their rights then they should return to the US, get a lawyer, and surrender themselves for trial.

  • James

    One of the most ignorant responses I have heard in a very long time John. If a American (I think you mean U.S. citizen because there is a difference. Last I checked Canadians and Mexicans are also Americans) is shooting at another American, a response in kind would be considered self defense, not an assassination. If it is thought that a US citizen is committing a crime against the US it is for the protection of all Citizens of this country that the burden of proof be put upon the government. Without the government being required to prove that a party is guilty they could simply assassinate any Citizen without trial. While I have strong disagreements on many issues with Al Franken, I applaud him on this issue.

  • Matt

    “the President’s power to deliberately kill American citizens” should not exist

  • Ginny

    There are some very serious differences between killing the survivalist who was holding a 5-year-old hostage and was getting more agitated, leading to fears he was about to kill the boy, and killing a u.s. citizen overseas or anywhere without due process.

    The police must do what they can to save an innocent life in this situation, and this is entirely legal and constitutional. Bad comparison.

  • Andy Driscoll

    Sen. Franken is to be thanked and congratulated for this step forward – or is it back – to executive constitutionality and accountability with his stand on drones. Congratulations, Senator.