Attorney General Ashcroft Memo to U.S. Senator: President Can Authorize Lethal Strikes Against U.S. Citizens On U.S. Soil

March 5th, 2013

I’m sorry, did I write Ashcroft? I meant Holder.

Here is the letter Holder wrote in response to Senator Rand Paul’s question of whether “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil and without trial.”

His answer? Well, if things are really, really bad, then maybe.

But “it is possible, I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States,” Holder said. “For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack” like Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

“Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of this authority,” said Holder.