Publication Date

Spring 2014


Helms School of Government


Government: Politics and Policy


targeted killing, drone strikes, unmanned aerial vehicles, due process, Constitution, United States


Constitutional Law | Courts | Criminal Procedure | Legal History | Military, War, and Peace | National Security Law | President/Executive Department | Rule of Law


The increased incorporation of targeted killing, primarily through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, into United States policy raises salient questions regarding its consistency with the U.S. Constitution. This paper contrasts interpretations of constitutional due process with the current legal framework for conducting targeted killing operations. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution establishes the due process owed to U.S. citizens. This paper determines that the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was accomplished in a manner inconsistent with constitutional due process and demonstrates an over-extension of executive branch power. This paper examines one scholarly recommendation that seeks to increase the accountability of the executive and increase the level of due process afforded citizens in the context of targeted killing.