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What Would People Think?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Can Presidents Kill?

An excerpt from the introduction to my national security law paper:

Meet "“Bob."” Bob is a 35-year old divorced father of two. Born in Montana, Bob now works as a manager for a construction company in downtown Washington, D.C, where he moved to be closer to his kids after the divorce. Bob converted to Islam last year. His conversion is a source of tension within his Born-Again Christian family, but to President Bush it has far more sinister undertones. He has intelligence which leads him to believe Bob is a new recruit to Al Qaeda who is plotting to use his construction connections to plant explosives inside key office buildings. For the sake of this hypothetical, I will leave it unresolved whether this intelligence is correct, but the President believes it in his gut. Right now, however, Bob is not plotting. He is not planting a bomb or holding a gun to the head of a hostage. He is sitting down to lunch at McDonalds, eating a Big Mac and French fries. President Bush decides that it is America's best interest to have Bob killed instantly. So he orders an FBI agent to walk into McDonalds, pull out a gun, and shoot Bob between the eyes.

Can he do this?

I'm talking legally, of course. There's always the concern that the law doesn't matter to some executives. But nonetheless, I analyze whether the President has authority in the War on Terrorism to order the targeted killing of American citizens on American soil when they don't pose an immediate threat (in other words, when any policeman wouldn't be able to shoot them, anyway). In the process, I develop a constitutional theory for the place of Congress and the President in wartime (well, a partial theory) and lay out a framework for interpreting the AUMF.

Interested? Intrigued? Are you nerd enough to care about all these legal issues? If so, let me know and I'll send you my paper. I'll warn you: it's the longest paper I've ever written. It's 46 pages long (plus an Appendix with the text of the AUMF). Don't read it while operating heavy machinery. May not be best to try and read it all in one sitting.

Nonetheless, I found it fascinating and had a blast writing it. (Except for the Bluebooking.) So if you think you might be interested, let me know and I'll send it to you.


  • At the risk of looking like your only slacker friend, that paper is nearly double the minimum. You are aware that you're a 3L, aren't you?

    By Anonymous Amy, at 5/01/2006 9:49 AM  

  • Amen, Amy, amen. Who does actual work during their last month of school, honestly? However, at the risk of sounding like a total dork, I would like to read it, so send away. You had me at "Bob".

    By Blogger Mike, at 5/01/2006 10:01 AM  

  • Yeah, fire away.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 5/01/2006 10:43 AM  

  • Yup. I'll look at it.

    By Blogger Monica, at 5/01/2006 1:22 PM  

  • For the record, Amy, I just started writing and couldn't stop. I had a lot that I wanted to say. And, God help me, I had fun writing it.

    I am bit concerned that Prof. Silliman won't appreciate the extra work grading it. But whatever.....

    He never gave us a page limit!

    By Blogger Ben, at 5/01/2006 1:37 PM  

  • Are you shitting me? The Prof's name is "Silliman?" That is amazing!

    And yeah, I want it, but won't read it until after my exams.

    By Blogger Barzelay, at 5/01/2006 10:17 PM  

  • What's so funny about that? It's not pronounced "silly-man" if that's what you're thinking....but I don't think your mind operates and the same level of silliness as mine, so I can't figure out why you think his name is amazing.

    Here's his profile: http://www.law.duke.edu/fac/silliman/

    By Blogger Ben, at 5/01/2006 10:26 PM  

  • I'm interested!

    By Blogger Leah, at 5/02/2006 4:00 PM  

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