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DOJ official: President may have power to order terror suspects killed in US

[JURIST] Steven Bradbury [SourceWatch profile], acting head of the US Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel [official website], told Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website] in a closed Senate Intelligence Committee [official website] meeting last week that the president may have the executive power to order the killing of terrorist suspects inside the US. During a closed-door session, Feinstein is said to have questioned Bradbury about President Bush's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] and the extent of executive powers to fight Al Qaeda. In response to an hypothetical example offered by Feinstein, Bradbury said he believed it within the president's power to order a killing, in certain circumstances. An unnamed Justice Department official has since said Bradbury's comments were in the context of a theoretical discussion and that practical policy would be to capture the terrorist alive in order to interrogate him. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte [official profile], and Robert Mueller [official profile], Director of the FBI, have both said they did not know of a situation in which a US agency would be authorized to order the killing of an Al Qaeda suspect in the US. Newsweek has more. In its shockingly broad construction of executive power the Bradbury statement is reminiscent of a December 1 statement by former Bush administration legal advisor John Yoo [Berkeley faculty profile] in a Chicago debate that there is no law that could prevent the President from theoretically ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody [Mathaba report] – including by crushing that child’s testicles.

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