Prof. Thomas McDonnell on the questionable legality of the U.S. killing Anwar Al-Awlaki

Pace Law School Prof. Thomas McDonnell, an expert on terrorism is available to speak to the media about the questionable legality of the U.S. killing Anwar Al-Awlaki.


About Prof. McDonnell:

  • Author of The United States, International Law and the Struggle against Terrorism (Routledge, 2009); (the revised paperback edition was published last August).  The book discusses critical legal issues raised by US responses to the terrorist threat, analyzing whether the actions taken by the Bush-Cheney Administration and now the Obama Administration have complied with international law. The book highlights such issues as torture, indefinite detentions, right to trial, military commissions, the death penalty, targeted killing, the right of self-determination, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Has extensive experience teaching International Law and International Human Rights Law.
  • Former Co-Chair, American Society of International Law, Teaching International Law Interest Group.

Prof. McDonnell on the killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki.

“The recent killing of Anwar Al-Awlaki is of questionable legality because it was carried out in Yemen, a country with which the United States has neither engaged in armed conflict nor intervened in a civil war on behalf of the government. Had this attack been carried out in Afghanistan or the tribal areas of Pakistan, it would more clearly pass the test of legality—though still morally questionable and unsound as a matter of policy. That Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen matters relatively little, from an international law perspective.

I believe the only basis for permitting this killing would be if there were evidence showing that Al-Awlaki posed an imminent threat to the U.S. or its allies. This seems unlikely, given that he appears to have been more of a propagandist and a recruiter for al Qaeda than a militant who was actually ordering and carrying out specific attacks.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration has entrusted the CIA with the authority to carry out this attack (as well as those in Pakistan and Somalia).  As a secret service, the CIA has little if any transparency. There should be an independent Congressional investigation to examine the evidence of Al-Awlaki’s status and activities and to determine whether he posed an imminent threat to the United States.”


Lauren Rubenstein
Manager, Media Relations
(914) 422-4389
cell (914) 329-8680



You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar