From a position of deep practical expertise in constitutional issues, Prof. Powell provides a dispassionate and balanced analysis of the issues posed by U.S. targeted killing policy, using the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki in September 2011 as a focus for discussion. While Powell concludes that the al-Awlaki strike was constitutional under 2001 legislation, he rejects the Obama administration's broader claims of authority for its drone policies. Furthermore, he argues, citizens acting as combatants in al-Qaeda and associated groups are not entitled to due process protections: by due process standards, the administration's procedures are legally inadequate.
A fundamental theme of the book is that the conclusion that an action or policy is constitutional should not be confused with claims about its wisdom, morality, or legality under international norms. Part of the purpose of constitutional analysis is to draw attention to these other normative concerns and not, as is too often the case, to occlude them.
H. Jefferson Powell is Professor of Law at Duke University. He is a prolific legal scholar and has written extensively on how constitutional concerns bear on other legal fields such as intellectual property and national security. He has taken sabbaticals from teaching during the Clinton and Obama administrations to serve as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel and Principal Deputy Solicitor General.