The fact that the United States regularly and admittedly engages in "targeted killings" ought to be a matter of serious concern to its citizens, as should any other practice of extrajudicial punishment. Assasinations are proscribed under domestic law, per Executive Order 12333, though that proscription has been pretty liberally interpreted by the last three Presidents. Whether or not "targeted killings" are synonymous with "assasinations" has also been the subject of some creative hermeneutic exercises, but not until this case (al-Alwaki's case) have the stakes of that distinction hit so close to home. The lawsuit that the ACLU and the CCR have filed on al-Alwaki's behalf challenges the constutionality of our governement's "capture or kill" lists-- the criteria for determining how one is placed on them has never been disclosed-- attempting to limit what they argue is an overreach of Executive power.
Of course, what lies at the foundation of these lists, and authorizes the power that authorizes them, is the Ausnahmezustand (the "state of exception"). It is the exceptional danger of terrorism, and the emergency state in which it places our State, that justifies extrajudicial judgment and punishment, or so it is argued. I cannot help but reminded in this case of Agamben's description of the state of exception, "in which a human action with no relation to law stands before a norm with no relation to life."