Talia Abed


Since the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, the United States has been engaged in a global war to defeat terrorism, i.e., the war on terror. As part of this conflict, the US government conducts targeted killing operations, in which it singles out and kills certain individuals it deems a threat to civilian lives. There are several US statutes that govern the use of lethal force, both generally and in the specific context of targeting terrorists. Additionally, there is a wide body of international laws that govern this form of extrajudicial killing. It is questionable, however, whether the US government complies with international law when carrying out targeted killing operations. The executive branch is responsible for the decisions made with respect to such operations, and a lack of transparency regarding international law compliance pervades throughout different presidential administrations. This Note explains the applicable US and international laws, and then analyzes four different presidential administrations, starting with President George W. Bush and ending with President Biden. The analysis examines different materials from these presidents’ administrations to determine how each one complied—or did not comply—with international law in conducting targeted killing operations. This Note concludes that incorporating targeted killing into the Universal Periodic Review offers a solution to the lack of transparency problem that plagues US presidential administrations.