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Eric Holder's speech comes after mounting criticism over the killing of a US citizen abroad.
Attorney General, Eric Holder, defended the US killing of Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen, Monday in a speech on national security.
"The unfortunate reality is that our nation will likely continue to face terrorist threats that at times originate with our own citizens," Holder said in the speech at Northwestern law school according to the Associated Press.
Awlaki was accused by US authorities of plotting to kill Americans in terrorist acts, including having contact with former US army major, Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 13 personnel at the Fort Hood military base.
Awlaki was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen last September.
The Chicago Tribune said that the speech comes after sharp criticism that the administration's desire to bring terrorists to justice contradicts the kill of the New Mexico-born Awlaki who was not given "due process" before his death.
"In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out," Holder said, according to Forbes. "And we will not."
Holder presented a three part test whether the killing of an American citizen by his or her government was legal, stressing that the act must be carried out "in full accordance with the Constitution," according to the Associated Press.
The Attorney General went on to say that the legal right to kill U.S. citizens overseas without a trial was based in Congress’ authorization to use all necessary and appropriate force against those involved in 9/11.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Holder said that this authority to kill citizens is "not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan. We are at war with a stateless enemy, prone to shifting operations from country to country."
The administration, which has faced criticism over the killing of the American citizen living abroad, is currently in court fighting the release of the Justice Department's legal opinion on the matter.