UPDATED 03/05/12 7:57 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is set to defend the legality of a controversial Obama administration program Monday at Northwestern University Law School.

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As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, Holder will deliver his remarks at 3:30 p.m. at the Northwestern Law School Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Superior St.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

An administration official says Holder will outline the legal framework for the use of lethal force in targeted killings of U.S. citizens overseas.

The official tells the Associated Press that Holder is expected to argue that lethal force is legal under a joint congressional resolution dating back to Sept. 18, 2001.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks authorizes the use of all necessary force in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.

His speech comes five months after the killing of U.S.-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone attack in Yemen.

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he al-Qaida cleric who was born in New Mexico and once preached at an Islamic center in Falls Church, Va., was killed in September by a joint CIA-U.S. military drone strike on a convoy in Yemen. He had been in the U.S. crosshairs since his killing was approved by President Barack Obama in April 2010 – making him the first American placed on the CIA “kill or capture” list.

Al-Alwaki was blamed for inciting several deady plots including the 2009 killings at Ft. Hood, Texas and the failed Times Square bombing.

CBS Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen says the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the assassination of an American citizen.

“Civil libertarians and others say they can’t evaluate the legality of the drone program… unless they see the legal memos upon which the program is based,” Cohen said. “I don’t think the White House is going to turn over those memos, at least not yet, but we may get some of the highlights from Eric Holder.”

The administration has provided some details about what al-Awlaki was doing that made him so dangerous to the United States. In that vein, the Justice Department disclosed that a Nigerian man who tried to blow up an international flight on Christmas 2009 told FBI agents that his mission was approved after a three-day visit with al-Awlaki.

The man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was sentenced last month to life in prison after admitting he attempted to blow up the plane with a bomb in his underwear as the plane approached Detroit.

The official says at the Northwestern speech, Holder also will address how the Obama administration reformed military commissions and how both the Obama and the George W. Bush administrations have successfully used civilian courts to convict and sentence terrorists.

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