Yes, Obama CAN kill Americans -- white paper sez so
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be senior operational leaders of al-Qaida or an associated force -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administrations most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this weeks hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.
In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses an imminent threat of violent attack.
But the confidential Justice Department white paper introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a broader concept of imminence than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.
The condition that an operational leader present an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future, the memo states.
Instead, it says, an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been recently involved in activities posing a threat of a violent attack and there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities. The memo does not define recently or activities.
Posted by: Steve White 2013-02-05