Secret U.S. Government Memo Justifies Assassinations of American Citizens

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Being a leader of al-Qaeda or even a group associated with the infamous terror network is sufficient for the U.S. government to legally order an American citizen’s assassination, even without the existence of intelligence revealing that the individual is plotting against the country.


This assessment was crafted by the U.S. Department of Justice in a secret, 16-page memo to justify the Obama administration’s use of drones and other military means to kill Americans overseas who cannot be captured.


NBC News obtained the classified memo that says President Barack Obama can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaeda or “an associated force.” The clearance to assassinate does not require any intel showing the targets have actively plotted to attack the U.S.


The memo has formed part of the legal basis for the administration’s expanded drone campaign against al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Among those assassinated were Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, two U.S. citizens who were not indicted by the U.S. government or charged with any crimes before they were killed in Yemen two years ago. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was also killed by an attack from a drone.


The confidential “white paper” offers an expansive definition of self-defense, including a “broader concept of imminence,” to explain the non-necessity to obtain actual intelligence revealing an ongoing plot against the U.S. before targeting Americans for assassination.


“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 paper states.


The New York Times reported that the white paper is not the classified memorandum created by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to approve al-Awlaki’s killing. “But its legal analysis—citing a national right to self-defense as well as the laws of war—closely tracks the rationale in that document,” according to Charlie Savage and Scott Shane.


Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, issued a statement that “The parallels to the Bush administration torture memos are chilling. Those were unchecked legal justifications drawn up to justify torture; these are unchecked justifications drawn up to justify extrajudicial killing. President Obama released the Bush torture memos to be transparent; he must release his own legal memos and not just a Cliffs Notes version for public consumption, particularly when scores of civilian lives are at stake. Despite this attempt to appear transparent, the program remains opaque.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Justice Department Memo Reveals Legal Case for Drone Strikes on Americans (by Michael Isikoff, NBC News)

The Justice Department’s White Paper on Targeted Killing (by Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union)

Memo Cites Legal Basis for Killing U.S. Citizens in Al Qaeda (by Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, New York Times)

Department of Justice White Paper: Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al-Qa’ida or an Associated Force (U.S. Department of Justice) (pdf)

Senators Demand Secret Memos on Targeted Killing (by Greg Miller, Washington Post)

How Obama Transformed an Old Military Concept So He Can Drone Americans (by Spencer Ackerman, Wired)

11 Secret Documents Americans Deserve to See (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


PfcHobertUSMC 11 years ago
The killing of innocent American civilians is absolutely deplorable! It SHOULD enrage EVERY person that reads this. Regardless of "suspicion" of association, American citizens have the RIGHT to trial, to be exonerated by a jury of their peers, not killed by a drone opperator, 4000 miles away. The paper cites the "national right to self defense", from WHAT? A 16 year old boy and his father were NOT charged, nor intelligence put forth to show probable cause. The paper also cites the "laws of war", as a former United States Marine, I'm here to tell you in no less terms. The Geneva convention terms the rules of engagement, as an ENEMY combatant wearing the uniform of a foreign nation. Mr Awlaki and his son and Mr Khan, WERE NEITHER. THEY WERE however, American citizens living abroad. Apparently, it is enough justification to MURDER an innocent (until proven guilty) CITIZEN. Wake up people, stop this madness before the drones are circling your houses here domestically. NDAA is real, it is ultra serious, and it includes EVERY one of us!
geral 11 years ago
MURDEROUS, MORTIFYING, MACABRE AMERIKA Drones: alt link: USA’s Serial Killers & Mass Murderers: Civilization: Age of Madness: Amerika is dead: Kill:

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