Today, that’s restricted to leaders of Al Qaeda or an associated force planning an imminent attack on the U.S. who cannot be captured.
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 administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, 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.
Here’s the memo itself (.pdf).
I haven’t read the memo all the way through, but it’s hard to conclude that a President doesn’t have authority to defend the United States from deadly attack by a terrorist, citizen or no. For example, say it’s reported that a U.S. citizen has hijacked a plane overseas, and has announced his intention to ram it into the Empire State Building on behalf of Al Qaeda. Surely the president can order that plane shot down.
One problem is that the memo does not restrict itself to an imminent attack situation:
“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.
Another problem is that Obama is a liar and I do not trust him. So while I might be OK with what the memo proposes, there is no way for me to be sure he won’t take it further, if he thinks it would benefit him politically. He doesn’t consider himself constrained by little things like budget deadlines. Why would he pass an opportunity to kill a U.S. citizen outside the above guidelines if he thought he could justify it?
RELATED? Iowa farmers complain about drones monitoring their farms:
Few developments in the news in recent weeks have disturbed me more than what we’re learning about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) using unmanned drone aircraft to monitor Iowa farms. In some cases, we’re learning that the EPA has used the aircraft to gather information on agricultural operations. The simple truth is that no government agency should be able to treat Iowa farmers like the Taliban.
Alarm is growing among many farmers in the Midwest regarding this surveillance operation. They’re justifiably concerned that a government agency may be gathering information on them or their property without their consent or knowledge. Much of this alarm stems from the scarcity of facts we have about these flights. In response, I sent a letter this week to the EPA administrator to get to the bottom of what this aerial surveillance is all about. In my letter, I demanded responses from the EPA on what sort of information is being gathered, how that information is being used, how much these surveillance flights cost and what legal justification they have for conducting them.
I bet U.S. citizens never thought drones would be conducting surveillance on farmers.
It’s not like this guy thinks of himself as above the law or anything, does it?
UPDATE: I added a paragraph that explains that the memo does not restrict itself to situations where an attack is imminent.