We Can Kill Anybody

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• DoJ argues president can murder anyone, any time, anywhere

By Dave Gahary

The Obama White House may be in for a bitter Congressional battle due to a vague memo uncovered by NBC News entitled “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.” The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) “White Paper” lays out the case for when they feel it’s lawful to assassinate American citizens abroad. A white paper “is an authoritative report or guide helping readers to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.”

Michael Isikoff, National Investigative Correspondent for NBC News, who broke the news, reported “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 document was released to “the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees in June by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and not discussed publicly.”

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The 16-page DoJ memo “introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack” than previously issued by the Obama administration in public speeches and refers to “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,” states the memo.

Reaction from Congress was swift.

On the day the memo was released, “a bipartisan group of 11 senators…wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to release all Justice Department memos on the subject.” Maryland Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said last Tuesday that “it deserves a serious look at how we make the decisions in government to take out, kill, eliminate, whatever word you want to use, not just American citizens but other citizens as well.”

As a result of the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct targeted assassinations, “the Senate Foreign Relations Committee likely will hold hearings on U.S. drone policy,” said Congressional sources. Public attention has increased on drones after a 2011 strike in Yemen murdered three American citizens, including the 16-year-old-son of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American and Yemeni imam, engineer and educator that the U.S. government alleged was a senior talent recruiter and motivator involved with planning operations for al-Qaeda.

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Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.

Be sure to check out all of AFP’s free podcasts. You’ll find them on the Home Page, in the Archives & in the Podcast section.

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