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Memo sets rationale to kill al-Qaida-linked U.S. citizens abroad

By Pete Yost

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:08 a.m. HST, Feb 05, 2013

WASHINGTON » An internal Justice Department memo says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans.

The document, reported Monday night by NBC News, provides a legal rationale behind the Obama administration's use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects.

The 16-page document says it is lawful to target al-Qaida linked U.S. citizens if they pose an "imminent" threat of violent attack against Americans, and that delaying action against such people would create an unacceptably high risk. Such circumstances may necessitate expanding the concept of imminent threat, the memo says.

"The threat posed by al-Qaida and its associated forces demands a broader concept of imminence in judging when a person continually planning terror attacks presents an imminent threat," the document added.

A September 2011 drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both U.S. citizens.

The memo does not require the U.S. to have information about a specific imminent attack against the U.S. But it does require that capture of a terrorist suspect not be feasible and that any such lethal operation by the United States targeting a person comply with fundamental law-of-war principles.

"A decision maker determining whether an al-Qaida operational leader presents an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States must take into account that certain members of Al-Qaida ... are continually plotting attacks against the United States" and that "al-Qaida would engage in such attacks regularly to the extent it were able to do so," says the document.

The document also says that a decision maker must take into account that "the U.S. government may not be aware of all al-Qaida plots as they are developing and thus cannot be confident that none is about to occur; and that ... the nation may have a limited window of opportunity within which to strike in a manner that both has a high likelihood of success and reduces the probability of American casualties."

With this understanding, the document added, a high-level official could conclude, for example, that an individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States where he is an operational leader of al-Qaida or an associated force and is personally and continually involved in planning terrorist attacks against the United States.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the document is "profoundly disturbing."

"It's hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances," the ACLU said.

The document says that the use of lethal force would not violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution when a targeted person is an operational leader of an enemy force and an informed, high-level government official has determined that he poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the U.S.

The document said the courts have no role to play in the matter.

"Under the circumstances described in this paper, there exists no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutional considerations. It is well established that 'matters intimately related to foreign policy, and national security are rarely proper subjects for judicial intervention,'" the white paper said.

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thos wrote:
Not since the worst president we ever had, JFK, has assassination been an instrument of a president's foreign policy ..... UNTIL NOW.
on February 5,2013 | 06:12AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Killing an enemy combatant, regardless of Nationality, is not assassination.
on February 5,2013 | 07:31AM
Graham wrote:
Killing enemy combatant...legal...waterboarding enemy combatant...illegal...did I miss something..
on February 5,2013 | 08:59AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Torturing suspected enemy combatants in captivity...NOW illegal. But BEFORE, when suspected enemy combatants died in captivity of "heart attacks", that was legal.
on February 5,2013 | 09:32AM
Pacej001 wrote:
So, where exactly are you on this killing of Americans by Mr. Obama, still trying to find a way to blame George Bush for it or is Mr. Obama now the one deserving of the American Hitler label?
on February 5,2013 | 10:34AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Not happy with that. I also wasn't happy when Obama got involved in Libya, inadvertently being on the same side with al-Qaeda fighters. I voted for Obama twice. Nobody's perfect.
on February 5,2013 | 11:42AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Yes, you did, the definitions for "enemy" and "combatant". Waterboarding? Infinitely better than being ripped to shreds by a Hellfire missile.
on February 5,2013 | 10:31AM
hanalei395 wrote:
The Kennedy brothers tried to put the hit on Fidel Castro. After the JFK assassination, killing Heads of State were now off the table.
on February 5,2013 | 08:04AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Anyone, regardless of nationality, who joins an organization whose stated intent is to kill Americans, is fair game to be at the receiving end of a bullet, rocket or missile when in the service of that organization in a foreign country. They dig their own grave when they join such organizations and it is our job to put them there. It makes no sense risking American lives by using boots on the ground to capture them. If drones can do the job, have at it.
on February 5,2013 | 07:30AM
Pacej001 wrote:
How very special, that this enlightened administration and the enlightened party that supports it would recoil in horror and moral revulsion at torturing a terrorists (torture being loud music and water in the face), yet champion turning said terrorists, American citizens, into shredded chunks of meat without even a fig leaf of due process. So much more humane, more kind in every newagey sort of way, than the evil of torture. I mean, have you spent any time at all listening to AC/DC??? No, Mr. Obama has stood firmly by his principles on this one. At least, I'm pretty sure the New York Times will say so.
on February 5,2013 | 08:44AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Killing Americans without a trial? Killing Americans? What kind of nation have we become?
on February 5,2013 | 08:46AM
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