Leaked Memo Cites Legal Rationale For Targeted Assassination Of Americans Abroad

by William Teach | February 5, 2013 7:13 am

Let’s take a look at a few headlines, shall we?

Those are just a sampling of how the Credentialed Media is treating the release of the document which describes the legal rationale for whacking a US citizen abroad who has joined a terrorist group. In many cases, as I check around, the story is either buried deep or there is none. Can you imagine how this would have been received had Bush been president? Can you imagine the hysterical headlines? The stories themselves tend to be rather tepid, instead of the thinly veiled op-eds we were used to when Bush was in office.

NBC News is the outlet with the exclusive (first link)

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[5], 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, 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.

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.”

This would have driven liberals and the media bat guano insane during the Bush administration. Heck, think how much “ink” they used due to a few idiots forcing prisoners to create naked pyramids at Abu Ghraid and stone cold killers being tortured with Britney Spears music. Now you have calm, rational stories. And liberals like Emptywheel[6] defending Dear Leader. TalkLeft[7] isn’t much better. In other cases, the same barking moonbats who would have assailed Bush can’t be bothered to bash Obama despite this paper saying Obama is doing things liberals really, really hate. Of course, not everyone is on board

“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, which is suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans. “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”

In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”

And blogger David Swanson isn’t particularly enthused by the legal case for assassination.

As for myself, while this does create some concern over the possibility for abuse, I’m actually going to somewhat agree with Team Obama’s rationale for whacking US citizens who have joined Islamic terrorist groups. Once the people do that, and take a position to attempt to kill Americans and harm America, the are now enemies. Interestingly, this seems to be one thing Obama actually understands in practice (as opposed to his rhetoric), namely that these Islamists are at war with the United States and the West, and need to be eradicated like vermin.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove[8]. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach[9].

  1. EXCLUSIVE: Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans: http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/04/16843014-exclusive-justice-department-memo-reveals-legal-case-for-drone-strikes-on-americans?lite
  2. Justice Dept. document justifies killing Americans overseas if they pose ‘imminent threat’: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/justice-dept-memo-justifies-killing-americans-overseas-if-they-pose-imminent-threat/2013/02/05/44e90920-6f5a-11e2-8b8d-e0b59a1b8e2a_story.html?hpid=z2
  3. Memo Cites Legal Basis for Killing U.S. Citizens in Al Qaeda: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/us/politics/us-memo-details-views-on-killing-citizens-in-al-qaeda.html?hp&_r=0
  4. Official memo justifying drone strikes leaks: http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2013/02/official-memo-justifying-drone-strikes-leaks-156106.html
  5. 16-page memo: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/020413_DOJ_White_Paper.pdf
  6. Emptywheel: http://www.emptywheel.net/2013/02/04/this-isnt-the-memo-youre-looking-for/
  7. TalkLeft: http://www.talkleft.com/story/2013/2/4/213335/1381
  8. Pirate’s Cove: http://www.thepiratescove.us/
  9. @WilliamTeach: http://twitter.com/WilliamTeach

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