Exclusive: Justice Department Memo Concludes That Obama Administration Can Kill American Citizens With Drones
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, 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.
The secrecy surrounding such strikes is fast emerging as a central issue in this week’s hearing of White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a key architect of the drone campaign, to be CIA director. Brennan was the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year, calling them “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.” In a separate talk at the Northwestern University Law School in March, Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”
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.
Note: Last month the Obama Administration won a court case against ACLU allowing them to keep policies about drones strikes targeting American citizens a secret.
Meanwhile, survivors of three Americans killed in 2011 by targeted drone attacks in Yemen, including survivors of al-Awlaki, have sued top-ranking members of the United States government, alleging they illegally killed the three, including a 16-year-old boy, in violation of international human rights law and the U.S. Constitution.
Come pack the courtroom on February 8th to support the ACAC 19!
Solidarity is our weapon against the state! Our love for our comrades is stronger than their cages and their courts!When: Friday February 8th, 12:30PMWhere: 850 Bryant St. San Francisco, Department 16What: Pack the Court
On Friday February 8th, 2013 members of the Anti-Capitalist Anti-Colonial (ACAC) 19 will be appearing in San Francisco Superior Court at 850 Bryant Street for a pretrial motions hearing. We call on you, supporters, friends, and comrades to pack the courtroom. Support comes in many forms: banners and signs on the court steps, people in the courtroom and spreading the word about the trial. Let us show the District Attorney that our comrades are not alone in their relentless struggle against colonialism, capitalism and the state.
The ACAC 19 is a group of anti-colonial, anti-capitalists who were beaten, arrested and then subjected to a media smear campaign by the San Francisco Police Department on October 6, 2012. The arrests occurred during a series of demonstrations on Columbus Day weekend against colonization and empire, as well as the racist celebrations of genocide and conquest. The actions were organized in solidarity with indigenous struggles in the Bay Area and beyond.
After being released from jail, two defendants found threatening leaflets in their neighborhood with their home addresses and photos printed on them. At least one member of the ACAC 19 has also experienced continued police harassment at his workplace. In early December, two defendants received word that their Twitter accounts had been subpoenaed – evidence that the SFPD is using the case to map and surveill radical political networks in the Bay area. In the wake of a year of rebellious and militant political activity across the country, we see this as one of many attempts to harass, intimidate, and control radical movements.
On January 5th the San Francisco District Attorney withdrew the Twitter subpoenas due to a successful call-in campaign and mounting public pressure from organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. While we recognize this as a limited victory, the withdrawal of the Twitter subpoenas shows the strength of community support and solidarity. It is imperative that we show the District Attorney and the SFPD that repression will not stop us!
The ACAC 19 are currently facing multiple misdemeanor charges ranging from unlawful assembly to battery on a uniformed officer. We stand in solidarity with all those working to resist state repression and those who have been directly targeted by it. Come support your comrades on Feb 8th!
Disregard anything from me with a forward.