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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

White House Memo Justifies Drone Strikes On U.S. Citizens

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011 killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Samir Khan (left) and Anwar al-Awlaki (right). Both were U.S. citizens who had not been charged with any crimes. (AP)

A U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September 2011 killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Samir Khan (left) and Anwar al-Awlaki (right). Both were U.S. citizens who had not been charged with any crimes. (AP)

A 16-page Justice Department memo leaked last night to NBC News says the U.S. can legally kill an American citizen overseas if the following three conditions are met: (1) The citizen is a “senior operational leader” of a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda, (2) the citizen poses an “imminent threat” to the U.S. and (3) the capture of the citizen is “infeasible.”

Civil rights groups say the memo expands previous White House definitions of “imminent threat” by stating that a U.S. citizen who is suspected of terrorism can be targeted even if that citizen cannot be linked to any specific attack or plot in progress.

The memo also asserts that the president’s decisions on targeting suspected U.S. terrorists abroad should not be subject to judicial review.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling it a “chilling document” which “summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority.”

The leak comes as John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director, is due to appear before the Senate for a confirmation hearing.

A bi-partisan group of Senators has been pressing the White House for more information on the legal justification for targeting of Americans overseas.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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