Leaked Justice Dept memo says when it's legal to assassinate US citizens
[url=http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/020413_DOJ_White_Paper.pdf]Here's the full 16-page memo.[/url]
The leaked 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."
[quote]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'.
In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be 'infeasible', and the strike must be conducted according to 'law of war principles.' But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly.
For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect would pose an 'undue risk' to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.[/quote]
A bipartisan group of 11 senators have asked for all such memos to be released, saying "it is vitally important... for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority."
The issue of targeted killings is becoming more important as Congress holds a hearing with John Brennan, who has been nominated by Pres. Obama to be the next CIA director. Brennan is a big proponent of drone strikes, and was the first official to publicly state that that drones were being used.
Drones and targeted assassinations have been a subject of sharp debate since the killings of [url=http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/people/a/anwar_al_awlaki/index.html]American citizen Samir Khan, radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and his Colorado-born son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki[/url] via drone strike.