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U.S. Memo Cites Legal Basis For Drone Strike Against Former San Diego Cleric

The U.S. can lawfully kill an American citizen in a foreign country if it’s determined the person is a high ranking al-Qaeda operative who poses an “imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” according to a Justice Department document published Monday night on NBC News.

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.
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Above: Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.

The memo was written prior to a drone strike that killed former San Diego Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, in September 2011.

Awlaki was an Imam at the Ribat Mosque in La Mesa in 2000 when he held regular sessions with two of the September 11th hijackers.

The Justice Department “white paper” provides detailed analysis of the lawfulness of killing, without a trial.

The U.S. has expanded its use of drones to kill al-Qaeda suspects as a measure of self-defense in accordance with international law.

Critics argue the drone strikes amount to execution without trial and cause many civilian casualties.

The memo was leaked as the next CIA director, John Brennan prepares for his Senate confirmation hearing, scheduled for Thursday.

Comments

Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 5, 2013 at 8:25 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

I have no problem with this. If anyone, American or not, decides to climb the ranks of al-Qaeda, they should be killed. They know what al-Qaeda is about and they know the goals of the organization when they join and help them. They become an enemy of the state when they start aiding an enemy of the state.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 5, 2013 at 10 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

I hold Obama and Holder accountable for this. They have blood on their hands. Take it to the Supreme Court if necessary, but no one has the guts.

If the target(s) had been any others not defined as "terrorists" by the State Dept, people like Jan Mark would be up in arms against Holder as they have been for "Fast & Furious." It's all relative, eh?

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | February 5, 2013 at 10:29 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

MA, do you think there should be some other reasoning required to fight declared enemies of the nation? If so, what would you propose?

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 5, 2013 at 10:37 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

"The U.S. can lawfully kill (insert organization) in a foreign country if it’s determined the person is a high ranking (insert organization) operative who poses an “imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” according to a Justice Department ...."

What would happen if a Russian drone vaporized a vacationing Chechnyan rebel in the United States? What about China doing to the same to a Falun Gong member in New York?

International law is law for everyone or it's not law at all.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 5, 2013 at 10:46 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

DeLaRick we wouldn't do a drone strike on terrorists inside Russia because they are a fairly civilized country with laws that are enforced. That is quite different than a third world country overrun by militants hell-bent on destroying the United States and Israel with no real government authority in place.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 5, 2013 at 10:50 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

Mission I would also like to address one thing you said about Holder and Fast and Furious. I was never up in arms about this, I really didn't care. What is 2000 or so guns compared to all the other thousands of fully automatic AK-47s and such that the cartels get from corrupt members of the military and police? A drop in the bucket. Fast and Furious was more like a witch hunt, and in the grand scheme of things Fast and Furious was inconsequential.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | February 5, 2013 at 12:17 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

JM,

I was referring to a Russion strike within our borders, not the other way around. Labeling non-state entities as "enemies" is a slippery slope. What constitutes a threat? What constitutes an immediate one?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 5, 2013 at 2:32 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

The same logic applies... the USA is not a lawless third world country ruled by multiple tribal bands so it would be different... I think al-Quaeda, the group who planned and executed multiple attacks on the US and American interests abroad, and anyone who willingly joins them, can clearly be labelled an enemy of the state. Don't you?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 5, 2013 at 2:57 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

I completely agree with Mission and DeLaRick and I'm surprised JeanMarc and Benz are not outraged as well.

Exactly as DeLaRick said, this allows the President to remotely execute any US Citizen without a trial (or any judicial oversight) anywhere on the globe.

Keep in mind Obama didn't want the public to know about his new execution powers as the info was leaked. This is complete violation of the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

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Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | February 5, 2013 at 3:21 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

I think I'm most disturbed by the fact that someone wrote this down in a memo.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | February 5, 2013 at 3:27 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

Sorry, I just can't feel outraged that the US government wants to kill terrorists that are killing Americans and bombing our properties around the world.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | February 6, 2013 at 6:41 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

CD, Ideally none of that would be necessary. This is not crime though, it is war and the methods of dealing with it must be different.
I may not like our current president's policy on lots of things, but I do support destroying our enemies. We all (everybody around me at least) cheered when OBL got his two shots. Had he been born here and acted the way he did I still believe that would have been the right course of action.

I asked MA above and I will ask you, if not this way, then what other effective method of addressing this danger do you propose? An outraged complaint followed by a workable suggestion is much easier to discuss than an complaint by itself.

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