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

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

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.

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.

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