Classified Drone and Targeted Killing Memo Released
Via Michael Isikoff at NBC News, here is the 16 page DOJ white paper titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force." Isikoff writes:
It 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 paper has an expanded definition of threat. [More...]
“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.
There is a three part test for targeted killing. In addition to the (not so) imminent threat factor, there is:
- capture of the target must be “infeasible, and
- the strike must be conducted according to “law of war principles.”
But Isikoff says there is also an expanded meaning for whaen a capture is "infeasible" -- it includes undue risk to U.S. personnel attempting the capture.
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.
The ACLU blasts the paper:
“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU.... “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.....t the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”
In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”
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