US Acknowledges Killing 4 US Citizens in Drone Strikes

In a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Congress today, for the first time, the U.S. has admitted killing 4 American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.

The letter is here. It says only Anwar al-Awlaki was targeted for killing. Samir Kahn was killed in the same strike. al-Awlaki's son was killed in another drone strike in Yemen, and Jude Mohammed was killed in drone strike in Pakistan. [More...]

From the letter:

it is clear and logical that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted. Rather, it means that the government must take special care and take into account all relevant constitutional considerations, the laws of war, and other law with respect to U.S. citizens....

Such considerations allow for the use of lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaida or its associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, in the following circumstances: (1) the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is not feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

As to targeting al-Awlaki, Holder says:

Al-Aulaqi was a senior operational leader of alQa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the most dangerous regional affiliate of alQa'ida and a group that has committed numerous terrorist attacks overseas and attempted multiple times to conduct terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland. And al-Aulaqi was not just a senior leader of AQAP- he was the group's chief of external operations, intimately involved in detailed planning and putting in place plots against U.S. persons. In this role, al-Aulaqi repeatedly made clear his intent to attack U.S. persons and his hope that these attacks would take American lives.

He stresses it was al-Awlaki's actions, not his words, that landed him on the kill list.

But it was not al-Aulaqi's words that led the United States to act against him: they only served to demonstrate his intentions and state of mind, that he "pray[ ed] that Allah [would] destro[y] America and all its allies." Rather, it was al-Aulaqi's actions and, in particular, his direct personal involvement in the continued planning and execution of terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland- that made him a lawful target and led the United States to take action.

Holder says Al-Awlaki planned the suicide operation for undie bomber Farouq Abdulmutallab. He lists two other plots he was involved in and says he was planning others when the U.S. took him out.

He says "based on a careful evaluation of the circumstances at the time" it was not feasible to capture him. He also says Congress knew about the Administration's intent to kill al-Awlaki a year ahead of time:

Indeed, the Administration informed the relevant congressional oversight committees that it had approved the use oflethal force against al-Aulaqi in February 2010- well over a year before the operation in question- and the legal justification was subsequently explained in detail to those committees, well before action was taken against Aulaqi.

He says a document has been drafted that spells out the Obama's policy on targeted kills. It will remain classified but Congress will be briefed on it. He says it provides:

....that lethal force should not be used when it is feasible to capture a terrorist suspect. For circumstances in which capture is feasible, the policy outlines standards and procedures to ensure that operations to take into custody a terrorist suspect are conducted in accordance with all applicable law, including the laws of war. When capture is not feasible, the policy provides that lethal force may be used only when a terrorist target poses a continuing, imminent threat to Americans, and when certain other preconditions, including a requirement that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat, are satisfied. And in all circumstances there must be a legal basis for using force against the target.

< FBI Agent Kills FL Man During Questioning About Boston Bombing | Gov. Hickenlooper Grants "Reprieve" from Death Penalty to Nathan Dunlap >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Samir Khan was collateral damage since he (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by MO Blue on Wed May 22, 2013 at 06:26:24 PM EST
    was killed in the same drone attack as al-Aulaqi.

    Using the administrations own guidelines, why were Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Jude Mohammed killed in drone attacks? If they were not the target of the attacks, who were the drones trying to kill?

    To date, the administration has yet to provide a reason why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed.  

    It's in the new Obama Administration index (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by shoephone on Wed May 22, 2013 at 06:42:13 PM EST
    See under: Gibbs, Robert

    Errata: it's in the OLD index (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by shoephone on Wed May 22, 2013 at 06:43:30 PM EST
    The new index is being written by Holder, as we speak.

    Excuse (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by lentinel on Wed May 22, 2013 at 06:30:16 PM EST
    me if I don't believe a word Holder says.

    They captured Noriega - they captured Hussein - but they couldn't capture al-Aulaqi?

    To hell with due process.
    It's easier to kill 'em.

    To be clear (none / 0) (#5)
    by Socraticsilence on Wed May 22, 2013 at 06:59:46 PM EST
    you're essentially calling for a full-scale invasion of Yemen.

    No. (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by lentinel on Wed May 22, 2013 at 07:46:44 PM EST
    I'm not.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have used examples in which the people were captured during a full scale invasion.

    But I do believe that our Seals, or spys or operatives or whatever can find and capture whomever they wish if the will to do so is there.

    i do believe that they would rather kill Americans they "suspect" than go through the trouble of bringing them to trial and extending to them the benefits of their citizenship.

    I would like to hear testimony and proof, defense and prosecution. Not just a report of what Holder and the rest of them think about someone and then they kill him...


    The right not to be executed without trial (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by Peter G on Wed May 22, 2013 at 10:31:13 PM EST
    is not a perk of citizenship.  That right applies under the U.S. Constitution (Due Process Clause) to all "persons," that is, it applies equally to citizens and non-citizens alike.  It does not apply to the killing of an enemy combatant in a war, while engaged in combat. The problem lies with the unprincipled expansion of the formerly settled meaning of the terms "war" and "combatant."  Otherwise, as clearly stated in the Constitution itself (Art. III, sec. 3) levying war against the United States, by a citizen, is the very definition of the crime called "treason," which entitles the accused to due process, including a trial.

    Especially.... (5.00 / 5) (#11)
    by ScottW714 on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:02:48 AM EST
    ...if your only crime is being in the proximity of someone the US is targeting.  Becoming collateral damage because one might be in the wrong place at the wrong time is serious F'ed up.

    It occurs to me that, along with the rights (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed May 22, 2013 at 09:52:41 PM EST
    of citizenship there are responsibilities.

    One of these is not attacking your country.


    Accusing (5.00 / 5) (#14)
    by lentinel on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:26:06 AM EST
    someone of plotting to attack your country - especially after you have had them killed - is not the same as extending to them the right of the presumption of innocence and due process.

    There are responsibilities that belong to the people in power as well, you know.

    And those folks in DC don't give a hang about their part of the bargain - imho.


    It ain't gonna work Obama... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Wed May 22, 2013 at 09:00:14 PM EST
    it ain't gonna work Holder...you won't get the scandal-machine off your back by admitting what big bad murderers you are.

    Maybe it's me, maybe I'm crazy...but the United States did just admit to murder, right?  Well, to be fair, one premeditated murder and three manslaughters.

    It reads to me eerily like the b*llshit those maniacs were spewing while they brutally murdered that poor slob in England today...only Holder is an attorney advised by more attorneys, and he leaves the wet-work to underlings.

    Were I Holder's counsel I'd advise him to plead the f*ckin' 5th...if the Constitution is still in effect that is.

    Kdog, give me a break (1.00 / 3) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed May 22, 2013 at 09:54:31 PM EST
    We are engaged in an asymmetrical war.

    You win wars by killing your enemies.


    So To Be Clear... (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by ScottW714 on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:04:32 AM EST
    ...you think Obama is doing an outstanding job on this front ?

    How do you win peace? (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by kdog on Thu May 23, 2013 at 09:06:32 AM EST
    I'm really not interested in winning wars.

    Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth?  I don't think so.


    So... (5.00 / 4) (#15)
    by redwolf on Thu May 23, 2013 at 01:12:01 PM EST
    Do you also win them by killing the children of your enemies?  Because that's what we've been doing.  Most of the people killed in these drones strikes are women and children.

    We No Longer Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident (none / 0) (#16)
    by john horse on Tue May 28, 2013 at 05:24:18 PM EST
    Given the Bush/Obama policies of the last 12 years, I feel that we need to revise our Declaration of Independence.

    All men are not created equal, especially those that the government labels as "terrorists".

    We do not have an unalienable right to liberty.  See Guantanamo.

    And finally, our government drone attacks prove that they do not believe that we have an unalienable right to Life.