Justice Department memo reveals drone authorization on Americans, White House and DOJ quick to defend policy
Conspiracy theorist are certain to feel vindicated with the latest memo from the Justice Department.
NBC reports the details of a DOJ memo which 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.”
The 16-page memo details the legal reasoning behind the Obama administration’s drone policy and authorization of killing American citiziens such as alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan who were killed in a Yemen strike.
The undated memo is entitled “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.” Members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees were given a copy in June by administration officials on the condition that it be kept confidential and not discussed publicly.
Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director for the ACLU, called the memo “a chilling document.”
“Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. … It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated,” he said.
Both White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder have advocated for the use of drones.
The White House and DOJ are defending the memo and their policies.
“We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, to prevent future attacks and to save American lives,” Carney said. “These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.”
Carney would not describe the legal criteria for ordering those drone strikes.
Separately, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the government is “confident that we’re doing so in a way that is consistent with federal and international law.”