A confidential Justice Department memo 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 16-page memo (pdf), a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
Attorney General Eric Holder specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.”

But the confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

  1. jpfitz says:

    I’m with Jake, this is not the same Country I pledged allegiance to.

    • Dallas says:

      Whaaaa whaaaaa

      • pedro says:

        What happened? Rough sex?

      • jpfitz says:

        You really are a Obama bot. No matter what the commander in chief does, you jump for joy. I think you need a good hard smack in the face and a glass of cold water thrown at you to wake you out of your psychotic dream. Wake up, this is America, not Disney land.

        • pedro says:

          So now you understand, huh!

        • Dallas says:

          I’m not an Obama bot! For instance, I think Obama did a so-so job on his first term by trying to appease the Teapublicans.

          Still, when I see cry babdy shit like “it’s not the same Country I pledged allegiance to…whaa whaa “, I feel like smacking someone.

  2. Jake says:

    Our government has basically become the judge, jury and executioner. With Obama, our Lord and Potentate at the helm.
    This stuff is real, now basically everyone who appears to be a “terrorist” is a target of the United States and subject to being destroyed without question. No right to trial or due process.

    I can only imagine the “pilots” conscious when he realizes, he is killing one of his own people. That is a reality he cannot escape from.


  3. Captain Obvious says:

    Conservatives have blown their wad for years on bullshit like birth certificates and same sex marriage. And they’ve zipped up on this? It’s plain evil.

    • MikeN says:

      Obama drops bombs on American citizens and Captain Obvious wishes to place the blame on conservatives.

      • Captain Obvious says:

        LOL Um, no.

        The Republicans should have outed Obama on this years ago. Instead they pandered and became irrelevant.

      • Rick says:

        Obama should be given a lifetime achievement award by the fanatical right….for continuing Bush’s policies to the letter.

  4. MikeN says:

    >Your saying there was an imminent threat of attack aimed at the US and that Iraq had the WMD’s to launch such an attack.

    Under the definition Obama is using for imminent in the white paper, yes. Read the paper. Pres Bush said in the State of the Union, I will not wait until the threat is imminent. Obama merely redefines imminent.

  5. MikeN says:

    Where does Dallas rank on the Toure scale? Or should we say where does Toure rank on the Dallas scale?

    Here’s what he said about drone strikes back on December 20th, 2012, seven weeks ago:

    Touré insisted that torture, and drone warfare, are not making America safer. Nor, he said, do those tactics provide defense officials with actionable intelligence. “It wrecks the soul of America,” Touré said.

    TOURE NEBLETT: We’re at war with al Qaeda right now, and if you join al Qaeda, you lose the right to be an American. You lose the right to due process. You declare yourself an enemy of this nation, and you are committing treason. And I don’t see why we should expand American rights to people who want to kill Americans, who are working to kill Americans, who are committing treason. This is not criticizing the United States. This is going to war against the United States.

  6. sargasso_c says:

    Refining, “enemy combatant” was always a bad idea.

    • Rick says:

      Yeah next thing you know the MPAA will be demanding drone strikes on people who download Iron Man 2 on a P2P network.

  7. MikeN says:

    In the Quirin case, the FBI had apprehended an American citizen in plainclothes on American soil, and the group was not actively engaged in an attack. Yet the President had them taken into military custody as an enemy combatant. The Supreme Court was OK with that. So doing things to people overseas is going to be legal.

  8. bobbo, anti-authoritarian yet still democratically oriented pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    Jake says:
    2/6/2013 at 11:45 am

    Well, this just makes me feel all safe.
    No right to trial, no right to habeas corpus. No right to due process and no right to a trial of your peers. Damn, what world do we live in now? I feeling like splitting from the system.

    Just “Jake’s” a ‘domestic terrorist’, kill him now.
    [Drone Click-Hellfire Missile]

    /////////////////// Gee Jake, and all other Head in the Sand Liberals====>all you have to do to continue to be irrelevant is NOT go a war zone, NOT join an enemy combatant group actively setting roadside bombs and such, NOT wrap your head in a Turban and Learn Arabic, and NOT send emails and twitters advocating the overthrow and subjugation of the American Government and People.

    I haven’t found that too hard to do. But ever watchful and fearful…when the ball of unintended consequences and power overreach gets closer to an assault on innocent victims (ftn 1), let me know. I’ll reassess then. (((ftn 1: collateral damage–means picking your friends/parents with an eye to hellfire dropping in from above.)))

  9. MikeN says:

    Not only are they quoting from Hamdan v Rumsfeld, they are quoting from Clarence Thomas’s standalone concurring opinion! The one liberals hated the most.

  10. MikeN says:

    former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith – who provided the legal authorization for the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program – went to the New Republic to celebrate that Obama was not only continuing the core Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism, but even better (from his perspective), was strengthening those policies far beyond what Bush could achieve by transforming Democrats from opponents of those policies into supporters.