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. Dallas says:

    Yes, I concur with the decision

    • Jonesy says:

      Too late Dumbass, the job of first bootlicker is already taken.

    • deowll says:

      If the gov. charges someone with a crime and they refuse to be arrested then taking them down is one thing but that didn’t occur. There were no charges and nothing even resembling due process. No attempt at making an arrest was made. The President simply ordered a hit on an American Citizen because he didn’t like his religious and political views.

      If he can do it this guy he can do it to Dallas or anyone else.

      I don’t approve of the Cleric nor do I share his views. I think the world is a better place without him. I’m still not in favor of the President ordering hits on American Citizens like he was Stalin.

      • Dallas says:

        Like I said before, I don’t subscribe to your hairball slippery slope arguments.

        This was done to go after american terrorists. Why do Teapublicans support American terrorists that kill white babies?

        • Phydeau says:

          I agree with you often Dallas, but not on this one. The government deciding that it can kill Americans without trial or conviction is so against the American way, I can’t see how anyone can support it.

          • Dallas says:

            Well, you’re a voice of reason and I can see your point of first setting up a trial and conviction.

            However, I trust my government that if a multi-discipline government agency determines that an imminent attack by a verified senior operational leader is under way I support action.

            Imagine how upset McCain would be during the inquiry that the Golden Gate bridge could have been averted by taking down one person known to be a senior operative?

          • Uncle Dave says:

            If there is anything this blog, No Agenda, history, etc has shown it’s that we can’t trust the government.

          • Dallas says:

            Uncle Dave… I’m not a tin foiler but your point is taken.
            However, there are time where you have to trust the government. When Baby Bush went to war with Iraq, the same tin foil sheeple in here celebrated that.

            In this particular case, the limitations seem quite clear to me. In addition, I trust President Obama to make the hard choices.

          • MikeN says:

            And how do you propose trying and convicting someone at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan?

          • MikeN says:

            >the Golden Gate bridge could have been averted by taking down one person known to be a senior operative?

            Yup, kill engineer Joseph Strauss, and there is no bridge. One drone would have done the trick. Curse that President Wilson for not responding, though in his defense, the bridge construction does not get underway for another 20 years.

        • WTF - Where's The FOOD? says:

          That’s priceless! DUMB-ASS said he/she trusted “the government”! Let’s read it again, shall we?

          However, I trust my government that if a multi-discipline government agency determines that an imminent attack by a verified senior operational leader is under way I support action.

          I don’t think even BOBO is that fucking stupid.

    • Jonesy says:

      How are those boots tasting, Dallas?

      Your just pathetic.

    • Innocent Bystander says:

      Murdering 16 year old citizens neither charged or convicted of any crime is just fine as long as it makes Dallas feel safe. I won’t even get into the collateral kids murdered.

      You are the best example of what’s wrong with this country. I hope you sleep well at night.

      • jpfitz says:

        Best comment. I am starting to believe that Americans are being either being drugged or watching too much tele. The way Americans rationalize murder is unsettling. Coming to a network soon will be a real life program modeled after “The Running Man”. The audience will cheer for blood and death from above.

  2. Mextli says:

    November 18, 2009

    Attorney General Eric Holder defends his decision to try five suspected 9/11 terrorists in New York.

    No drones in Gitmo I guess.

    • msbpodcast says:

      Droning Gitmo would be like asking a sane jar-head general* to aim a howitzer at his testicles and then asking him to pull the lanyard.

      As Patton said: “…no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

      That happens to be why suicide bombing is ultimately doomed to defeat, unless your definition of victory is nihilism.**

      *) Yeah, I know, but we can assume that be the time them reach the rank, they’re smart enough pass for sane.

      **) Mullah Omar and the Taliban are a perfect case in point. They had turned Afghanistan from a Paris of the Orient into a joyless pile of rubble long before the bombing started on 7 October 2001.

  3. BigBoyBC says:

    “if they are believed to be…” believed to be! What happened to “proven to be”?

    • msbpodcast says:

      …“proven to be”

      It takes too long, costs too much and it won’t make a loud bang.

      The 1%ers in this country like loud bangs.

      • WTF - Where's The FOOD? says:

        Besides, the Constitution is nothing but a goddamn piece of paper. It’s not like anyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law or anything.

        Even Obama knows that one. (But if you’re a dumb ass lib you will probably try and argue that one TOO!)

  4. dusanmal says:

    True face of Progressive left: who cares for laws, Constitution, morals,… they want to do it – they do it. And as Mextli noted – there is not even a consistency in those actions. For PC sake, let’s give all rights to (foreign) terrorists. And let’s kill without trial Americans (designated terrorists by the executioners)… By those actions alone one could conclude to whom Holder (and his boss) feel closer and identify with.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      There’s no memo regarding killing Arab Terrorists because everyone agrees with that policy.

      See the difference?

      I agree with the idea, still think it should be reviewed by a judge, special or otherwise. AND===someone should still be put in jail for not prosecuting the Bank Executives. That could be everyone just short of Obama. He’s the Chief afterall.

  5. Phydeau says:

    WTF, a “broader concept of imminence”??? Meaning “not imminent, we just feel like killing them.” No proof needed, BigBoyBC 🙁

    For the record: liberals don’t believe in killing people without a trial and conviction. Obama is more like Dubya in this case, as in a lot of cases. He’s basically a middle-of-the-road Republican, but today’s Republicans have gone so far off into the weeds (even Reagan is too liberal for them) that Obama looks like a commie to them.

    And BTW wackos… you were fine with this sh*t when Dubya was doing it.

    So sad to see our Constitution being trashed!

    • WTF - Where's The FOOD? says:

      NO BODY was “fine with it”! Let’s be clear here.

      At least “dub-ya” (W) had the sense to declare a WAR and then define who the combatants were. But not Obama! His position is now very clear: KILL ALL TERRORISTS suspected or NOT! And if that means killing AMERICANS then so be it.

      But I guess in your world, details like a presumption of innocence and Constitutional rights like a right to a fair trial only apply if you voted for more liberals.

      So you can blame “dub-ya” if you want. Seems like a great EXCUSE. He may have indeed got the ball rolling with regard to Constitutional erosion, and I do blame him for it. But it’s not like the ZEROS now in power are any better. With shit like this it seems the ZEROS are making things even WORSE! But then it didn’t take a crystal ball to see it coming either. All anyone has to do is look at HISTORY!

      • LibertyLover says:

        At least “dub-ya” (W) had the sense to declare a WAR and then define who the combatants were

        Which was also unconstitutional.

        Only Congress can declare war.

        • Dallas says:

          Don’t cloud the Obama recreational outrage here with a fact.

          The horror of killing an American terrorist about to commit a terrorist act is the outrage dujour.

          • LibertyLover says:

            I think you missed the whole notion of what the paper states.

            They don’t have to be “about” to commit an act of terrorism.

            They only have to be “suspected” to be “about” to commit an act of terrorism without any intelligence to back it up.

            The line is fine but distinct.

            Even the ACLU is asking, “WTF?”

            But, I guess this is the next step down the road to serfdom.

    • msbpodcast says:

      So sad to see our Constitution being trashed!

      Uh, as long as its not on US soil, its not our constitution that is being affected, its little brown- or yellow-skinned people hides and their constitution that is getting affected.

      The North Korean leadership and people are desperately paranoid, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re wrong.

  6. orchidcup says:

    I do verily believe that if the principle were to prevail of a common law being in force in the United States (which principle possesses the general government at once of all the powers of the state governments, and reduces us to a single consolidated government), it would become the most corrupt government on the earth.

    — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President
    Source: Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1800. 10:168

  7. god says:

    Though we rarely consider it in what passes for discourse here – I admit Phydeau’s notice of wackos prompts me to wonder how many are 2nd, 3rd generation fascist-minded sheeple.

    Were their daddies, grand-daddies just as obedient to the rituals of Father Coughlin, rants from George Wallace?

    Just askin…

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      Huh? Nothing much has changed in the Human condition/preoccupations/hopes/dreams/challenges/frustrations. Its why the earliest literature found speaks to us as clearly now as then.

      Only the toys change.

  8. Somebody_Else says:

    I honestly don’t care. If you hang out with bad folks you’re putting yourself at risk. It’s always been that way.

    Besides that, I’m all for droning religious nutbags. Obama can drone the Baptist church down the street from me… there’s definitely a few psychos in there.

    • msbpodcast says:

      The problem is that droning is not precise enough.

      What if it was your ass that was collateral damage?

    • jpfitz says:

      Holy Smokes! A Baptist hater or just a psycho killer. Get a grip man, it can’t be all that bad.

  9. denacron says:

    “She is a witch!!! Burn her!!!”

    Progress some years ahead…

    “She is an Al-Qaida!!! Drone her!!!”

  10. msbpodcast says:

    Right now, it seems to be limited to droning outside the US territorial boundaries.

    After all the drone can hardly be told to ask people for their papers/passport before launching a Hellfire missile, now can they…

    I can hardly wait for the drones to start killing people inside the US territorial boundaries.

    • Dallas says:

      Think of the jobs created for the personal Patriot Missle System (PMS) .

  11. MikeN says:

    To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

    Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and

    Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and

    Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and

    Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and

    Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

    Section 1 – Short Title

    This joint resolution may be cited as the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’.
    Section 2 – Authorization For Use of United States Armed Forces

    (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    • NobodySpecial says:

      Any objections if you allies follow suit?
      There are a few of our own terrorists living happily in Boston that we would like to drone strike.

      Do we bring our own drones or can we buy yours?

      • MikeN says:

        Of course their are objections. What is at issue isn’t whether Pakistan approves of drone strikes against it, but whether it is OK under US law for US to use drones. Of course there are potential consequences like other countries droning America. Russia has conducted assassinations of Russian citizens on US soil.

  12. MikeN says:

    Congress affirms that—
    (1) the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al‐Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;
    (2) the President has the authority to use all
    necessary and appropriate force during the current
    armed conflict with al‐Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use
    of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C.
    1541 note);
    (3) the current armed conflict includes nations,
    organization, and persons who—
    (A) are part of, or are substantially supporting, al‐Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or
    (B) have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A); and
    (4) the President’s authority pursuant to the
    Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law
    107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority
    to detain belligerents, including persons described in
    paragraph (3), until the termination of hostilities.

  13. MikeN says:

    From the memo:

    the condition that an operation 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. Given the nature of, for example, the terrorist attacks on September 11, in which civilian airliners were hijacked to strike the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, this definition of imminence, which would require the United States to refrain from action until preparations for an attack are concluded, would not allow the United States sufficient time to defend itself.

    Thus the Iraq War is justified, according to Obama.

    • Dallas says:

      Quit blaming the Iraq war fiasco on President Obama.

      Whaaa whaaaa. 🙁

      • LibertyLover says:

        Barry-Boy could have walked out whenever he wanted. It became his War when he changed his mind after taking office. Just like Johnson.

        • Dallas says:

          You don’t just walk out of a war . Even a liberal like me understands that . Shame on you

        • MikeN says:

          Doesn’t matter who owns the war, just saying that the Obama Drone Memo makes clear the case for going to war with Iraq was valid as preventing an imminent attack.

          • LibertyLover says:

            Good Point. I guess Bush was right all along!

          • jpfitz 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.

            Or is this just about Bush’s doctrine. Attack first ask questions later.

  14. MikeN says:

    Also in the memo, the Obama Administration quotes Hamdi v US and Hamdan vs Rumsfeld. Delicious. Please update your relevant blog posts accordingly.

  15. Somebody says:

    This shit would have been absolutely intolerable if that monster Bush was doing it but since we have that saint and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Lord Messiah Obama at the helm, at least half of the idiots are OK with it.

    The other half were OK with it when Bush was doing it.

    But, as this is a necessary step towards the goal of absolute despotism, the realist, I suppose, must at least bow to its inevitability.

    But you, gentle reader, must realize that you are the enemy this has been repared for.

  16. Enemy_Of_The_State says:

    Attorney General Eric Holder is a criminal.

  17. MartinJJ says:

    A president without the consensus of the larger public aka a dictator. It would be real nice if everyone just said screw you with your fabled enemies and your drones just killing at random, creating new enemies.

    Drone kill statistics:

  18. mharry860 says:

    Now I remember why I hardly ever comment on here. Half of you people are hypocritical idiots, I’ll leave it up to you guys to figure it out.

  19. Jake says:

    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]

  20. Mextli says:

    I think this says it all.

    Speaking to the New York Times, Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project, denounced the memorandum as “a profoundly disturbing document”, adding: “It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances. It summarises in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority: the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them, far from a recognised battlefield and without any judicial involvement.”

    • Dallas says:

      Now you go running to the ACLU !

      Oh does this story have a long tail.

      • Mextli says:

        I’m not running to anyone Bubba.

        This all happened under the so called leadership of your deity at 1600 Pennsylvania ave.

        Just another step in destroying the country.

  21. jpfitz says:

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

    • Dallas says:

      Whaaaa whaaaaa

      • 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.

        • 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.

  22. 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.


  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.)))

  29. 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.

  30. 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.



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