A leaked document, written by Attorney General Eric Holder, says that multiple Americans have been killed in drone strikes since 2009.
1. 4 Americans Have Been Killed By Drones Since 2009
According to Holder's letter to Congressional leaders, 4 Americans have been killed by drones since 2009: Anwar al-Awlaki, Awlaki's son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and Jude Kenan Mohammed.
2. Only One of the Victims was "Specifically Targeted"
Holder wrote in his letter:
You and other Members of your Committee have on numerous occasions expressed a particular interest in the Administration's use of lethal force against U.S. citizens. In light of this fact, I am writing to disclose to you certain information about the number of U.S. citizens who have been killed by U.S. coutnerterrorism operations outside of areas of active hostilities. Since 2009, the United States, in conduct of U.S. counterterrorism operatins against al-Qa'ida and its associated forces...has specifically targeted and killed one U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqui. The United States is further aware of three other U.S. citizens who have been killed in such U.S. counterterrosim operations over that time period: Samir Khan, 'Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqui, and Jude Kenan Mohammed. These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States.
So, essentially, Holder's trying to make it seem that only one of the victims was specifically targeted. But, does that mean the US didn't know that these three Americans were in the vicinity of these drone strikes, or did they not care, since they were affiliated with terrorists? It's hard to say.
3. Who Were The Other Victims?
On July 22, 2009, a Federal Grand Jury in North Carolina indicted Jude Kenan Mohammad for conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons in a foreign country. Mohammad is at large and a federal warrant was issued by the United States District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina, Raleigh, North Carolina, for his arrest. SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS.
It should be mentioned that the FBI has an active alert out for a terrorist that has already been killed by US forces.
Samir Khan was the pakistani American editor and publisher of Inspire magazine, an English-language online publication that promoted terrorism. According to many reports, the Tsarnaev brothers learned how to create homemmade bombs using Inspire magazine.
Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqui is the son of Anwar Al-Awalki and was killed at the age of 16 in 2011 when he and nine others were killed in a CIA-led drone strike. The New York Times writes:
The next month, another drone strike mistakenly killed Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who had set off into the Yemeni desert in search of his father. Within just two weeks, the American government had killed three of its own citizens in Yemen. Only one had been killed on purpose.
4. The Legality on Launching Drone Strikes On Americans is Murky
Legally, there's a fine, gray, line regarding Americans and the use of drones against citizens. Holder, in his letter, cited a speech he gave at Northwestern University, where he spoke extensively about the legality of using drones on Americans. The New York Times summarized it, writing:
Mr. Holder, in a speech at Northwestern University Law School last year, laid out the administration’s basic legal thinking that American citizens who are deemed to be operational terrorists, who pose an “imminent threat of violent attack” and whose capture is infeasible may be targeted. That abstract legal thinking — including an elastic definition of what counts as “imminent” — was further laid out in an unclassified white paper provided to Congress last year, which was leaked earlier this year.
5. The Attacks Took Place In Yemen and Pakistan
It should be noted that the attacks didn't take place in the United States. Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed in the same drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen, and al-Awalki's son was killed in Yemen as well a few weeks later. Jude Mohammed was killed in Pakistan. None of the attacks took place on American soil. Recently, drones were used in the hunt for Christopher Dorner in Los Angeles, which prompted a fillibuster from Sen. Rand Paul, who spoke extensively about the issues of hunting Americans, on American soil, by using drones. He was worried about the dangerous precedent it would send and how the government determines who would be hunted using drones. Holder responded, writing:
It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.
Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Obviously the letter doesn't refer to the administration's policy on hunting American's on foreign soil, and it's clear that the Obama administration has no qualms about doing that. But, the Constitution doesn't allow the killing of Americans without due process. Sure, there were reasons to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, as Holder points out in his letter, but the unjust murder of al-Awalaki's son, who wasn't involved in terrorist activities, is a gross violation of an American's constitutional rights. The press secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, gave a chilling response to a reporter's question about the death of the 16-year-old kid:
ADAMSON: ...It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor.
GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.