NBC news reporter Michael Isikoff has discovered an important confidential government document that reveals the Obama administration's highly controversial policies.
This 16-page Justice Department memo justifies the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be "senior operational leaders" of al-Qaida or "an associated force." Action can be taken against the individual even if there is no clear intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to against the U.S.
Yes. The government can now officially order the death of American citizens abroad without due process (Fifth Amendment anyone?). According to NBC, the Obama administration gave the document to the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last summer.
This Justice Department memo reveals the legal case of the drone strike carried out on October 14, 2011, in which Americans and suspected affiliates of al-Qaida, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, were killed.
Jay Carney, the White House spokesman defended these attacks and described them as “... legal, ethical and wise.”
The Justice Department memo contains a set of conditions that must be met before any action (killing) is done:
1. Some informed high official of US government has to believe that the American in question poses a direct threat to the US. No hard evidence needed.
2.The capture of the individual is not possible.
3.“Operation” (which is a nice way of saying "killing") would be done in a way consistent with the government’s laws and rules of war.
The implications of the document are unclear. Jameel d.Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), was quoted in Michael Isikoff's article saying:
“Basically, it [document] 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.”
In other words, the document's ambiguity and loose definition of terms could be used to justify controversial actions carried out by the government.
The ACLU is currently suing to obtain administration memos about the targeted killing of Americans.
Expect this document to be a hot topic later on in the week as John Brennan, President Obama's pick to lead the CIA, will be on the Hill for his confirmation hearing.
The full document is below: