Dubbed the “kill Americans” memo in the somewhat feverish news cycle, a White House leaked missive has caused a bit of outcry on both sides of the aisle due to stated justification for using the already-controversial practice of drone strikes against American citizens.
The “kill Americans” memo is the latest development in what is perhaps the biggest critique of Obama from the left-leaning media, and the leaked confidential Justice Department document details practices for knowingly targeting US citizens with drones.
NBC News obtained a copy of the so-called “kill Americans” memo and explains how similar justifications have been used in the past as the practice of drone strikes increases under the Obama administration:
“The 16-page memo, 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 abroad, 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.”
The renewed drone strike controversy comes, the station notes, as White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan vies in hearings for a spot as CIA director. Last year, Brennan first defended the practice as “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense,” and, since, Attorney General Eric Holder has, NBC reports, “specifically endorsed the constitutionality of targeted killings of Americans,” noting that “an imminent threat of violent attack” makes the use of drones against Americans a constitutionally sound strategy.
According to the New York Times, the “kill Americans” memo states that “judicial enforcement of such orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”
The paper quotes Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. Shamsi decries the “kill Americans” memo as a “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 summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority — the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement.”
The Atlantic cites three justifications in the “kill Americans” memo for drone strikes against US citizens:
“1) That the target is a ranking Al-Qaeda figure.
2) That he or she poses “an imminent threat of violent attack” against America.
3) That capture is not ‘feasible.’ “
A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the “kill Americans” memo.