A formerly undisclosed Justice Department memo was leaked to NBC News. This document, titled Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force, outlines the Obama Administration’s legal basis for the targeted assassination of American citizens. The memo was leaked just before John Brennan goes before the Senate for his confirmation hearings as the new CIA Director.
Three American citizens have been killed overseas thus far. In September of 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed by a missile strike in Yemen. Weeks later al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman, was killed in Yemen as well. The White House has declared the justification for these killings as “legal”, “ethical”, and “wise”. They were all thought to be terrorists, or at least an ‘associated force’.
The detailed meme codifies a three-part test for assassination to take place. This test is done by the President & other intelligence officials in the administration. Targets must pose an immanent threat, capture must not be feasible, and the strike must adhere to “law of war principles”.
The ACLU and NY Times are currently suing this administration for this proposal. Their criticism involves the ambiguous language and important fact that these decisions are carried out exclusively by the executive branch. There is no judicial oversight or mention of the 5th Amendment that guarantees all Americans citizens the right of Due Process. Some say these provisions are destroying this Amendment.