US Mulls Drone-Killing Citizen Overseas Suspected of Terrorism

Avoid weddings in isolated locations for the time being.The Associated Press reports
this morning that the United States is considering whether to use
drones to execute an American citizen overseas suspected of
planning terrorist attacks as a member of al Qaeda. The problem is
not lack of due process, but rather the fact that the unnamed
country will not cooperate with the United States in allowing
military drones to fly over and bomb people. That creates a little
bit of a problem, the AP

The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he’s a U.S.
citizen and the Justice Department must build a case against him, a
task it hasn’t completed.

Four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in
a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that
has proved unable to go after him. And President Barack Obama’s new
policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be
killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum
for the White House.

Two of the officials described the man as an al-Qaida
facilitator who has been directly responsible for deadly attacks
against U.S. citizens overseas and who continues to plan attacks
against them that would use improvised explosive devices.

But one U.S. official said the Defense Department was divided
over whether the man is dangerous enough to merit the potential
domestic fallout of killing an American without charging him with a
crime or trying him, and the potential international fallout of
such an operation in a country that has been resistant to U.S.

Another of the U.S. officials said the Pentagon did ultimately
decide to recommend lethal action.

Officials believe capture is not possible due to the suspect’s
remote location. The DOJ is currently putting together its case so
that President Barack Obama can decide whether to order his death.
The AP notes the administration is using the same legal procedure
it used to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011. One
notable difference is that that the president has new guidelines
for drone strikes that require the strike be necessary to stop
future attacks on Americans and that no other alternatives exist,
though given that there’s no oversight for such determinations
outside the executive branch, we’re all supposed to trust the
president to make the right decision. The Associated Press even
notes that the administration could just decide to carve out an
“exception” and authorize a CIA strike anyway.

The other, larger difference is that the Yemeni government has
permitted drone strikes in their country (though perhaps not for
too much longer
). One can imagine the potential fallout from a
US drone strike in a country that has been refusing to let us in,
particularly if bystanders end up getting killed, as tends to

Speaking of which, Jesse Walker
noted earlier
the launch today of Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy
Scahill’s new venture. It’s about how the National Security Agency
uses phone metadata to organize drone strikes and how it results in
innocent folks being murdered. What good timing.

from Hit & Run

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