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‘Kill List’ Document Outlines When US Can Target Its Own Citizens in Drone Strikes

February 5, 2013

This article by Andrea Germanos is re-posted from Common Dreams.targetedkilling_memo_0

A “profoundly disturbing” Justice Department document obtained by NBC News outlines when the U.S. can put its own citizens on a “kill list” to be targeted in drone strikes.

“This is a profoundly disturbing document, and 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 before or after the fact,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said in a statement.

From the white paper:


Describing problematic rationale of the document, Jameel Jaffer, ACLU’s Deputy Legal Director, writes:

The paper’s basic contention is that the government has the authority to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen if “an informed, high-level official” deems him to present a “continuing” threat to the country. This sweeping authority is said to exist even if the threat presented isn’t imminent in any ordinary sense of that word, even if the target has never been charged with a crime or informed of the allegations against him, and even if the target is not located anywhere near an actual battlefield. […]

Even more problematic, the paper contends that the limits on the government’s claimed authority are not enforceable in any court. […] Without saying so explicitly, the government claims the authority to kill American terrorism suspects in secret.

Speaking on Democracy Now! on Tuesday morning, Jaffer added that this is not real transparency from the administration; this is a briefing paper, not a legal memo.

“This briefing paper is not a substitute for the 50-page legal memo on which it’s based. When the executive branch seeks to give itself the unilateral authority to kill its own citizens, a summary of its argument is no substitute for the argument itself. Among other things, we need to know if the limits the executive purports to impose on its killing authority are as loosely defined as in this summary, because if they are, they ultimately mean little. President Obama rightly released the Bush-era OLC torture memos and he should now hold his own administration to the same standard by releasing its killing memo,” Shamsi added in the statement.

Read the 16-page document here (pdf).  

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