Justice Department Memo Approved Killing of Awlaki

It gave the CIA the necessary written go-ahead
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2011 9:45 AM CDT
Justice Department Memo Approved Killing of Awlaki
A 2008 file photo of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.   (AP Photo/Muhammad ud-Deen, File)

It's no secret that the White House gave the CIA its blessing last year to kill Anwar al-Awlaki despite his US citizenship, and the Washington Post today fleshes out more details on the move. It says the Justice Department analyzed the legal ramifications—specifically Awlaki's right to due process in the Constitution—and wrote a secret memo authorizing the kill. Without that memo to provide legal cover, the CIA likely would not have acted.

The newspaper doesn't have the memo itself, only the general rationale supporting it: “What constitutes due process in this case is a due process in war,” an administration official tells the Post. Because Awlaki was actively trying to coordinate attacks on Americans and was unlikely to be captured by Yemen, he was fair game. As for the second American killed in the attack, Samir Khan, the CIA did not know he was in Awlaki's convoy. But even if his presence was known, it would not have stopped the attack because he, too, was considered a "belligerent." Bloggers hashed out the pro-and-con arguments yesterday. (More Anwar al-Awlaki stories.)

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