The Obama administration justified using drones to kill Americans suspected of terrorism overseas by citing the war against al-Qaeda and by saying a surprise attack against an American in a foreign land would not violate the laws of war, according to a previously secret government memorandum released today. The memo provided legal justification for the September 2011 killing in Yemen of Anwar Al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda leader born in the US, and another US citizen, Samir Khan. An October 2011 strike also killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, al-Awlaki's teenage son and also a US citizen.
The memo, written by a Justice Department official, said the killing of al-Awlaki was justified under a law passed by Congress soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The law empowered the president to use force against organizations that planned, authorized and committed the attacks. Al-Awlaki had been involved in an abortive attack against the United States and was planning other attacks from his base in Yemen, the memo said. It said the authority to use lethal force abroad may apply in appropriate circumstances to a US citizen who is part of the forces of an enemy organization. The memo was released thanks to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the New York Times. Click for more. (Read more Anwar al-Awlaki stories.)