A copy of a confidential Justice Department 16-page memo obtained by America’s NBC News concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
It is thought that the leak may pose hurdles for the confirmation of John Brennan, the nominee for CIA director, who has been a strong proponent of the expanded practice of targeted assassinations to kill suspected terrorists wherever they may be.
The report, by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, offers insights into the government’s justification for killing American citizens in overseas drone strikes.
Reilly, Hersh and Stein, reviewing Isikoff’s article in the Huffington Post, highlight the white paper’s suggestion that such decisions would not be subject to judicial review.
They quote Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, who called the document “profoundly disturbing” and said it was “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”.
Earlier on Monday, a bipartisan group of 11 senators signed a letter formally requesting that the administration provide its legal justification for drone strikes to Congress.