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Homeland Security

Justice Dept.: Legal for US to Kill al-Qaida Americans Abroad

by VOA News February 05, 2013

A leaked confidential memo from the U.S. Justice Department says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders actively engaged in planning operations to kill Americans.

The 16-page memo provides a rationale behind the government's use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects.

It says an 'informed, high-level official' must first determine the targeted person poses an 'imminent threat of violent attack on the United States.' The memo also specifies that capturing the person must be deemed infeasible, and the attack operation against the person must be consistent with applicable law-of-war principles.

On Monday, U.S. senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking that he provide Congress with the secret legal documents that outline his authority to kill Americans in counter-terrorism operations overseas. The lawmakers said the documents are needed for proper oversight of the executive branch.

Drone strikes have increased abroad against al-Qaida suspects. Some of these strikes have targeted U.S. citizens, including alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan.

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