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Homeland Security

Attorney General Defends Rationale for Killing American Terrorists

by VOA News February 05, 2013

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has explained the Obama administration's rationale behind legally allowing 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.

Holder spoke after the leak of a confidential Justice Department memo on the government's use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects. Holder said the government only conducts actions in a way that abides by federal and international law.

'Our primary concern is to keep the American people safe, but to do so in a way that is consistent with our laws and consistent with our values,' he said. 'We have, as a basis for action that we take, a congressional statute that allows us to operate against al-Qaida and associated entities, not only in Pakistan or not only in Afghanistan, but in other parts of the world.'

Holder said the targeted suspects must pose an 'imminent threat' of violent attack on the United States. He also specified that capturing the suspect must be deemed infeasible.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that President Barack Obama takes his responsibility in conducting the war against al-Qaida terrorists very seriously, asserting that the government's use of remotely piloted aircraft to target terrorists is necessary to prevent attacks on the United States.

'We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing, actual threats to stop plots, prevent future attacks and, again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise,' said Carney.

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

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

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