U.S. government memo lays out legal case for deadly drone strikes against American citizens


It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so. Will Rogers

The Obama administration is giving the world more reason why no sovereign nation should allow a U.S. citizen inside its borders. A drone attack on that U.S. citizen will be an attack on that country!

Pete Yost of the Associated Press reports that:

An internal Justice Department memo says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaeda leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans.

The document, reported Monday by NBC News, provides a legal rationale behind the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes against al-Qaeda suspects.

The 16-page document says it is lawful to target al-Qaeda linked U.S. citizens if they pose an “imminent” threat of violent attack against Americans, and that delaying action against such people would create an unacceptably high risk. Such circumstances may necessitate expanding the concept of imminent threat, the memo says.

As if FBAR and FATCA weren’t enough. Now the U.S. wants to send drones against certain U.S. citizens abroad. (Query whether “Homelanders” are also subject to execution. – only kidding.)

Who knows what the U.S. government might believe. This is a government that:

– was certain that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction;

–  believes that virtually all U.S. citizens abroad are “tax cheats”;

At this point, it seems clear the U.S. government  is capable of believing anything. This is why judicial review should be required of any decision to send drones into sovereign airspace to kill U.S. citizens (if it is to be allowed at all). This issue is a natural for the American Civil Liberties Union. And yes, right on cue, the article notes that:

The American Civil Liberties Union said the document is “profoundly disturbing.”

“It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances,” the ACLU said.

The document says that the use of lethal force would not violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution when a targeted person is an operational leader of an enemy force and an informed, high-level government official has determined that he poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the U.S.

The document said the courts have no role to play in the matter.

“Under the circumstances described in this paper, there exists no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutional considerations. It is well established that ’matters intimately related to foreign policy, and national security are rarely proper subjects for judicial intervention,”’ the white paper said.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” NBC reported the memo as saying.

So, what this means is:

The Obama administration wants to kill U.S. citizens based on its belief that they are a threat to the United States. The administration does NOT want their decision to be reviewable in the courts.

How is the issue of  “threat to the United States”  to be determined?

It is obviously arbitrary.

Perhaps the Obama administration can get the IRS to devise a new information return, designed to help determine whether  a U.S. citizen abroad is a threat to national security. They can design the appropriate questions. It can be called:

KillBar – The Information Return Designed To Determine Whether U.S. citizens Should Be Killed – Non-Willful fine for failure to complete – $10,000.00

What about the issue of sending drones into the sovereign airspace of other countries?

The U.S. does not seem to be considering this aspect of the problem. Would the Government of Canada allow the U.S. to send a drone into Canadian airspace to kill a U.S. citizen in Montreal?  Sound far fetched?

The general issue of drones in a democracy was recently considered as part of a Legal Theory Workshop at the University of Toronto law school. The use of drones has also been studied by both the law schools at Stanford University and NYU. Not that it matters, but the Stanford/NYU study – “Living Under Drones” – noted that U.S. drones kill civilians and provoke hatred (as Ron Paul notes the cost of hatred is very high) and stated that:

As the report notes in its executive summary: ‘In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.’

Here is a video based on the NYU/Stanford study:

The drone program is one more reason why no country should allow U.S. citizens inside its borders. Why invite the “Drone attack”?

Conclusion: The Obama administration has gone completely out of its mind! This should be a “wake up call” for the rest of the world!

6 thoughts on “U.S. government memo lays out legal case for deadly drone strikes against American citizens

  1. renounceuscitizenship Post author

    Some interesting comments from the National Post article. Most comments are in favor of the Obama initiative. Here are some dissents:

  2. John Brown

    Salon: “DoJ memo: It’s legal to kill Americans with drones”


    From the article:

    “The ACLU’s Jaffer called the limits to U.S. killing authority set out in the memo ‘so vague and elastic that they will be easily manipulated.’ Jaffer goes on to detail the specific reasons why, as he told Isikoff, he finds the content of the document ‘chilling,’ including his belief that its key legal arguments ‘don’t stand up to even cursory review.’”

  3. John Brown

    Wired: “More Than 50 Countries Helped the CIA Outsource Torture”


    From the article:

    “A new report from the Open Society Foundation details the CIA’s effort to outsource torture since 9/11 in excruciating detail. Known as “extraordinary rendition,” the practice concerns taking detainees to and from U.S. custody without a legal process — think of it like an off-the-books extradition — and often entailed handing detainees over to countries that practiced torture. The Open Society Foundation found that 136 people went through the post-9/11 extraordinary rendition, and 54 countries were complicit in it.”

    “The full 54 countries that aided in post-9/11 renditions: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. The Open Society Foundation doesn’t rule out additional ones being involved that it has yet to discover.”

    1. renounceuscitizenship Post author

      The New York Times has taken the initiative to write a very good article on the “Drones Issue”.


      See the following excerpt touching on how the drone program is generating more and more anger:

      “Anger at America

      In the days afterward, the people of the village vented their fury at the Americans with protests and briefly blocked a road. It is difficult to know what the long-term effects of the deaths will be, though some in the town — as in other areas where drones have killed civilians — say there was an upwelling of support for Al Qaeda, because such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.

      Innocents aside, even members of Al Qaeda invariably belong to a tribe, and when they are killed in drone strikes, their relatives — whatever their feelings about Al Qaeda — often swear to exact revenge on America.

      “Al Qaeda always gives money to the family,” said Hussein Ahmed Othman al Arwali, a tribal sheik from an area south of the capital called Mudhia, where Qaeda militants fought pitched battles with Yemeni soldiers last year. “Al Qaeda’s leaders may be killed by drones, but the group still has its money, and people are still joining. For young men who are poor, the incentives are very strong: they offer you marriage, or money, and the ideological part works for some people.”

      In some cases, drones have killed members of Al Qaeda when it seemed that they might easily have been arrested or captured, according to a number of Yemeni officials and tribal figures. One figure in particular has stood out: Adnan al Qadhi, who was killed, apparently in a drone strike, in early November in a town near the capital.

      Mr. Qadhi was an avowed supporter of Al Qaeda, but he also had recently served as a mediator for the Yemeni government with other jihadists, and was drawing a government salary at the time of his death. He was not in hiding, and his house is within sight of large houses owned by a former president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and other leading figures.

      Whatever the success of the drone strikes, some Yemenis wonder why there is not more reliance on their country’s elite counterterrorism unit, which was trained in the United States as part of the close cooperation between the two countries that Mr. Brennan has engineered. One member of the unit, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed great frustration that his unit had not been deployed on such missions, and had in fact been posted to traffic duty in the capital in recent weeks, even as the drone strikes intensified.

      “For sure, we could be going after some of these guys,” the officer said. “That’s what we’re trained to do, and the Americans trained us. It doesn’t make sense.”

  4. renounceuscitizenship Post author


    See the following comment by the Deputy Director of the ACLU on this issue:

    “One of the most important questions here — perhaps the most important — is not what the legal standard is but who ultimately decides whether the standard is satisfied in any given case. Who decides that a particular person presents a threat sufficient to justify the government’s summarily killing him? The Justice Department contends that the Constitution permits this decision to be entrusted to an “informed high-level official” — with no judicial review before the killing or even after. This is wrong and dangerous.”


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