If Americans living abroad are plotting an attack on the U.S., authorities can now legally kill them. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement yesterday, saying those colluding with al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization can be targeted “if there is an imminent threat to the United States and capturing them is not feasible,” Reuters reports.
This justification for extra-judicial killings comes just five months after the killing of Anwar al-Awaki, an American-born member of al Qaeda, in Yemen, in a drone attack. At the time, President Barack Obama and his administration had political, but not necessarily legal, justifications to offer civil liberties and human rights organizations who were uneasy with the assassination. This will no longer be a problem for the White House:
“Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen – even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al Qaeda in a foreign land – is among the gravest that government leaders can face,” [Holder] said.
“The American people can be – and deserve to be – assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws,” Holder said.
(…) Court approval for such strikes was unnecessary, he said, adding “the president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war – even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen.”