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And then there were four…

The US government now formally admits that it has killed four Americans in drone strikes, while continuing to assert that it has the right to do so and that it is ‘consistent’ with American law.

In his letter to Congressional leaders, Mr. Holder confirmed that the administration had deliberately killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who died in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. Mr. Holder also wrote that United States forces had killed three other Americans who “were not specifically targeted.”

The American involvement in Mr. Awlaki’s death has been widely reported, but the administration until now had refused to confirm it. Likewise, Mr. Holder confirmed the government’s role in the deaths of Samir Khan, who was killed in the same strike, and Mr. Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who died in another strike. The letter disclosed the death of a fourth American named Jude Kenan Mohammad but gave no further details.

Mr. Holder defended the actions, saying they were consistent with American law and taken only after careful consideration. “Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during the current conflict, it is clear and logical that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted,” he wrote.

Critics were not assuaged. “The Obama administration continues to claim authority to kill virtually anyone anywhere in the world under the ‘global battlefield’ legal theory and a radical redefinition of the concept of imminence,” said Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International. “President Obama should reject these concepts in his speech tomorrow and commit to upholding human rights, not just in word but in deed.”

The murdering of three of them were already known but the death of the fourth Jude Kenan Mohammad in Pakistan is new information.

I wonder what impact this will have on Anwar al-Awlaki’s father’s case against the US government to stop the targeted killing of his son that was dismissed back in 2010. Now that the government has admitted that they targeted and killed him, his father’s suit may be revived though I am not hopeful that he will win. A federal judge has already asked the government what impact this new disclosure has on the lawsuit that the killing was unconstitutional and a hearing has been set for July 19.

Comments

  1. dmcclean says

    The issue is exigency. The issue is not citizenship. The issue is whether actual exigency exists. The issue is not the use of drones as opposed to other weapons. The issue is whether actual exigency exists.

    There probably was not actual exigency in one or more of the 4 cases under discussion. So make that case, or ask the questions to investigate that, or link to investigations that have been undertaken. Simply repeating the claim that this is illegal because of the weapon used and the citizenship of the person killed while declining to discuss counterexamples showing exigency to be the issue bewildering to me, especially the citizenship part.

    In an earlier thread several commenters (possibly including Prof. Singham, I can’t recall and am having trouble locating the post through google) agreed that — depending on what it saw — the Cleveland Police could have used an indoor drone to fire potentially lethal ammunition at Biswanath Halder, the perpetrator of a 2003 hostage taking incident in the Peter B. Lewis building. This poses a dilemma: either firing in the Halder incident would have been justified merely because of his immigration status (which I find to be a repugnant idea) or the issue in cases such as this is not citizenship or weapon used but is the existence of actual exigency.

  2. trucreep says

    Drones and US citizenship are each emphasized for a reason. We’re focusing on drones because they raise new questions that haven’t been answered, and they’re being treated the same as older technology (similar to how the government abuses outdated cyber-security laws to call looking at public information “hacking” or wiretapping laws to claim they can read our electronic communications as they see fit).

    Citizenship is emphasized because it gets people to pay attention and have people think of the issue in a way that they haven’t before. It’s unfortunate but true that we can disassociate ourselves from something the less we think it has to do about “us.”

    To your main point, that this is about exigency…The problem is that the government can’t or won’t answer that (the Obama Administration’s new definition of “imminent” comes to mind). We can’t even begin to talk about exigency until we address the insanely ridiculous issue of what even constitutes an imminent threat.

    The only arguments being made regarding the type of weapon (drones) I sort of touched on already, but issues of sovereignty could come into play there. The argument regarding citizenship would deal with constitutionality, civil rights, yadda yadda. So even if the whole questioning of the legality of drones issue was as ridiculous as you made it out to be (it isn’t), it would still have valid grounds to say the whole thing is illegal.

    Urhrhrh tl;dr I mean it just seems like you are really missing the point!!

  3. kevinalexander says

    The thing that worries me is that what goes around comes around. When others start to use their own drones to kill the inconvenient in America the Americans will be understandably outraged but no one will feel any sympathy.
    The drones used now are big and expensive but they are just stone tipped spears compared to what’s in the technological pipeline. Very soon we ( and I mean you and me personally ) will be able to cheaply buy little machines that will fly to someone we don’t like and kill them.

  4. dmcclean says

    I totally agree that the Obama administration is playing “insanely ridiculous” word games and stonewalling tactics trying to redefine “imminent” to mean something it clearly doesn’t mean. So let’s aim our righteous indignation at them for that, instead of for these other silly reasons which you essentially concede are a publicity stunt.

    Citizenship is emphasized because it gets people to pay attention…

    I honestly have no idea what a few of these sentences are getting at, I’m hoping you can elaborate:

    We’re focusing on drones because they raise new questions that haven’t been answered, and they’re being treated the same as older technology (similar to how the government abuses outdated cyber-security laws to call looking at public information “hacking” or wiretapping laws to claim they can read our electronic communications as they see fit).

    To what new questions are you referring? The only question I have seen on this topic is “ZOMG you means they can killz us with robotzes?” Before you can show what those questions are and why they require new regulations, your analogy to other abuses is unfounded. For example, please explain how and why you distinguish killings with unpiloted aircraft from killings with unpiloted cruise missiles that have been in use for ~25 years.

    The only arguments being made regarding the type of weapon (drones) I sort of touched on already, but issues of sovereignty could come into play there. The argument regarding citizenship would deal with constitutionality, civil rights, yadda yadda.

    I don’t understand the connection between the location of an aircraft’s pilot onboard that aircraft or elsewhere and “issues of sovereignty”, which makes it difficult for me to interpret this sentence as anything other than a flyby buzzword strike. Could you explain? As far as the link between citizenship and “constitutionality, civil rights, yadda yadda”, that link is nowhere near as strong as people think it is. Almost all of those rights are protected by constraints on how the US government may operate, constraints that apply worldwide and regardless of the nationality of the person against whom they operate. It’s an extremely common misconception, especially on the right, that citizenship confers the protections of the bill of rights but this is not the case.

    Urhrhrh tl;dr I mean it just seems like you are really missing the point!!

    Right back atcha.

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