Someone Just Leaked Obama's Rules for Assassinating American Citizens

For over a year now journalists, civil liberties advocates, and members of Congress have been asking the Obama administration to release internal memoranda from the Office of Legal Counsel justifying Obama's targeted killing program. While the White House continues to deny that such memos exist, NBC is reporting that it has acquired the next best thing: A secretish 16-page white paper from the Department of Justice that was provided to select members of the Senate last June. 

Michael Isikoff reports that 

[t]he 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the  September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.  

[T]he confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described  by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches.  It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.    

Instead, it says,  an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American  has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is  no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.” 

You can read the full memo below the jump. 

Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Q... by

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  • entropy||

    a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot

    Oh. Well that's comforting. I didn't even imagine it'd be that bad. They could at least pretend to have solid intel.

  • wlion||

    til I saw the check which said $7346, I have faith ...that...my best friend was like actually bringing in money parttime on-line.. there sisters roommate haz done this 4 less than 13 months and a short time ago repayed the mortgage on their apartment and got a top of the range Citroën 2CV. we looked here, http://xurl.es/jlfwz

  • Mr Whipple||

    http://xurl.es/jlfwz

    Spam.

    Malware detected.

  • Otisjay||

  • ||

    That's pretty much what I expected; Top Men decide who dies. Yay.

  • Agammamon||

    Well, at least we know procedures will be followed.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Substantive due process!

  • ||

    So much substance the transparency has downgraded to translucence....

    ....Most translucent administration in history!

  • Mr Whipple||

    It's what they call "candy coat".

  • Andrew S.||

    So in other words, it's "whoever the fuck we want to kill, we'll find an excuse". Like that wasn't obvious to everyone.

  • Andrew S.||

    Also, since I need to laugh in order not to cry: The URL to this article is hilarious.

  • nicole||

    Ha, thanks for pointing that out. Sweet.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Santorum

  • ||

    That was awesome.

  • entropy||

    No, that's what I expected.

    This seems more like "whoever the fuck we want to kill, we don't need an excuse".

    Or, to be fair, "the fact we want them dead is excuse enough!"

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    It either isn't obvious to the vast number of people who voted for this administration, or more vote fraud was committed rhan I thought possible.

  • Invisible Finger||

    You're leaving out the possibility that the majority of voters favor such a policy (for whatever reason).

  • Ken at Popehat||

    1. "Imminent" means pretty much whatever they want it to mean.

    2. "Informed, high-level official" reminds me of this:

    Bureaucrat: We have top men working on it now.

    Indy: Who?

    Bureaucrat: TOP men.

  • Virginian||

    Yeah that's one of our in jokes around here.

  • sasob||

    1. "Imminent" means pretty much whatever they want it to mean.

    All words mean pretty much whatever they want them to mean - or haven't you ever noticed?

  • OldMexican||

    It refers, for example, to what it calls a "broader concept of imminence" than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.


    Also known as the "Eek! Step on it!" doctrine.

  • freeAgent||

    Whoever leaked this is a hero.

  • MJGreen||

    Who is soon to be thrown in solitary confinement and (eventually) prosecuted.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Most transparent administration ever.

  • ||

    Every lie so transparent you can see through several at once.

  • John||

    Instead, it says, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.”

    And capture would be infeasible. That is kind of an important point that Reason leaves out. The real problem here is not so much the memo. It is the fact they didn't follow it. I have yet to see any evidence that Al Walaki or whatever his name was couldn't be captured. Yet, they whacked him anyway.

    If you read the memo, strictly speaking it is probably right. If you have someone who is actively waging war against the US from foreign soil and the host country refuses to do anything about him making capture impossible, you probably can kill him. But that is going to be a rare circumstance. I can't think of a single place on earth other than Iran or maybe North Korea where that could ever be the case. Any other country, if presented with such evidence is going to turn the guy over. And if they don't, they are effectively waging war on the US and the US is free to attack them in self defense.

    It is a nice memo and all. But as far as I am concerned it makes the case that the killing of Al Walaki was illegal.

  • Andrew S.||

    And if the host country says "show me some damn evidence first"?

  • John||

    You show it to them. We do it all of the time. Generally countries are very interested not to have terrorists operating within their borders because they really don't want to wage war against the United States.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    And if the host country says "show me some damn evidence first"?

    That's not the way the Pax Americana works.

    See: Afghanistan; Iraq; Haiti; Congo; Pakistan; Yemen; Mexico

  • John||

    The Pakistanis give us permission all of the time. They don't like the Taliban anymore than we do. Same with the Yemenis. And Afghanistan attacked the US and refused to do anything about the people who did it.

    Stop being stupid AC. You guys actually have a good case against Obama. But you are blowing it by saying stupid shit like this.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    The Pakistanis give us permission all of the time. They don't like the Taliban anymore than we do.

    Stop freely interchanging Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, John. Makes you look like you have no clue as to what the fuck you're talking about.

  • John||

    Shut the fuck up coward. You know what I mean. Do you honestly think that the Pakistanis don't give up permission to attack NW Pakistan? We have only been doing it for ten years. The point is that whoever we are attacking there, we are doing it the the host nation's knowledge and permission.

    Just be quiet for a while. The adults are talking.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Poor John-boy. I hate to put the stomp to your Freeper warboner, but permission gained by duress isn't really permission.

    Bush threatened to bomb Pakistan, says Musharraf

    "The intelligence director told me that (Mr Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the stone age'," Gen Musharraf was quoted as saying. The revelation that the US used extreme pressure to secure Pakistan's cooperation in the war on terror arrived at a time of renewed unease in the US about its frontline ally.

    Gen Musharraf told CBS he was stunned at the bluntness of the US approach in the aftermath of the attacks. "I think it was a very rude remark," he said. But he yielded to the request.

    Mr Armitage disputes the language used, CBS said, but he did not deny that Pakistan was put on notice to help America's war effort.

    Now go fap to some drone strikes.

  • dinkster||

    You know what I mean.

    It is suddenly so clear!

  • Inkblots||

    Unfortunately, you're wrong, John. Nothing in the white paper establishes that infeasibility of capture is required to carry out a targeted killing of a citizens. Look at the very last line: "It concludes only that the stated conditions would be sufficient to make lawful a lethal operation" -- sufficient, but not necessary.

    There is literally no restriction on presidential power anywhere in the memo, if this white paper accurately reflects it.

  • ertdfg||

    Infeasible... OR more risky to try to capture you than simply having a sniper/drone take you out.

    "Other factors such as undue risk to US personnel conducting a potential capture operation could also be relevant."

    Hey, a policeman at a TRAFFIC STOP has more risk than having a sniper take out one guy... so that would be ANY TIME THEY WANT wouldn't it?

    Do we have a definition of "undue" risk? No? And anything is riskier than shooting you in the head from a quarter mile away... we'll go with that option.

    Don't want "undue" risk here.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    make way for some warboners

  • Andrew S.||

    Predict the future! The person that leaked this, if found, will be

    (a) Hailed as a hero by the administration

    (b) Prosecuted under the espionage act

    (c) Killed in a drone strike

  • John||

    They are going to go after whoever leaked this. But the thing is that it is a pretty pedestrian memo. Anyone with even a good working knowledge of this stuff could have written it.

    The problem is not the memo. It is that it doesn't get them off the hook for killing Al Walaki.

  • Sevo||

    I'm sure it'll either pass un-noticed or be applauded by the Oboma-worshipping press, but it doesn't matter.
    The death penalty is at best controversial and where it is imposed, it is subject to all sorts of appeals in the hopes that someone not guilty of the crime isn't murdered by the state. Pretty sure these procedures come under the rubric of 'due process'.
    And then OASSHOLE decides HE'S perfectly capable of short-circuiting all those sorts of activities since his mama told he he's smart.
    Well, damn it, this is getting tiresome. We do not have a monarchy here last I checked, regardless of Obama's gignormous ego.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.

    They were on double secret probation.

  • John||

    But if I am actively fighting in a war against the US, the US can kill me. They don't have to try me. That is how war works.

  • Andrew S.||

    They were actively fighting a war against the US because the US said they were actively fighting a war against the US. Al-Awlaki was never shown to do anything but talk. Same with Khan (the magazine was nothing but talk). And that doesn't take into account Al-Awlaki's nephew... collateral damage I guess?

  • John||

    Now you are talking facts not law. Was Al Awlaki actually waging war? That is a hell of a good question and one this memo doesn't answer. If he was, the nephew is collateral damage.

    But it is not clear he was. And more importantly, it is not clear he couldn't have been captured. Again, the memo makes a good case the killing of Al Awlaki was illegal.

  • entropy||

    Now you are talking facts not law.

    Hence the need for due process. Facts need to be relevant to the process, these things need to be determined beforehand in a proper manner, not at the personal discretion of unaccountable bureaucrats.

  • John||

    Hence the need for due process.

    No. You either have a right to kill enemy combatants or you don't. Due process has nothing to do with it.

  • entropy||

    It matters how you determine who an enemy combatant is. We are not talking about combatants on a battlefield, or anywhere else for that matter, actively engaged in hostilities. Of course you can shoot them.

    You shoot them because they are running at you with a rifle. Or planting an IED. You have no idea who they are or if they are US citizens, and it wouldn't matter if they were. It's inapplicable.

    What this memo is about, is targeted killings. Tracking someone down and blowing up their house while they're sleeping.

    How do you know he's an enemy combatant? If he's a US citizen, he's entitled to due process (even if it's in absentia because he won't turn himself in to defend himself). You have to prove that to a jury.

    It is vital that there be a judicial component because that gives a tiny modicum of oversight and transparency. If you want to wack someone, a targeted killing aimed at a specific individual who happens to be a US citizen, you have to get the lawyers and possibly a jury on board. It can't just be at the arbitrary whim of some bureaucrat alone.

    As a US citizen, he is legally entitled to due process before the government executes him as guilty for a crime he may or may not have committed, hasn't been convicted of, and hasn't even been charged for.

  • sasob||

    You shoot them because they are running at you with a rifle.

    Or in the case of our illustrious Secretary of State, running away from you after having thrown away the rifle.

  • Andrew S.||

    How do you determine who is an "enemy combatant" then?

  • entropy||

    I think that question remains the same no matter how you go about the process.

    Either with due process or - as is now the case - without, we hope they have done a fair job determining who is an enemy combatant. That's the crux of the issue, I think.

    The burden of proof lies on the government to provide their case, and show us how they have determined who is an enemy combatant, so we may judge.

    By sidestepping the court process where that is supposed to happen, they've sidestepped the need to make an argument or even have one. Since we cannot know what their argument is, or whether it's any good, no one's to say if they even need one, or who they can't kill for whatever reason we don't know. And that's messed up.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    No. You either have a right to kill enemy combatants or you don't.


    But, that ends up falling into the realm of "We says they're enemy combatants. So, they're enemy combatants." You yourself noted that it isn't at all clear that Al Awlaki was. So, how do we establish one way or another whether he was or not?

  • entropy||

    If it's an issue of combatants on a battlefield, of course you can shoot combatants on a battlefield. You don't even know who they are, and you aren't going to find out.

    This situation applies to specifically targeting known individuals. In this case, before you target them, obviously (we hope) you have to know who they are and also have some decent reason to believe they are working with the enemy, before you actually target and kill them.

    If this is the case, I think the moment they become aware of this, they should try the person (in absentia if need be) to satisfy due process and have him formally declared killable. Then you can kill him whenever you can.

    I see no really valid reason to avoid due process. He does not need to be captured and read his miranda rights if he's gone over, he can be tried in absentia, since he won't present himself for trial and has fled the jurisdiction.

  • John||

    I think you can do that. But there is no legal reason why you have to. The devil here is in the facts. The memo is correct. If someone is in a foreign country plotting to attack the US and the host country refuses to stop them, the US can kill them.

    But so what? How often is that actually the case? It wasn't the case in Al Alwalaki. It is virtually impossible to come up with an example of this where the kill would be legal. You can only imagine far out scenarios.

  • entropy||

    But there is no legal reason why you have to.

    I disagree. The same legal reason you have to try and convict a thief for thieving before you throw him in jail for it. Or convict a murderer for murdering before you drop a bomb on him in his sleep.

    You can't just declare citizens to have committed crimes and then punish them for it without a trial. They have to be found, via due process, to be actually guilty first.

    To simply declare him a terrorist combatant is to operate on a presumption of guilt.

    As a US citizen, he is entitled to the presumption of innocence. If the government wants to kill him, the burden is on the government to provide proof to the public first.

  • Mike Laursen||

    Yes. I believe that's kind of written up in our Constitution thingee.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    THAT musty document?

  • Sevo||

    "I see no really valid reason to avoid due process."

    It's good to be king.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Slightly OT:

    Obama says assault weapons ban deserves a vote in Congress

    We should restore the ban on military style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines. And that deserves a vote in Congress, because weapons of war have no place on our streets," Obama said as uniformed law enforcement officers stood behind him at the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operation Center.

    "No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there's even one thing we can do, if there's just one life we can save, we've got an obligation to try," Obama said.

    Meanwhile, the police will be allowed to keep their "weapons of war" on our streets because they are special, trained, and perfectly willing to put the smackdown on your peasant ass.

    And Barry wants to save one life. Isn't that just the most precious thing ever? He bombs Pakistani and Yemeni children on a regular basis (killed more Paki kids in one shot than Adam Lanza did in Connecticut). He also wants to save just one life...unless you've been declared a terrorist/enemy combatant by secret evidence by his TOP MEN. Then you get droned.

    Fuck Barry. Fuck the electorate who put him in office. Fuck the power-fellators who make excuses for this tyrannical asshole.

  • John||

    Good luck with making red state Dems go on record on this issue. He is so stupid he makes Reid look smart.

  • ||

    I like that Mini-14s are specifically exempted from that dumb cunt Feinstein's bill. AR with 30-round mag: BABYMURDER MACHINE. Mini-14 with 3 10-round mags: NO DANGER AT ALL.

  • dinkster||

    He wants a vote for political reasons. He knows it won't pass. He is posturing for 2014 elections.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    But if I am actively fighting in a war against the US, the US can kill me.

    If they are "actively waging war" it shouldn't be too terribly difficult to provide evidence. No evidence, no legitimacy.

  • John||

    If they are "actively waging war" it shouldn't be too terribly difficult to provide evidence. No evidence, no legitimacy.

    I guess it would have been pretty easy to get an indictment against the entire Viet Cong or the North Korean Army. But that is now how war works.

    And remember this only applies where your capture is impossible. If you can be captured, under this memo, they have to capture you and try you. It is only when you are in a country that supports you and refuses to do anything and you are actively plotting against the US, which would effectively put the US in a state of war with the host country.

    The memo is not strictly speaking wrong. What is wrong is that there has never been any evidence that Al Walaki was actually plotting anything or that he couldn't be captured. Obama has hanged himself with his own memo. Somehow I am not surprised Reason missed that.

  • Sevo||

    "And remember this only applies where your capture is impossible."

    The SEALs murdered an un-armed OBL in bed; there is no reason he couldn't have been captured.
    If *he* can be captured, any other 'suspect' can be also. The rest is commentary, not fact.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Watch out, Obama just declared that every American citizen overseas is waging war against the US. Capturing them all wouldn't be feasible, so... I guess...

  • Calidissident||

    "I guess it would have been pretty easy to get an indictment against the entire Viet Cong or the North Korean Army. But that is now how war works."

    And is the current situation remotely comparable to that? The people we are targeting in drone strikes aren't soldiers on battlefields in war zones. Unless we're talking about Iraq (before the withdrawal) or Afghanistan, they're not in countries where we have armies stationed. You can't toss aside the Constitution simply by declaring someone an "enemy combatant"

  • ertdfg||

    "Other factors such as undue risk to US personnel conducting a potential capture operation could also be relevant."

    Define "undue" risk.

    Which is riskier; having some guys approach you with the intent to arrest you; or having a guy a mile away target a drone to blow you into pieces.

    I'm not sure what "undue" risk is, but any capture is much riskier than no capture... and therefore no capture is legal even if capture is possible.

    We'll just claim the risk if trying to capture you was "undue" risk... problem solved, kill anyone you want.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Sorry:

    IF THEY WEREN'T GUILTY, WHY DID THEY GET DRONED?

    The prosecution rests.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe.

    This must be why the First Brats get a round-the-clock armed security detail.

    Suck it, peasants!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    But if I am actively fighting in a war against the US, the US can kill me. They don't have to try me. That is how war works.

    What the fuck are you even trying to say? Get your fucking story straight, and stop conflating active battlefields with disgruntled crackpots. "THIS guy might not have been guilty, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep blowing people up anywhere on the globe, because WAR IS HELL AND THAT"S WHY WE LIKE IT!"

    You just can't bear the thought of America not running a global murderdrone network, can you?

  • XM||

    What is being done to punish the individual who leaked this information? How can we protect the president?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Man if you thought Bradley Manning had it rough

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    he's being besmirched!

  • Moridin||

    This is insanity!

    And we have been asking for this all along.

    It's almost like we know what the bastards are up to, or something.

  • SusanM||

    Don't worry. If it happens to you here's some helpful hints

    http://www.gocomics.com/tomthe.....2012/03/16

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    It's funny 'cause it's true!

  • Cliché Bandit||

    damn...funny but...not.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    * picture weeping statue of liberty *

  • waaminn||

    All I can say is, Welcome to the New Regime!

    www.ImAnon.tk

  • Mr Whipple||

    So, this Michael Isikoff wants to end up like Hunter S.

  • ||

    It would be politically correct to assassinate American citizens in foreign nations if it can be proven that they are aiding in terrorist attacks against the US mainland. But no person should be allowed to be murdered if they are planning to blackmail a powerful US politician, that policy would be wrong.

  • Andrew S.||

    Seriously? Our President is claiming the power to kill any American citizen he wants and your response is to bring up the damn Vince Foster conspiracy theory? Seriously?

  • Milburn97||

    like Edna replied I'm dazzled that someone able to get paid $5103 in a few weeks on the internet. did you read this webpage www.FLY38.com

  • Seamus||

    So why did NBC News put their watermark all over the memo? So they if someone published "their" copy without permission NBC could take legal action against them?

  • Government Hack||

    I'm sure it has as much to do with brand marketing than anything else.

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    Notice the memo references other memos that claim even greater authority to assassinate American citizens. Target doesn't even have to be associated with al-Qa'dia (first time I've ever spelled al-Qa'dia correctly).

  • ||

    "...an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.”

    How many times have I suggested that our elected officials who have taken oaths to defend and uphold our constitution and who violate that oath with impunity should be hanged? Suggested hell, I have said it outright many times in writing right here on these pages. I stand by that.

    Some 'high level' official could easily decide arbitrarily, under these guidelines, that I pose a threat of a violent attack. *nervously looks out window at the sky*

    FUCK THESE CRIMINAL PIECES OF SHIT.

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    soon that "high level" official will be a computer program... quite, the drone is listening to us.

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  • 63Marine||

    This is just the begining of things to come. The HNIC is getting ready to use the drones on America. He is totally out of control.
    Where are the true Patriots who will end this crap?

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