Gov’t Can ‘Legally’ Kill Americans

    FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2010 file photo, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. A U.N. expert on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 launched a special investigation into drone warfare and targeted killings, which the United States relies on as a front-line weapon in its global war against al-Qaida. The civilian killings and injuries that result from drone strikes on suspected terrorist cells will be part of the focus of the probe by British lawyer Ben Emmerson, the U.N. rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights. His office announced the investigation in London.  (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

    U.S. Predator drone over Afghanistan. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP),Kirsty Wigglesworth

    A 16-page memo from the United States Justice Department exposes details of how the U.S. government can legally order the murder of American citizens if they are considered “senior operational leaders” of al Qaeda or an “associated group.” The document (PDF) says Americans can be killed even in the absence of an “active plot” to attack the United States. The finding sheds new light on the Obama administration’s aggressive use of drones in targeting al Qaeda. The employment of drones—considered by many to be redefining the front lines in the war on terror—is likely be a major topic of discussion in the upcoming hearing to confirm new CIA Director John Brennan.

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