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