Human rights advocates were floored on Monday night when NBC News published the details of an alarming Justice Department memo detailing the protocol for sending drones after United States citizens.
It’s not as if they hadn’t suspected that the Obama administration’s top secret drone attack protocol contained some unsavory details. They just didn’t expect them to be so frightfully broad.
Put simply, the government believes that a lethal drone attack against an American citizen is justified if the targets are a) “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaeda or b) “an associated force.” If an American happens to be caught up with al Qaeda, someone like Anwar al-Awlaki, then well… they shouldn’t be surprised if they’re getting chased by drones.But what does “an associated force” mean? It seems like the guy who sells the terrorists bomb supplies would probably qualify, but what about the unknowing neighbor or the hired hand? Can we just kill them too in good conscience? Quite unfortunately, the government isn’t exactly sure.
“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. ”Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. …
It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”
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