US admits killings of Americans

US admits killings of Americans

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
US admits killings of Americans

Drone operators fly an MQ-9 Reaper training mission from a ground control station in New Mexico. REUTERS photo

The United States formally said for the first time on May 22 that it had killed radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and three other U.S. citizens in anti-terror strikes abroad.

The acknowledgement that Washington targeted al-Awlaki in Yemen in September 2011 and that the three others were not directly targeted, but were also killed, came on the eve of a speech on terror policy by President Barack Obama.

 The September 2011 killing of Awlaki in a U.S. drone strike stoked concern because he and Samir Khan, a Pakistani-American who also died in the strike in Yemen were U.S. citizens who had never been charged with a crime.

Letter to leaders

It prompted a constitutional debate in the United States over whether the president had the power to order the assassination of a U.S. citizen, if he was an accused terrorist, without affording him due process.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged the killing of al-Awlaki in a letter to congressional leaders. “Since 2009, the United States, in the conduct of anti-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda and its associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed one U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki.

“The United States is further aware of three other U.S. citizens who have been killed in anti-terror operations over that same time period: Samir Khan, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammed.”

“These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States.” At the time of his killing, U.S. officials acknowledged that al-Awlaki had been killed but refused to confirm that it was carried out by a CIA drone. Holder laid out the most public justification yet for the killing of al-Awlaki, positing that he was an active, and not just a rhetorical threat to U.S. security. Obama was to give a speech at the National Defense University yesterday, laying out anti-terror policies for his second term expected to touch on the secrecy surrounding the covert drone program and his new effort to close Guantanamo Bay prison.