U.S. officials weigh drone attack on American citizen

Suspect believed to be directly responsible for deadly attacks against U.S. citizens overseas
Associated Press
Feb 10, 2014


The case of an American citizen and suspected member of al-Qaida who is allegedly planning attacks on U.S. targets overseas underscores the complexities of President Barack Obama's new stricter targeting guidelines for the use of deadly drones.

The CIA drones watching him cannot strike because he's a U.S. citizen. The Pentagon drones that could are barred from the country where he's hiding, and the Justice Department has not yet finished building a case against him.

Four U.S. officials said the American suspected terrorist is in a country that refuses U.S. military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him. And Obama's new policy says American suspected terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, creating a policy conundrum for the White House.

Two of the officials described the man as an al-Qaida facilitator who has been directly responsible for deadly attacks against U.S. citizens overseas and who continues to plan attacks against them that would use improvised explosive devices.

The officials said the suspected terrorist is well-guarded and in a fairly remote location, so any unilateral attempt by U.S. troops to capture him would be risky and even more politically explosive than a U.S. missile strike.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday he would not comment on specific operations and pointed to Obama's comments in the major counterterrorism speech last May about drone policy.

"When a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens, and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot, his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a SWAT team," Carney said, quoting from Obama's speech last year.

Under new guidelines Obama addressed in the speech made to calm anger overseas at the extent of the U.S. drone campaign, lethal force must only be used "to prevent or stop attacks against U.S. persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively." The target must also pose "a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons" — the legal definition of catching someone in the act of plotting a lethal attack.

The Associated Press has agreed to the government's request to withhold the name of the country where the suspected terrorist is believed to be because officials said publishing it could interrupt ongoing counterterror operations.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the classified drone targeting program publicly.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., complained last week that a number of terrorist suspects were all but out of reach under the administration's new rules that limit drone strikes based on the target's nationality or location. Two of the U.S. officials said the Justice Department review of the American suspected terrorist started last fall.

The senior administration official confirmed that the Justice Department was working to build a case against the suspected terrorist. The official said, however, the legal procedure being followed is the same as when the U.S. killed militant cleric and former Virginia resident Anwar al-Awlaki by drone in Yemen in 2011, long before the new targeted killing policy took effect.

The official said the president could make an exception to his policy and authorize the CIA to strike on a onetime basis or authorize the Pentagon to act despite the possible objections of the country in question.

The Justice Department, the Pentagon and the CIA declined to comment.

If the target is an American citizen, the Justice Department is required to show that killing the person through military action is "legal and constitutional"— in this case, that the Pentagon can take action against the American, as the administration has ruled him an enemy combatant under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, a resolution Congress passed a week after the 9/11 attacks to target al-Qaida.

"So little has changed since last year, when it comes to government secrecy over killings," said Amnesty International's Naureen Shah on Monday. "The policy is still the stuff of official secrecy and speculation, when it should be a matter of open debate and explicit constraints."

The administration says U.S. drones have killed four Americans since 2009, including al-Awlaki, who officials said was actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the three other Americans were killed by drones, but were not targeted. The three are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki; al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a native of Denver who was killed in Yemen two weeks later; and Jude Kenan Mohammed, who was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.

The case has galvanized congressional opponents of Obama's plan to transfer drones from the CIA to the Defense Department. Before the plan was announced, either CIA or Pentagon drones could go after terrorist targets, even if they were U.S. citizens. The CIA could also fly drones in areas where host countries might object. But by law, the Pentagon can only strike in war zones, in countries that agree to U.S. counterterrorism action or in lawless areas like parts of Somalia where that government's security forces cannot reach. Even then only al-Qaida-linked suspects can be targeted.

"It is very clear that there have been missed opportunities that I believe increase the risk of the lives of our soldiers and for disrupting operations underway," Rogers said last week.

U.S. officials said both Senate and House appropriators have blocked funding that would transfer the CIA's stealth RQ-170 drone fleet to the Pentagon. Some lawmakers want the White House to first come up with a fix for targeting suspects in areas where the Pentagon is banned from operating — either by leaving some part of the CIA operation running or by granting the Pentagon authority to strike covertly despite the location — meaning they could legally deny the operation.

Lawmakers like Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., have also objected to the shift to the Pentagon, arguing that the CIA has more experience flying drones. U.S. officials say Pentagon chiefs defending their drone program in closed congressional session last week pointed out that the same cadre of Air Force pilots fly both the CIA and the Pentagon drones.



The Big Dog's back

Do it!


Only a complete moron would want to give the government the right to kill citizens without a trial. Oh look there's one now.

Stop It

The more we let them (them being the ones we elect..dem or repub, doesn't matter) do whatever 'they' want, the more rights we lose.

Just like this: http://stopthedrugwar.org/chroni...

The fourth amendment is supposed to make this illegal. No knock warrants are breaking and entering at the very least. Dogs sniffing your person, car or home without a warrant is illegal search and seizure.

Take back our rights.


Only a complete moron would side with an American who is a suspected member of Al Qaeda. Oh look, there's one now.


The key word here is "suspected" This is the US, not some third world cesspool like you want where people are considered guilty till proven innocent in a court of law. Here we are innocent till proven Guilty no matter how much you hate it. You may enjoy countries that make citizens disappear without trial but the rest of us like the fact ideologues such as yourself do not have the say over life and death of our citizens without PROOF. (Proof is a lot like facts so i see why you would hate it).
Weird how you progressives are all against the death penaulty till your god wants to murder someone, Whats up with that? And why relax the rules on terrorist immigrating here? I bet your all for that, Your god said so.
Only a complete moron would support a president who sends his military halfway across the world to spread "Freedom" and rights while supporting him to take away those same right here. Oh look there's one now.

Darwin's choice



Don't you want to punch coasterfan in the vagina? I know I do!



According to him:

His first wife divorced him, took him for everything and he's since remarried.

You might be wondering 'why?'


LOL @ coaster! You guys act like this is going to happen in Ohio!


Re: "like this is going to happen in Ohio!"

And in the name of "national security" why could it not?

Just hope that a loved one doesn't become collateral damage.

"Oops! Sorry Mr. deertracker" - The POTUS.

Peninsula Pundit

Oh,please, you didn't just use the hackneyed, 'Well if it happens to your mother/sister/aunt/etc., you'll sing a different tune then!' did you? Puh-lease. Better to not post any reply than that crapola.


Re: "Oh,please (snip)"

So you're OK with armed drones flying over U.S. air space in the name of "national security"?


Yes, the president does have the authority to use military force against American citizens on US soil—but only in "an extraordinary circumstance," Attorney General Eric Holder
Again the key word is suspected and without a trial of any sort which our Constitution guarantee's.
Why are we fighting overseas, Is it just retribution for 9/11 or the official word that is to bring freedom from brutal dictators who violate their citizens rights by killing them without trial? This country is not just a group of borders. It is a country because we have rights afforded to us by the law of the land that protect the citizens from foreign and domestic terrorist who would like to take those same rights away from us. Now comes the question, are we truly a country of rights and freedom when our own government decides to take those same rights away for security? The terrorist want to destroy our country, that takes destroying our rights. Guess who is a bigger danger to our rights the terrorist or the government.


Re: "You guys act like this is going to happen in Ohio!"

Bet you said the same when we first heard about gov't recording foreign phone calls, and copying everything online in some other countries.... Then it was OK to do if one end of the call or online message was in the USA... Now we know they are doing these things on all calls and online usage here. Drink deep of the gov't made kool-aide.

Go read about a slippery slope or letting the camel put his nose in the tent.


Re: "suspected member,"

Yea, to h*ll with Constitutional due process for an American citizen.

What the @#$%, under the Patriot Act and the NDAA, "suspected," citizens can be held indefinitely without a writ of habeas corpus.

And the hypocritical progressives scream about rights.

The Big Dog's back

How about you pooh going over to Somalia and check his credentials. I don't want our military risking their lives for a "American" terrorist do you? Dust him.


Why don't you go over to Somalia. You love dictatorships, The dictator is black, You support the killing of citizens without trial, You support the dictator sqaushing civil rights. You would fit right in.

JMOP's picture

Could be why Obama wanted gitmo closed. He wanted running targets. The thrill of the hunt!

JMOP's picture

Let me guess, Iran?

Steve P

Due process, the constitution clearly doesn't apply to the most open administration in history. Has any of these Americans been charged with treason, if so were they given a trial, has congress passed the war powers act? One of these acts must apply for this government to kill an American. The messiah and his far left supporters surely has changed their tune.

The Big Dog's back

Maybe you should bring him back to stand trial. You, doneagain, pooh, grumpy.


I suspect Big dog of anti American ideology. That's all it takes for your god to murder someone. Thanks for bringing the true face of progressivism forward by showing your nothing but a murderous thug.
I seriously wonder what you will do if a republican tries the same things. Your a hypocrite so i see you acting like you done approve, Sorta like you do with Bush but you and I both know you love him and care nothing for civil rights.

The Big Dog's back


Dr. Information

Constitution? Due process? Nah, not Obama.

Here is the real question and ask any M.E. vet. America has so many rules and regulations about combat and its not even funny. We can't fire here, we can't shoot this person or on this building, FEARING we may cause injury or death to POSSIBLE innocent people. Are these people all innocent? No but we take the cautious route every time. However, now this administration wants to kill a guy whom they THINK has been aiding terrorists with a drone? What about this entire thing isn't ironic.

The other ironic part is that Obama is going to loosen the rules applied to those who have been known to aid terrorist or terrorist groups, so they can get into our country and become citizens easier. IRONY at its best and why are not more American's outraged?

JMOP's picture

Exactly Doc! Why aren't we Americans more outraged?

When the middle east Arab spring was happening, my thought was...look at the assembly of the people. They don't wait to get permits, they also could be shot on site, but it never stopped them.

The scary thing is, what we know about the wrong doings of this administration, we get upset and look the other way, what are the things we don't know about? Would we accept it eventually? I sure hope not.


If bush had suggested this all you right wing wacko's would be arguing the other way! It is all partisan and no other reason!!!

I am positive Cheney would have backed it !! LOL


Disrupt and divide
Thanks entirely to us
al-Qaida is winning


If the Constitutional professor-in-Chief and his fascist cronies say that it's OK, it must be.

H*ll, he's ordered the killing of the children of American citizens without due process overseas; why not?

"The Drone That Killed My Grandson":

"The missile killed him, his teenage cousin and at least five other civilians on Oct. 14, 2011, while the boys were eating dinner at an open-air restaurant in southern Yemen."

"Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces."


The above might make a good bedtime story for Sasha and Malia. And the CIA lived happily ever after.


The Big Dog's back

Bring them back for trial pooh. The only thing holding you back is fear and common sense.


Re: "Bring them (snip)"

Yea, to h*ll with the concept of "innocent until proven guilty;" just kill, kill, kill eh?

Just follow your CIA masters like your Prez.

The Big Dog's back

Bring them back! Show your true patriotism and BRING THEM BACK.


Re: "Bring (snip)"

So what was Abdulrahman crime?

Bet you'd like to 'pull the trigger' and murder a few of 'em huh, derpy?

Wash your hands in blood and embrace the hate. Good lil' Obamabot.

The Big Dog's back

Let's bring back waterboarding.


What makes you think it stopped? Obama has kept everything else bush started, tax cuts for what 3 or 4 years after being elected on the promise of stopping them, patriot act and NDAA, he extended and expanded, recording phone calls he expanded, online recording he did the same. What makes you think he stopped waterboarding? Do you think he just killed them and all those folks around them, innocent or not, without trial, instead of trying to get information out of them? Which is better, getting intelligence that can help those on the ground, or killing them, without trial, and all those around them, innocent or not?


Re: "instead of trying to get information out of them?"

Numerous former intelligence people I've heard are livid that we're wasting opportunities.

IMO, payback will be a b*tch.

We wonder: Why do they hate us?

Through our CIA directed drone program and with it, the killing of innocents, we're helping to create new martyrs and terrorists almost each and every day.

The CIA helped to get us into a war in SE Asia. They can almost certainly help us get involved in another even bigger one.


Remind us again why you hate Bush?


"Will Obama Kill Unknown American With Secret Memo?":

"President Barack Obama's administration has kept secret the legal justification for such strikes on Americans, as well as the internal procedures to be followed in making the decision."


How EXACTLY is the Obama admin. and the Star Chamber different?


You rightwing dingbats really need to get a clue. You don't want suspected terrorists held without a trial but you don't want your due process to happen in the U.S. and you don't want Gitmo closed. You don't want Americans targeted even though they are plotting to kill innocent Americans. What about their rights? You have no problem sending someone else's kid to be killed in a far away location and you just love war but have no plan to fight in a war. WTF?


Re: "You don't want Americans targeted even though they are plotting to kill innocent Americans."

How do you know? All the deliberations and decisions are done in SECRET.

You want the President to make the decision on which American is to be killed?

Answer this:

Why was 16 yr. old Abdulrahman killed and what was his crime?

Dr. Information

says the person who defended the Boston bombers claiming that something aint adding up. Hypocrite.

Darwin's choice

Just put hillbilly clinton in charge of protecting him, problem solved!


What is the U.S.' 'official' foreign policy? Can anyone tell me?

You CAN'T, because under this Jamoke-in-Chief WE DON'T HAVE ONE!

Want a truly ‘traditional’ American foreign policy?

Here ya go -

"Guest Post: How To Dismantle The American Empire":


After we dismantle the Military Industrial Complex and curtail the power of the CIA, we won't need to sit around scratching our butts trying to figure out: Why do they hate us?

Ned Mandingo

What kind of people are running our government? CIA criminals thats who. Why is it ok to bomb people indiscriminately on the other side of the world.
GO AHEAD NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER, KILL AWAY. I think the president should start with ordering a drone strike on Langly , Va