OBAMA: Here's When It's OK To Kill An American Citizen With A Drone

Barack Obama drone speech

In a major speech on U.S. counterterrorism policy Thursday, President Barack Obama laid out his administration’s legal framework for drone strikes, including those that target American citizens with legal force. 

The speech came one day after the Obama administration declassified information about the 2011 drone strike against Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen who led external operations for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. 

On Thursday, Obama laid out the circumstances in which he considers it legal for the U.S. government to target American citizens like Awlaki. 

Here’s the relevant excerpt: 

This week, I authorised the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But 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

That’s who Anwar Awlaki was – he was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S. bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab – the Christmas Day bomber – went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, and helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack. His last instructions were to blow up the aeroplane when it was over American soil. I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorised the strike that took out Awlaki.

Obama then conceded that the targeting of Americans “raises constitutional issues that are not present with other strikes.” He added that he has asked his administration to review proposals to extend legal oversight of drone strikes, including establishing a special court or independent oversight panel to evaluate lethal attacks overseas. 

NOW READ: The Full Text Of Obama’s Speech

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