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Home » Archives » December 2011 » Letter On "Targeted Assassination" of American Citizens

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12/30/2011: "Letter On "Targeted Assassination" of American Citizens"

To the Editor:

The Administration of President Obama has acknowledged a policy of "targeted assassination" of persons the government asserts are involved with terrorism, and is reported to have a secret “kill list." The killing of targeted people, and often innocent bystanders, by missiles from unmanned drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen has increased during the current Administration. We are assured that the use of drones in a sovereign foreign country, without charge, and without due process, conforms to both United States and international law. However, the details of the policies are secret. Many legal experts dispute the legality of targeted assassination, as does the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). No matter the reasons, we reject that that the end justifies this means.

Two American citizens were killed in Yemen on September 30, 2011, the Muslim cleric, Mr. Anwar al-Awlaki, and the Muslim magazine writer, Mr. Samir Khan, by a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) missle. Although stated that they supported al-Queda, the information to substantiate the claim is secret. Subsequently, on October 15, 2011, a missile killed two additional American citizens, Mr. al-Awlaki's teenage son, 16 year-old Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Awlawki, and his 17 year-old cousin Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Alwaki. The two apparently were at a dinner with 7 Yemeni friends, all of whom also were killed by the missile.

The use of drones by the CIA to carry out a military mission are violations of accepted "laws of war" and the U.S. Constitution. First, the United States is not at war with Yemen. Second, the CIA's civilian employees and civilian contractors are not lawful combatants and are not entitled to the combatant immunity that shields killing by the military. Third, American citizens remain protected by the U.S. Constitution when outside the United States. Fourth, the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states that no person shall be ”deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law”. Western countries have recognized due process since the British signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

The ACLU’s deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer stated, “The government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens should be limited to circumstances in which the threat to life is concrete, specific, and imminent.”

Roger deRoos,
San Juan Island Chapter, ACLU of Washington
Friday Harbor, Washington

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