In a case that offers a fascinating glimpse into the intricacies of the global anti-terrorism fight, the Obama administration is trying to find legal justification to kill with a drone strike an American citizen and al-Qaeda member, who is planning attacks against Americans overseas.
Because the administration issued stricter new targeting policies last year, the Justice Department must build a case against the unnamed American to strike with the CIA drones that are watching him closely in an undisclosed country.
The suspected American terrorist currently is in a country that won’t allow U.S. military action on its lands, according to an Associated Press report. Because the new drone policy maintains that suspected American terrorists overseas can only be killed by the military, not the CIA, the White House must take unusual measures to dispose of the suspected terrorist before he strikes.
U.S. officials told the AP that the man already has been directly responsible for deadly al-Qaeda attacks against U.S. citizens overseas. He continues to plan more attacks using improvised explosive devices.
Still, it’s not a certainty within the White House that the U.S. should risk killing an American without charging him with a crime. But the Pentagon did recommend killing the man, who is hard to access since he is well-protected in a remote location.
Last year the president said 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.” He also said the target must pose “a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.”
Last week, House Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., complained that because of the new rules a number of terrorist suspects were all but out of reach.
“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.