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Yesterday the Department of Justice released a redacted version of the legal memo authorizing the extrajudicial killing of US citizen Anwar al Awlaki.
As the ACLU's Brett Max Kaufman writes, the memo raises more questions than it provides answers. But what's there is chilling.
Importantly, the memo  doesn't include the government's discussion about what makes a terrorism suspect an "imminent threat," and the lengths to which the government must go to try to capture the suspect before it is deemed infeasible — both central standards in the government's claim to be able to kill Americans. (Those may appear in a February 2010 memo Barron also wrote to authorize Awlaki's killing.) For all we know, Obama's team watched a YouTube video of an Awlaki sermon and looked at a map of Yemen before deciding it was drone time.
But the government did leave unredacted a hint of the standard for review — and it is pretty shocking. Rather than speaking of probable cause — the standard a court would use before approving a mere wiretap on Awlaki— the memo instead weighs whether "a decision-maker could reasonably decide that the threat posed by [Awlaki]'s activities to United States persons is 'continued' and 'imminent.'" Not only does the memo approve bypassing due process, but it sets the standard unbelievably low for a decision taken with a lot of advance notice.
On DemocracyNow!, the ACLU's Hina Shamsi discussed the memo, the significance of its release, and what we still don't know. You can watch that clip embedded above.
Oh, and there's this:
First known attempt to kill Anwar al Awlaki was Dec. 2009. Legal memo justifying US plot to kill him is dated July 2010.
— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) June 23, 2014