WASHINGTON: The White House on Tuesday defended targeted drone strikes against American citizens abroad suspected of high-level terrorist activity, but declined to give detail about the criteria for ordering such an attack.
“Sometimes we use remotely piloted aircraft to conduct targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists in order to prevent attacks on the United States and to save American lives,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, to prevent future attacks and, again, save American lives,” Carney said. “These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.”
According to a newly disclosed Justice Department memo, administration lawyers found it is lawful to kill an American citizen if a “high-level” government official believes the target is an operational leader of al Qaeda who poses “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and if capture is infeasible,
“I would point you to the ample judicial precedent for the idea that someone who takes up arms against the United States in a war against the United States is an enemy and therefore could be targeted accordingly,” Carney said.
Defending President Barack Obama’s power to wage drone war, Carney said “[The president] takes his responsibility as commander in chief to protect the United States and its citizens very seriously. He takes the absolute necessity to conduct our war against al Qaeda and its affiliates in a way that’s consistent with the Constitution and our laws very seriously.”
The white paper is believed to be a summary of the reported classified memo that outlined the legal justification for the drone attack that killed two US-born citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan in Yemen in September 2011.