US authorises drone strikes on citizens who ‘pose imminent threat’

THE US government has authorised the killing of American citizens as part of its controversial drone campaign against al-­Qaeda – even without intelligence they are actively plotting to attack a US target, according to a Justice Department memo.

The unclassified memo, first obtained by NBC News, argues that drone strikes are justified under American law if a targeted US citizen had “recently” been involved in “activities” posing a possible threat, and provided there is no evidence suggesting the individual “renounced or abandoned” such activities.

In the unclassified Justice Department paper posted by NBC on its website, the authors laid out three conditions that the executive branch should meet before a drone strike is ordered.

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A top US official must determine that the targeted person “poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States,” cannot be captured, and that the strike “would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles,” the department said.

The memo is drawing new attention to the 2011 strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born alleged leader of al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate. American investigators linked him to a botched plot to blow up a US airliner on Christmas Day, 2009.

The document was disclosed ahead of a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing tomorrow on the nomination of John Brennan as head of the CIA head. Mr Brennan is likely to face questioning on drone policy at the hearing.

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