'Secret US memo laid out justification for Awlaki hit'
'NY Times' reports document completed in June 2010 argued legality of hit on al-Qaida operative despite int'l law, US citizenship.
By JPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
October 9, 2011 06:25
2 minute read.
Anwar al Awlaki_311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A secret document discussing the legality of killing al-Qaida operative Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen found that his assassination would only be lawful if he could not be taken alive, The New York Times reported on Saturday, citing sources who had read the document.
Awlaki, a US citizen who lived in Virginia before leaving the United
States shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, was the first US citizen who the
White House authorized US agencies to kill since the al-Qaida attacks on
New York and Washington a decade ago. Legal experts who have long
criticized a US government program to kill members of al-Qaida abroad as
a breach of international law say the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki last month may also have broken US law.
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fact that (Awlaki) was a dual US-Yemeni citizen means that he had
extra protections under the US constitution than he would not have had
if he was just a Yemeni citizen," said Mary Ellen O'Connell, an
international law professor at the University of Notre Dame's law
school. "So the president has done something in my view that is highly
questionable under our own Constitution."
The 50-page memorandum completed in June 2010 reportedly justified the operation
despite an executive order banning assassinations and international laws
prohibiting such activity.
The document was tailored
specifically to the case of Awlaki and did not seek to set a precedent
for similar such operations, according to the report.
Alwaki was a legal target for assassination because he was part of
al-Qaida's war against the US, he posed a significant threat to US
citizens and Yemeni authorities were not taking steps to or were unable
to bring him to justice, the document purportedly found.
Awlaki, identified by US intelligence as "chief of external operations"
for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was killed in a CIA drone attack
in a remote Yemeni town last month.
He had been implicated in a botched attempt by AQAP to bomb a US-bound
plane in 2009 and had contacts with a US Army psychiatrist who killed 13
people at a US military base the same year.
US authorities had branded him a "global terrorist" and last year
authorized his capture or killing, but Sanaa had previously appeared
reluctant to act against him.
Eloquent in English and Arabic, Awlaki encouraged attacks on the United
States and was seen as a man who could draw in more al-Qaida recruits
from Western countries.
US President Barack Obama said last month that the killing in Yemen of Awlaki was "another significant milestone" in efforts to defeat al-Qaida and its allies.
"This is further proof that al-Qaida and its affiliates will have no
safe haven anywhere in the world," Obama said, adding that Awlaki's
death was a result of the government of Yemen joining international
efforts against the militants.