US government admits to killing four American citizens with drones

United States Attorney General Eric Holder has informed Congress that four American citizens have been killed in Yemen and Pakistan by US drones since 2009.

It has been widely reported but rarely acknowledged in
Washington that three US citizens – Samir Khan, Anwar al-Awlaki and
his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki – were executed in Yemen by
missile-equipped drones in 2011. With Holder’s latest admission,
however, a fourth American – Jude Kenan Mohammed – has also been
officially named as another casualty in America’s continuing drone
war.

Since 2009, the United States, in the conduct of US
counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and its associated
forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically
targeted and killed one US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki
,” the
letter reads in part. “The United States is
further aware of three other US citizens who have been killed in
such US counterterrorism operations over that same time
period
,” Holder said before naming the other victims.

These individuals were not specifically targeted by the
United States
,” the attorney general wrote.

The news of the admission broke Wednesday afternoon when New
York Times reporter Charlie Savage published the letter sent from
Holder to congressional leaders in a clear attempt to counter
critics who have challenged the White House for falling short of US
President Barack Obama’s campaign plans of utmost transparency.
Upon a growing number of executive branch scandals worsened by the
Department of Justice’s recently disclosed investigation of
Associated Press journalists, Holder wrote that coming clean is an
effort to include the American public in a discussion all too often
conducted in the shadows cast by the US intelligence community.

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft (Reuters / Lt Col Leslie Pratt)

The administration is determined to continue these extensive
outreach efforts to communicate with the American people
,”
continued Holder. “To this end, the president has directed me to
disclose certain information that until now has been properly
classified. You and other members of your committee have on
numerous occasions expressed a particular interest in the
administration’s use of lethal force against US citizens. In light
of this face, I am writing to disclose to you certain information
about the number of US citizens who have been killed by US
counterterrorism operations outside of areas of active
hostilities
.”

The letter, dated Wednesday, May 22, was addressed to Sen.
Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Drone strikes have become a signature counterterrorism tool used
by the Obama administration and his predecessor, President George
W. Bush, and have been attributed with killing roughly 5,000 persons abroad, according
to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). But under the covert and
protective umbrella of the Central Intelligence Agency, little has
been formally acknowledged from Washington as to the details of
these strikes.

As part of the vaguely defined ‘War on Terror,’ the US has
reportedly waged drone strikes outside of Afghanistan where the
Taliban once harbored al-Qaeda. In recent years, those strikes have
targeted towns in neighboring Pakistan, as well as Yemen, Somalia
and perhaps elsewhere.

But despite growing criticism over escalating use of drones, the
president and his office has remained adamant about defending the
operations.

It’s important for everybody to understand that this thing
is kept on a very tight leash
,” Obama said last January, adding
that his administration does not conduct “a whole bunch of
strikes willy-nilly
.”

Others have argued quite the opposite, though, and have opposed
these drone strikes over the lack of due process involved and the
habit of accidently executing civilians in the strikes. When
researchers at Stanford University and New York University
published their ‘Living Under Drones’ report last September, they
found that roughly 2 percent of drone casualties are of top
militant leaders. The Pakistani Interior Minister has said that
around 80 percent of drone deaths in his country were suffered by
civilians.

Earlier this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) led a marathon
filibuster on the floor of Congress to oppose
the CIA’s drone program and demand the administration explain to
elected lawmakers why the use of unmanned aerial vehicles is
warranted in executing suspects, often killing innocent civilians
as a result.

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (Reuters / Jason Reed)

Of particular concern, Paul said, was whether or not the Obama
administration would use the 2011 Yemen strike as justification to
kill American citizens within the US. For 13 hours, he demanded the
White House respond.

I rise today to begin to filibuster John Brennan’s
nomination for the CIA
,” Sen. Paul said. “I will speak until
I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the
alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is
important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no
American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first
being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty
by a court
.”

One day after the filibuster, both Attorney General Holder and
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reached out to Sen. Paul to
say the president lacks the authority to issue such a strike within
the US. With this week’s letter, however, Holder admits that at
least four Americans have met their demise due to US drones. He
also explains why the administration felt justified in using UAVs
to execute its own people.

Al-Awlaki repeatedly made clear his intent to attack US
persons and his hope that these attacks would take American
lives
,” wrote Holder. “Based on this information, high-level
US government officials appropriately concluded that al-Awlaki
posed a continuing and imminent threat of violent attack against
the United States
.”

Later, Holder says the decision to strike al-Awlaki was “not
taken lightly
” and was first put into plan in early 2010.
Additionally, Holder said the plan was “subjected to
exceptionally rigorous interagency legal review
” and that
Justice Department lawyers and attorneys for other agencies agreed
that it was the appropriate action to take.

According to Holder, the senior al-Awlaki and Mr. Khan were
killed in the same September 2011 drone strike in Yemen. The
following month, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Anwar Al-Awlaki was killed
in a strike in the same country. Mohammed, a North Carolina
resident born in 1988, was killed by a drone likely in November
2011 within a tribal area of Pakistan. Mohammed was indicted by a
federal grand jury in 2009 for conspiracy to provide material
support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and
injure persons in a foreign country, and was considered armed and
dangerous by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Both Khan and the
older al-Awlaki were suspected members of al-Qaeda and were
affiliated with the group’s magazine, Inspire.

Last February, friends of Mohammad told a North Carolina
newspaper that they believed he was dead.

Farhan Mohammed says he heard in November that his friend
was killed in a drone strike
,” Raleigh’s WRAL News reported in
2012. “Jude Mohammad’s pregnant wife was hysterical about her
husband’s death and called her mother-in-law in the Triangle to
break the news, according to Sabra. The US government hasn’t
confirmed Mohammad’s death, but the people who knew him in North
Carolina say it’s probably true
.”

Holder declined to explain why either Mohammad or the teenage
al-Awlaki were killed. President Obama is expected to discuss
America’s drone program at an address in Washington on
Thursday.

This article originally appeared on : RT