A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
Note also that ‘an associated force’ is a term so elastic as to be meaningless; it can be any person or organization that has ever exchanged an email with someone defined as being a friend of the gardener of the second cousin removed of a member of Al Qaeda. Ergo, if you are assassinated in this way, it seems likely that you will be declared retroactively guilty, even if you weren’t the original target. And, man, is it ever hard to find and pay a lawyer from the grave.
For example, Jubair Ahmad can easily be argued to fall under this memo:
Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening. The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).
What is the “material support” he allegedly gave? He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit — “a number of terrorist logos.”