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FBI wouldn’t exclude extrajudicial killings in the US

Published time: March 09, 2012 17:15
Edited time: March 09, 2012 21:16
The FBI director Robert Mueller (Reuters / Radu Sigheti)

The FBI director Robert Mueller (Reuters / Radu Sigheti)

United States Attorney General Eric Holder recently explained how the president can order the assassination of his own citizens abroad. But did his rationalization justify executions within the US? Apparently, the FBI wouldn’t exclude it.

Responding to a congressional inquiry this week on the rationale of assassinating Americans, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller affirmed that he himself isn’t too clear on the what Holder explained.

The attorney general addressed an audience at Northwestern University in Chicago this week with an explanation for US President Barack Obama’s killing of three American citizens overseas last year. Alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki and two other US-born citizens were executed in a drone strike last year in Yemen, a kill that the White House has been reluctant to discuss in detail until just recently. Speaking from Northwestern this week, Holder insisted, however, that the details the president acted on were "sufficient under the Constitution for the United States to use lethal force against a US citizen abroad.”

Following up on Wednesday, US Congressman Tom Graves, a Republican from Georgia, asked the FBI’s Mueller if Holder’s qualifications for an ordered kill could be applied domestically.

"I have to go back. Uh, I'm not certain whether that was addressed or not," responded an unsure Mueller.

Rep. Graves from there rephrased his inquiry, asking if, "from a historical perspective," the federal government has "the ability to kill a US citizen on United States soil or just overseas." Mueller once again suspended an explanation.

"I'm going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice," responded the director.

When prompted by Fox News to extrapolate on Mueller’s deferral, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department defaulted to Holder’s earlier address, simply repeating the attorney general’s insistence that US citizens outside of the US are fair-game for an Executive Branch-ordered assassination. Under Holder’s explanation offered at Northwestern, however, it could be inferred that even those on American soil aren’t excluded. Congress wants to know if that is the case and with the feds unsure themselves, it might mean President Obama himself has to put in his two cents so Americans know if they are eligible for one of his personalized assassination orders too.

Holder said that the US government believes an assassination on one of the country’s own can be carried out if the individual makes the criteria established under three qualifiers — the target must pose an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States, capture must be not be considered feasible and the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

Under the Obama-signed National Defense Authorization Act, of course, Americans considered by the government to be involved with a group expressing hostilities towards the US can be indefinitely detained. The president and countless other politicians have openly discussed the harsh realities of the NDAA since even before Obama inked his name to it on New Year’s Eve. Now Americans know for certain that government allegations can get them in jail without a trial. Obama just needs to confirm or disconfirm that he can shoot them down in their own homes as well.