Tonawanda News


March 10, 2013

DUVALL: Drawing the line on targets for drone strikes


Tonawanda News — Besides, intelligence officials noted he hadn’t become, in their parlance, “operational.” In other words, he was only using words and they didn’t have any real world evidence that Awlaki was actually carrying out terrorist plots. That is, until the Underwear Bomber cooperated with interrogators and cited Awlaki’s recruitment, training and explicit instructions to board and blow up the airplane two days before Christmas in 2009.

To make a very long story slightly shorter, it was this knowledge that moved Awlaki from being an American citizen protected under the Constitution to an enemy of the state who, the Obama administration argued in a 63-page legal memorandum it was legal to target for assassination if capture wasn’t an option.

Tracking him through the Yemeni desert, where the country’s ruler had given the CIA and Pentagon authority to carry out drone strikes as long as they weren’t publicly acknowledged, and thereby constitute a violation of Yemeni sovereignty. 

Strike we did.

Multiple attempts to kill Awlaki using informant tips from his inner circle failed. Multiple others were killed — collateral damage, as it’s known in military circles.

Finally, the CIA got its man, striking and killing Awlaki as he traveled with another American-born al Qaida sympathizer, Samir Kahn. 

Kahn, the Justice Department argued in that 63-page memo, was not a significant threat and did not merit the special exception that had been granted the government to kill Awlaki. They just happened to do so anyway.

Wrong place, wrong time, I guess.

A month later, another informant told his CIA contact a wanted Egyptian terrorist was having lunch at a cafe in Yemen. A drone-launched missile hit the cafe dead on. Except the Egyptian terrorist wasn’t there. Among the dead? Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman.

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