Al Franken concerned about Obama's authority to kill Americans deemed to be terrorists

The senators threaten that if they might hold up Obama's national security appointments if they don't get more information.
The senators threaten that if they might hold up Obama's national security appointments if they don't get more information.

Al Franken is among a group of senators who wrote a letter to President Obama asking him to clarify the legal rationale underpinning the administration's authority to kill Americans deemed to be terrorists.

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Yesterday, NBC News unearthed a "Department of Justice White Paper" that sheds a big of light on the policy. "Here the Department of Justice concludes only that where the following three conditions are met, a U.S. operation using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa'ida or an associated force would be lawful: (1) an informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses and imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a maner consistent with applicable law of war principles," the paper says.

But the leaked memo isn't enough for Franken and a bipartisan group of 10 other senators who signed a letter asking Obama for the "secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations."

"It is vitally important... for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority, so that Congress and the public can decide whether this authority has been properly defined, and whether the President's power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards," the letter says.

Here's the whole thing:

Letter to President Obama on Legal Opinions by

MinnPost's report on the letter provides a couple additional interesting tidbits:

Obama used the controversial [policy] to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and al-Qaeda sympathizer, in a Yemen airstrike [i.e., a drone strike] in 2011...

The senators' letter originated from Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden. Its signers range the ideological spectrum, from conservatives like Mike Lee, R-Utah, to high-ranking Democrats Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) The letter comes days before the Senate Intelligence Committee holds confirmation hearings for John Brennan, Obama's nominee to lead the CIA.

The senators' letter comes just a few weeks after Rep. Keith Ellison urged Congress to push the Obama administration for more transparency about the "unilateral kill lists" used to identify the "senior operational leaders of al-Qa'ida or an associated force" marked for death.

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