The confidential document provides the most thorough account yet of why the president thinks extrajudicial drone strikes on citizens are okay.
All hail NBC's Michael Isikoff, who has gotten his hands on a previously undisclosed Obama Administration memo concluding that, under certain circumstances, the U.S. government can kill Americans with drones. The 16-page memo, which you can read at the bottom of this post, is going to be analyzed for days by legal experts, but I encourage you to read it so that you can understand how badly President Obama has behaved, regardless of how you feel about the legal arguments.
On reading the unredacted document, ask yourself, why wasn't this released to the public by the Obama Administration? Which part of its legal reasoning could jeopardize national security in any way? Since it reveals no national-security secrets, what possible justification could there be for willfully keeping its contents from Americans, who have a compelling interest in understanding, scrutinizing and debating the legal framework that surrounds extrajudicial killing?
If you've gone ahead and read it, you know the basics. As Charlie Savage and Scott Shane explain, Obama Administration lawyers say killing an American would be lawful if an "informed, high-level official" determined three things:
- That the target is a ranking Al-Qaeda figure.
- That he or she poses "an imminent threat of violent attack" against America.
- That capture is not "feasible."