US can kill US citizens overseas if they're declared part of an enemy group, memo reveals

A Predator Drone.

A Predator Drone.

The United States government may use lethal force against a citizen of our nation abroad, if the government determines that they're is part of an enemy organization seeking to attack America, according to a previously-classified memo released Monday.

"In response to a court order in consolidated Freedom of Information Act lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times, the Obama administration has released a key Justice Department legal memo on U.S. targeted killing operations," the ACLU announced this morning.

"The July 2010 memo was the basis for the government’s extrajudicial killing of an American citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, in 2011. In the memo, the government claims broad authority to kill American terrorism suspects without judicial process or geographic limitation."

“The release of this memo represents an overdue but nonetheless crucial step towards transparency. There are few questions more important than the question of when the government has the authority to kill its own citizens,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who argued the FOIA lawsuit before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This memo's release will allow the public to better understand the scope and implications of the authority the government is claiming.”

The memo referenced is a 41-page classified document from July 16, 2010, titled “memorandum for the attorney general.” David Barron, who was at the time the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), authored the memo. In May, 2014, the Senate confirmed his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Read the full ACLU announcement here. News coverage: USA Today, Guardian, KPCC, Washington Post.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

U.S. drone memo