Morgan Allison: On The Obama Drone Memo

By Morgan Allison || On Monday night a secret U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) memo was made public.  The sixteen-page “white paper” was leaked to NBC News and details the “legality” of drone strikes on American citizens. The memo reveals details, previously unknown to the public, behind the Obama administration’s…

obama drone memo

Morgan Allison
Morgan Allison

By Morgan Allison || On Monday night a secret U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) memo was made public.  The sixteen-page “white paper” was leaked to NBC News and details the “legality” of drone strikes on American citizens.

The memo reveals details, previously unknown to the public, behind the Obama administration’s increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaeda suspects overseas.  The document includes those attacks resulting in American casualties, like the 2011 strike in Yemen that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan.  Both were American citizens who had never been charged with any crimes against their country.

The memo reveals a three-part test which – in the eyes of the administration – makes the targeted assassination of an American citizen lawful. Specifically, it authorizes the U.S. government to kill its own citizens overseas if:

  1. An informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an 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 manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

Current White House counter-terrorism chief and President Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan, and Attorney General, Eric Holder, have both previously acknowledged and defended the constitutionality of the drone program.  However this “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense than previously described by Brennan or Holder, referring to a “broader concept of imminence.”

While you may think “imminent threat” in this case means a forthcoming or impending future attack, the “white paper” memo makes clear this isn’t the case.  The paper outlines its own variation of “imminent,” which sounds more like unilateral agreement that the person being targeted is in fact a member of a terrorist organization. The paper states, 

The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons will take lace in the immediate future.

As we all know the administration’s “kill list” is secret, so those targeted have no opportunity to challenge their designation as terrorists waiting to be killed by an “informed, high-level official.”

And if you’re just now thinking about the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, think again. USDOJ beat you to it.  According to the memo the clause would not prohibit the type of operations, drone strikes, discussed in the document.  Keep in mind that the government needs a judge’s approval to detain a terrorist; to kill one, even an American citizen, it need only give itself permission.

The memo isn’t law, or even final – but rather a legal framework for drone operations. However it does speak volumes about the approaches shaping the Obama administration’s drone program.

You can find the memo here.


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? February 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Nice write up Morgan.

Is anyone really surprised by this revelation? Seriously.

Smirks February 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Surprised? We already blow up kids. Wait, did I say kids? Dogs. I meant dogs.


jdhte45 February 10, 2013 at 9:45 am Reply
DAVIS February 6, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Finally, I agree with you on something. We have indeed entered a new era in our country that is much like Russia under Stalin.

JC February 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

This monstrous exertion of Executive authority and secrecy by the Obama Administration only further confirms my belief that neither the Republican nor Democratic Parties are any different in matters of foreign policy and the national security state. All that matters is keeping us in fear so their defense industry contributors can become rich off America’s empire and perpetual war machine.

This memo is right out of the John Yoo/Dick Cheney school of the Unitary Executive. And Obama was a constitutional law professor for Christ’s sake. He and John Brennan have a special place in hell for this.

Smirks February 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm

It’s not just Obama or Bush. What powers they can’t give themselves, Congress is eagerly willing to give them. The Patriot Act and NDAA didn’t pass themselves, after all.

JC February 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm

In all honesty, and I might get skewered for this by some, but Americans are to blame. Look at our society right now. We are a nation of idiots. Most folks aren’t politically informed at all, and instead their opinions are largely shaped by watching ridiculous “reality” tv shows or celebrity gossip and babble. These shows all serve to elevate egomaniacal, self-absorbed morons into the limelight, when most of them are in reality the lowest common denominator.

Even those who watch news aren’t really getting news. They’re propagandized by the garbage on Fox, MSNBC and CNN. None of those networks offer one bit of substantive political debate, and have turned elections into nothing more than a glorified cage match between the R’s and D’s. Discussions now center on cults of personality, not the issues proposed by the candidates. Pundits posing as objective sources or commentators spout opinion as if it were fact.

Hypersensationalism regarding America’s enemies and threats has created a culture of fear and paranoia in post-9/11 America that has caused us to become a nation of bloodthristy cowards, more than willing to send our troops to countries abroad without a proper declaration of war to kill innocent civilians defending their home. We have allowed ourselves to give in to that fear. We have allowed ourselves to sacrifice liberty for “security”. We are wilfully blind, and accept without question the notion that “they hate us for our freedom.” We don’t want to analyze why America might be hated, because it will make us look in the mirror. It will make us realize that the pie in the sky picture of the US as the good guy is merely a facade. We don’t have the courage to face up to our mistakes.

And lastly, we keep electing politicians who screw us over. In a representative government, the population gets the government they deserve. Well, an inept Congress and tyrannical Executive are exactly what a stupid public deserve. We talk about how everyone is Washington is a crook, but what do we do? Keep reelecting the bastards? We have occasional brave politicians like Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich and Gary Johnson tell us truths on various issues and what we do? Boo them, ridicule them, vote them out of office or ignore them. Americans care about bread and circus, not liberty. Until that fundamental principle changes, we will continue down a path of authoritarianism and tyranny, and we will deserve every bit of it.

Smirks February 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Spot on, JC.

Soft Sigh from Hell February 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Part of the decline of American preeminence, the end of “The American ‘Century'” (1945 – ~2005-15). We can blame no one but ourselves.

Judy Chop Casual Hero February 10, 2013 at 12:15 pm

*** Ditto ***

Super Brandon February 6, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I’m not buying this yet. It was leaked to who?…NBC?!!
Sounds like more of a trial balloon to me.

James the Food Soldier February 6, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Earth to the Po Mo Fo Lo Info voters:
There is no record of Bush/Cheney assasinating American citizens.

Obama has done this without giving the American citizen due process: “…American citizens who had NEVER been charged with any crimes against their country.”

That Obama was a perfesur at the University of Chicago Law School holds as much weight as perfesurs at the College of Charleston School of Law or the University of South Carolina School of Law.

Do you hear the screams of anarchy at the ACLU?
Do you hear the screams of anarchy at MOVEONDOTOGRE?

Democrat, thy name is hypocrite.

Nolff February 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Everyone that blames everything on the political party that they don’t support is right…
All government is bad except when it’s not. Right?

…hold on. I need to post this crazy drivel on infowars.

Smirks February 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm

The ACLU gets a shitload of accusations from the right for leaning Democrat because they more often than not butt heads with religious shit, among other things. The funny thing is, the ACLU has been pushing against the drone strikes. They filed a FOIA request for it back in 2010.




The last link was on their front page. Scream anarchy? The ACLU has been doing a bit more than that.

Anonymous February 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm

FOIA requests?

Shiver me timbers.

I’m sure that satisfies the Po Mo Fo Lo Info voter.

Democrat, they name is hyprocrite.

Patriot Actor February 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Smirks has a point.

Here’s who worked on the NDAA: “Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) who were the very two who had secretly written the Senate indefinite detention provisions. The third member is the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who is the person who wrote the House indefinite detention provisions without so much as a hearing. And the fourth member is the House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.), who courageously fought the indefinite detention provisions on the House floor.”

What’s this about due process and partisanship? It’s all over bitches!

Smirks February 6, 2013 at 3:54 pm

FOIA requests is not the entirety of what the ACLU is doing. They’ve been taking government to court over it. Of course, you’d know that if you weren’t too busy calling people who you don’t agree with “po mo fo lo info voters” instead of using Google to actually obtain info for 5 minutes.

Using your petulant partisan bullshit may make you feel better but judicial review is the only avenue left open to stop this shit within government since both the executive and legislative branches have failed in this regard. It may very well be a lost cause, but it is opposition in about the only avenue there is left that doesn’t involve a violent revolution.

What more do you want the ACLU to do besides fight this stuff within legal bounds? Take up arms? You gonna join them if they do?

James the Foot Soldier February 7, 2013 at 8:35 am

Were the ACLU to lift more than its pinky finger filing FOIA requests it would be viewed as a protector of AMERICAN civil liberties.

Equating the filing of a FOIA request with “judicial review” is a verrrry weak obscufation which I’m sure satisfies the Po Mo Fo Lo Info voters.

That this is a democrat administration engaging in the slaughter of innocents and the ACLU and MOVEONDOTOGRE sit on their hands shouts from the rooftops that they are, always have been, and always will be apendeges of the democrat national committee.

Democrat, thy name is hyporcite.

Common Sense February 7, 2013 at 9:21 am

James thy name is yet again..idiot..our own little bigT..or t jr!!

If this administration would not kill terrorists abroad you would scream how they aid the enemy, when they do kill terrorists abroad you start screaming about how they should get trials..you are such a fucking idiot you dont even realize you ARE the definition of hypocritical..you are just too butt stupid to realize it..

Little T james just keep screaming at the sky about how bad all those dems are, dont forget to renew your Beck-tv subscription you idiot..the rest of us just keep laughing at you..

James the Foot Soldier February 7, 2013 at 9:49 am

16 year old AMERICAN boys now qualify as terrorists??

The FOIA and “terrorist” strawman nonsense only work within the confines of today’s democrat party.

The Po Mo Fo Lo Info boys living on the south side of Shitcago gunning down Obama’s inauguration props would be more of a terrorist threat so let’s look forward to drones flying over the Section 8 slums that permeate Obama’s hometown.


sid February 7, 2013 at 10:39 am

I’m not a big fan of the ACLU, James, but in this case, you may want to cut it a litle slack. It is not just filing FOIA requests, but has gone to court over the issue:


I’m not sure what more the organization can or should do on this front, but it seems, to me, to be doing more than most.

As for MoveOn, yes, it is worthless.

kirk February 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Is it true that one of the people killed by “aerial termination” conducted by the Obama Administration was a 16 year-old boy born in Denver (to Muslim extremist parents)?

sid February 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm


JC February 6, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Yes, and the Obama Administration has not responded to the family’s inquiries as to whether he was targeted, or why the Administration authorized the strike knowing he was or could be present. Given our country’s post-9/11 penchant for secrecy in the name of “national security”, I doubt we’ll ever get a justification. The young boy was murdered plain and simple, yet when the government does it there seems to be no problem.

BigT February 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Evidently you dolts never saw the movie “Apocalypse Now.”

The US has been doing this for years…all with the cheers from the liberals…

Remember: killing Americans, you like…it’s when “Bush” follows Congress’ directive and actually does his job as Cammander in Cheif that makes you people so uptighht and paranoid…

sparklecity February 6, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Oh Rush, when I listen to you on the radio, I can’t help but touch myself.

You’re such a MAN Rush!!!

Oh Rush, I’m coming, I’m coming!!!


sparklecity February 6, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Sure is funny,

During the Bush #2 Administration, all the right wing-nuts on talk radio and FOX TV were spouting that being preemptive was absoultely necessary in order to bring terrorism to a halt (not to mention Iraq which had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with 9/11).

If a threat was EVEN thought/rumored about, it was to be eliminated. And all who tried to call BS were shouted down an/or ridiculed as being unpatriotic (in addition to slaming the French and renaming “French Fries” to “Freedom Fries” in the US Capitol cafeteria).

One thing I do agree with Bush #2 is him saying that countering/fighting terrorism would be a long,dirty,difficult process that will take years to eliminate (actually, minimalization is all we can realistically hope for).

As far as I’m concerned, this is part of that process.

sid February 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Nice to see you’re OK with Barry giving the green light for 16-year-olds to be killed by guys playing video games. You really are special.

Common Sense February 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

wow sid way to avoid the point of his argument just to try and make your idiotic post..glad to see you a e staying true to form.. the GOP does no wrong and the dems cause acne, wars and cloudy days…stay true to the GOP you are the bread and butter.

sparklecity February 7, 2013 at 9:50 am


Tell that to a Vietnam vet who saw his buds killed by a 10 year old kid or a Ranger who was shot by an AK-47 toting woman in Mogadishu or my brothers & sisters in arms in Iraq and Afghtnistan who faced suicide bombers who were kids or women and who I personally loaded the PIECES of those brothers & sisters killed by those women & children onto my aircraft.

You have no idea what you are talking/posting about.

I’d call you a douchebag but you don’t rate being called a douchebag.

sid February 7, 2013 at 10:45 am

So, you are also in favor of Barry allowing 16-year-old Americans to be killed via video game, CS. Good to know.

As for trying to “avoid the point,” my response was based on the fact that sc was actually avoiding the point, but I don’t expect you to understand anything more complicated than LOL.

The issue here is not what sc imagines was going on during the Bush Administration. The issue is what Barry is doing now. He implies he’s OK with it, and that involves a 16-year-old American being executed via drone. You two can be OK with it all you want, but I’m not.

sid February 7, 2013 at 10:54 am

Vietnam is over, sc, or didn’t you read about it in one of your military rags. Your tour overseas is over. While your claimed service is appreciated, it sounds like you could use some counseling.

You can give Barry a free pass on his rules about executing American citizens with no due process. That is your right, for which you say you fought. Fortunately, most people who can think clearly and rationally, without being overcome with the kind of emotions that seem to guide you these day, find this policy reprehensible.

Yes, war is Hell. But we, as Americans, are supposed to be better than the people we are fighting. Our response to children being used by the enemy to kill Americans should not be to kill all children we think might be affiliated with the enemy in some way. You can make all the excuses you want for killing children, but I don’t have to accept them as legitimate.

Welcome to America.

MajoC February 10, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Sparklecity I’ll do it for you. I have moved Sid to my douchebag column.

Crooner February 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

How many kids..er, dogs (likely Akitas) were blown up in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

War is hell.

sparklecity February 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Dogs in Japan?

In August 1945?

Probably not too many were casualties—The Japanese were getting mighty hungry due to our naval blockade and firebombings.

Most got eaten……

? February 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

Ms. Lindsey OK with killing American citizens with no due process, defends Obama:


sparklecity February 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Besides Quadaffy Duck’s daughter, there were approximately 60 civilians killed during Reagan’s attempted assassination of Quadaffy.

Looks like they got the short end of the “due process” stipulation too….

Do you care to dispute that as well?

Hell, why don’t you dispute the raid even happened??


Love ’em. Flew a bunch of them around when I was over there. I was on a joint reserve forces military marksmanship team with a few too.

How many have you served with??

sparklecity February 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

Plain & simple:

The best analogy I can think of and did hear this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe (starring MIKA BREZINSKI) is the fact that there have been occasions in the past where American citizens joined sworn enemies of the US and became combatants against the United States. The best example is American born/raised citizens of German ancestry who went back to Germany before WWII and fought against the United States (example the American speaking Germans who posed as American troops during the Battle of the Bulge and killed Americans or the Nazi spies who tried to sabatoge factories in the US but were caught before they had a chance to complete their mission).

This situation is no different than that.

Someone has sworn to inflict harm/death to the United States and its citizens and are probably even more motivated (certainly more DANGEROUS) than the combatants of WWII who renounced their American citizenship and fought against our fathers,grandfathers and great- grandfathers with the intent to KILL THEM.

Again, countering terrorism requires a ruthless dirty job because the enemy is completely ruthless and has no qualms about killing American citizens.

Sadly, this is one of those times when being ruthless is what it takes.

sid February 7, 2013 at 11:23 am

“Plain & simple”

Must have been your nickname in school, sc.

“Someone has sworn to inflict harm/death to the United States and its citizens….”

There is nothing on record to indicate the 16-year-old American that was executed unde Barry’s guidelines ever did anything of the sort. His dad, yes, but he hadn’t seen his dad in two years, and was living with his grandparents, I believe. You really need to do a little thing called research.

Now, if the govt. wants to put out an official statement explaining why the kid was executed, and it shows he was up to no good, I might change my views. Until then, I have questions and objections, while you give approval. Plain and simple.

sparklecity February 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm


I’ll bet if Ron or Rand Paul was prez and doing the exact thing you would be cheering him on wouldn’t you??

Again, I didn’t vote for “Barry” Obama (I voted 3rd party) but something tells me that as long as Obama is prez, you (and your ilk) are going to make every fucking thing he does an issue.

Let me ask you ONE SIMPLE thing concerning a situation almost 30 years ago:

Did you get a case of hemmorroids when Ronald Reagan had Navy & Air Force planes bomb Quadaffi’s tents in the middle of the desert and kill a couple of his kids???

Answer that dipshit.

sid February 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm

See response in other thread, but for clarification, there is little evidence any of QaDaffy Duck’s kids were killed. Nonetheless, they would not have been American citizens, so your question is as pointless as your head is likely pointy.

Also, Marine aircraft also took part. You got something against Marines?

MajorC Refueling Tanker Guy February 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

USMC aircraft bombed QaDaffy in Libya on first run? Hmmm. Thought it was Air Force B-1 Bone bombers who couldn’t fly across France. I’m puzzled Sid?

This just in . . . February 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm

U.S. Cancels Regular Drone Strikes on Saturdays

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) — Citing budgetary concerns, the United States announced today that it would discontinue regular Saturday drone strikes on U.S. citizens, beginning in 2014.

In announcing the decision, the White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged that the cutback in drone service was “bound to be controversial.” “In the United States, we’ve always prided ourselves on our ability to target our citizens with drone strikes, Monday through Saturday, regardless of the weather,” he said. “We know that losing Saturday drone service is going to take some getting used to.”

But the move to cut back drone service drew sharp criticism from a longtime defender of the program, the former Vice-President Dick Cheney. “Like most Americans, I thought I’d never see the day when drones just up and take Saturdays off,” he said. “This would never be happening if I were still President.”

As if to silence critics, Mr. Carney assured reporters that drones could “still get the job done” Monday through Friday, and reminded U.S. citizens to update the government on any change of address so the drones would know where to reach them.

sparklecity February 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm


See above concerning my feeling about Marines…………….

Judy Chop Casual Hero February 10, 2013 at 12:34 pm

“An informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States and capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.”

Sounds like this description could fit most Americans who frequent gun shows on Sunday and have stockpiled hoards of ammo and illegal “assault weapons” — especially if they were found to have a “Don’t Tread On Me!” bumper sticker on their truck.

Bend over America and wave two flashlights. A blinking drone is about to fly up your ass. God have mercy on us all…


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