PARIS -- A leaked U.S. Department of Justice white paper supporting the killing of terrorists overseas who happen to hold American citizenship is causing mass hyperventilation across America. Although average Americans needn't fear the possibility of being picked off by a drone one night while scarfing down macaroni and cheese and watching the game, there is concern that the government is grossly overstepping its bounds by targeting U.S. citizens for extermination.
The document, which the clueless have dubbed the "drone memo," contains precisely zero instances of the word "drone" or any variation thereof. But the memo said the U.S. government should be able to target Americans, right? Yes, but exclusively on foreign soil, and with very specific parameters. The fact that your mother-in-law drops by on occasion does not mean that your living room officially qualifies as a conflict zone, unless it's located somewhere like Yemen or Pakistan.
The "assassination memo" doesn't apply to you if you're an American living inside the United States. If you're abroad, you may be fair game if you're a "senior operational leader" of al-Qaeda and pose an "imminent threat of violent attack against the United States," and if your "capture is infeasible."
These factors must also fit within the "law-of-war principles governing the use of force: necessity, distinction, proportionality, and humanity (the avoidance of unnecessary suffering)." In other words, the government is attempting to lay some legal groundwork for the cases in which terrorists happen to be Americans -- an increasingly common phenomenon.
A lack of discernment over who is awarded American citizenship -- a pattern that arguably started with the relaxing of legal immigration standards by the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy in the 1960s -- is in large part to blame for all the battlefield confusion these days. It used to be that wars took place between nation-states, and you could assume that anyone who shared your nationality and was fighting on the other side deserved a bullet for an act of treason.
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