A leaked Justice Department memo outlines the legality of US drone strikes to kill American citizens abroad.
The document, dated 2011 and acquired by American broadcasting network NBC, justifies killing US citizens who are high-ranking members of al Qaeda.
Defending the practice, White House press secretary Jay Carney said:
“We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and again, save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.”
Eight Democratic and three Republican senators have asked for more legal documents on this issue.
The document has drawn criticism from civil rights groups, who question whether such killings are constitutional.
Director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union Hina Shamsi said:
“It’s a chilling document. It goes to the heart of concerns that we have in our democracy about the relationship between the government and citizens, violations of the most fundamental guarantee that the Constitution provides, which is that the government will not take citizens lives without due process of law.”
A protest in Pakistan against US drone strikes organised by cricketer Imran Khan last October drew a wide-range of support.
Controversy has grown since the killings of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan – both US citizens and alleged al Qaeada members – in Yemen in September 2011.