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'When does the government have the legal right to kill an American?'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The White House is scheduled to brief members of Congress on the legal justifications for drone strikes against U.S. citizens. A Justice Department paper, first obtained by NBC News, concluded that the U.S. can legally order the killing of American citizens believed to be al-Qaeda leaders. The administration would not even confirm these memos existed until this week.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Today, as part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters, the president directed the Department of Justice to provide the congressional intelligence committees access to classified Office of Legal Counsel advice related to the subject of the Department of Justice White Paper," an official said.

Legal experts warn that the secret memo threatened constitutional rights and expanded the definition of national self-defense and of what constitutes an imminent attack.

Not surprisingly, members of Congress expressed serious reservations about the memo. Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told NBC News Radio that the memo "doesn't answer the central questions" revolving around an important policy decision: "When does the government have the legal right to kill an American?"

Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Senator Dianne Feinstein said was pleased with the White House's decision in a written statement.

"I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations. It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations," Feinstein's statement read.

White House spokesman Jay Carney had said that President Obama was committed to providing more information to Congress -- even as he refused to acknowledge whether the drone memo even existed.

"He thinks that it is legitimate to ask questions about how we prosecute the war against al-Qaeda," Carney said. "These are questions that will be with us long after he is president and long after the people who are in the seats that they're in now [having] left the scene."

The administration's decision to give the memo to the congressional intelligence committees just before the Senate confirmation hearing Thursday for John Brennan, President Barack Obama's pick to lead the CIA. Brennan was an architect of the administration's controversial escalation of drone strikes to take out suspected militants.

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