NBC reporter on leaked memo: Obama admin. using ‘elastic’ definitions to justify drones

By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, February 4, 2013 23:04 EDT
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NBC News correspondent Michael Isikoff said Monday the Obama administration was using murky legal definitions to justify its use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists.

“Remember, we are talking about targeted killings of Americans, we are talking about making decisions based on secret intelligence, and we see in this memo that some of the definitions are a bit more elastic and open to interpretation than the administration has publicly let on,” he said on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.

NBC News has obtained a 16-page memo outlining the Obama’s administration legal justification of targeted drone strikes. The confidential memo was provided to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees last year.

The memo states that drone strikes are justified when the target poses an “imminent threat” to the United States and is “infeasible” to capture. The strike must also be conducted according to “law of war principles.” The memo reflects public statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder.

“They refer to a broader concept of imminence than direct active intelligence of a plot against the U.S.,” Isikoff explained. “In fact, it explicitly states that imminence does not mean that the United States has to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons or interests is underway. If the U.S. believes that the target has in the past been involved in such violent activities and the target has not renounced such activities it can be assumed that they are an imminent threat now and that that would justify an attack.”

He warned the definitions could be interpreted in different ways by future administrations.

Watch video, courtesy of MSNBC, below:

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Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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