Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) told the National Journal on Wednesday that no Americans were currently on President Barack Obama’s so-called “kill list.”
Rogers said as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee he reviews every drone strike on a suspected terrorist after it has been conducted. Though no Americans are currently being targeted overseas, the Republican congressmen described how that situation could change.
Any American who “rose to the same level” as Anwar al-Awlaki could be targeted, Rogers suggested. “They’ve picked their team, and their team is al-Qaeda. And the United States is in conflict with al-Qaeda. In the rules of war, you’re allowed to defend yourself.”
Awlaki is one of four Americans who have been killed with a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. As a senior member of al-Qaeda, he was allegedly involved in a number of plots against the United States, including the Fort Hood shooting.
Three other Americans, including Awlaki’s teenage son, have also been killed with drone strikes, but U.S. officials have claimed they were not intentionally targeted.
The New York Times reported last year that Obama was intimately involved in the use of drones against suspected terrorists, personally signing off on every strike.
“Instead of wanting deniability and wanting to keep at a distance from this lethal program, he actually wanted to be very much part of it,” New York Times reporter Scott Shane explained.
Obama has faced increasing pressure over the drone strike program. Critics have alleged the strikes lack due process of law and proper oversight, particularly when U.S. citizens are targeted. The issue gained national attention earlier this month after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) held a 13-hour filibuster.
But Rogers denied that Americans could be put on the “kill list” simply by joining al-Qaeda.
“What worries me is they are taking this isolated case and saying, ‘Oh well, there’s a list of Americans, and you could be on the list of Americans.’ That just simply is not how this works,” he said.
The Obama administration has maintained that drone strikes against U.S. citizens 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.” In responds to Paul’s filibuster, Attorney General Eric Holder also clarified that the government was not authorized to kill an American not engaged in combat.