It’s official – American drones have been used to kill four U.S. citizens in Yemen and Pakistan since 2009.
Embattled Attorney General Eric Holder sent a confirmation letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, acknowledging the deadly drone strikes. Referring to the killings as “counterterrorism operations,” Holder said the Obama administration was “aware” of four Americans killed since 2009 – Anwar al-Awlaki; Samir Khan; Jude Kennan Mohammed and Awlaki’s son Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki. The acknowledgement came ahead of a major counterterrorism policy speech by President Obama scheduled for today.
The White House responded minutes after the information was made public, saying President Obama ordered the disclosure to build on his effort to “to pursue greater transparency around our counter-terrorism operations.” The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico native who was educated at George Washington University, had already sparked widespread debate regarding whether an American citizen abroad or on U.S. soil should be targeted and killed without a trial.
Holder explained the administration’s rationale in dealing with al-Awlaki:
“[He]was a senior operational leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most dangerous regional affiliate of al Qaeda and a group that has committed numerous terrorist attacks overseas and attempted multiple times to conduct terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland.”