Report: Bush order allowing murder of US citizens abroad still in effect

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 -- 11:11 pm

If a United States citizen was determined to have joined a foreign terrorist group, that person could be legally murdered under orders given by President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks.

In spite of an administration change in Washington, D.C., that allowance is still in effect, according to a late-breaking report in The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The report delves into an increasing American role in Yemen, spotlighting an effort to capture or kill Anwar al Awlaki, an American citizen who exchanged e-mails with alleged Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan.

"After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush gave the CIA, and later the military, authority to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests, military and intelligence officials said," the Post reported. "The evidence has to meet a certain, defined threshold. The person, for instance, has to pose 'a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests,' said one former intelligence official.

"The Obama administration has adopted the same stance. If a U.S. citizen joins al-Qaeda, 'it doesn't really change anything from the standpoint of whether we can target them,' said a senior administration official. 'They are then part of the enemy.'"

"Awlaki has not been charged with any crimes under U.S. law," ABC News noted.

ABC added that unnamed officials had expressed concern that chances to "take out" al Awlaki had been missed while authorities grappled with the legal ramifications of murdering a U.S. citizen.

U.S. involvement in Yemen is largely being directed by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), according to the Post. The command was perhaps best known as former Vice President Dick Cheney's "executive assassination squad," first revealed by veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.

"Both the CIA and the JSOC maintain lists of individuals, called the 'High Value Targets' and 'High Value Individuals,' whom they seek to kill or capture," the Post continued. "The JSOC list includes three Americans, including Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year."