New Mexico-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has officially become the first American citizen confirmed to be on the CIA’s assassination list, and officials for the Obama Administration insist he can be killed with impunity by the CIA or the military.
The move comes just two months after National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair informed the House of Representatives that the Obama Administration had reserved for itself the right to kill American citizens overseas as part of a “defined policy.”
“He’s in everybody’s sights,” noted one US official, while another alleged that he was an “operational figure for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).” One of the officials also added that “US citizenship hardly gives you blanket protection overseas.”
Despite the unending list of allegations against Awlaki, he has not been charged with any crime at all by the US government, let alone convicted of a capital crime. The cleric has been openly critical of US foreign policy, and speculation of his “link” to Christmas underbomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has fueled the calls to “take him out.”
But the US was already cooperating in attempted assassinations against Awlaki by the Yemeni government before Christmas, notably playing a role in a Christmas Eve air strike that officials initially said killed Awlaki and dozens of al-Qaeda members. Last month, however, the government was forced to apologize for its claims and admitted that the vast majority of the people killed were women and children.
Putting Awlaki on the official assassination list, as he remains a US citizen, required the direct approval of President Obama. It is unclear exactly when this authorization occurred, and notably if it was before the December assassination attempt.