The White House statement on the policy of assassinating US citizens abroad, and the subsequent “clarification” of the statement, have raised more questions than they answered, and leaves the possibility of such killings very much open despite White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer initially ruling it out.
Spicer insisted that “no American citizen” will ever be targeted abroad by the United States, including those suspected of being involved in terrorist organizations. This would represent a massive change from the Obama Administration, which had claimed the power to assassinate US citizens abroad, and had done so on multiple occasions.
Whether that fact was lost on Spicer, or if he simply made his declaration more broad than he intended is unclear, as shortly thereafter the White House issued a “clarification” statement insisting that “US policy regarding the possible targeting of American citizens has not changed” from the previous policy.
Questions about the policy were raised by a weekend raid in Yemen, which reportedly killed a lot of civilians, including an eight-year-old American girl. Since her father, US-born cleric Anwar Awlaki, and Awlaki’s son were assassinated by the Obama Administration, this both brought back the policy question, as well as Trump’s campaign suggestion that he would kill the family members of terrorists.