The Obama administration has admitted for the first time to killing four U.S. citizens in drone strikes overseas. Three died in Yemen: the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. A fourth, Jude Kenan Mohammad — whose death was not previously reported — was killed in Pakistan. In a letter to Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder suggested that all but the attack on the elder al-Awlaki were accidental, saying the other three "were not specifically targeted." The admission came on the eve of a major address on counter-terrorism by President Obama, who defended the use of drones and announced modified guidelines for carrying out secret targeted killings.
Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book, "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield," and co-producer of the upcoming documentary film by the same name, joins Juan Gonzales and Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! to discuss the targeted killing of Americans with drones.
On the issue of the other Americans that were killed, you know, Jude Mohammad was a suspect who had been indicted, and his family was contesting those charges. And we don’t know the circumstances over how he was killed. Samir Khan, who was a Pakistani American from North Carolina, was killed alongside Anwar Awlaki. My understanding is that there was a grand jury convened, and they’d failed to return an indictment against him, so he was actually someone where they looked at trying to charge him with a crime and failed to get an indictment against him. His family, in fact, was told by the FBI before his death that there were no criminal charges pending against him. So he was another American killed. And perhaps the most disturbing is the killing of Abdulrahman Awlaki’s, Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, who was killed two weeks after his father while he was sitting having dinner with his teenage cousins.
And in the letter, Eric Holder says that besides Anwar al-Awlaki, the other three Americans were—and he used an interesting phrase—"not specifically targeted." You know, what does that phrase mean? It’s almost like an Orwellian statement, "not specifically targeted." Well, it could mean that these individuals were killed in the signature strikes that you mentioned, which is a sort of form of precrime, where the U.S. determines that any military-aged males in a targeted area are in fact terrorists, and their deaths will be registered as having killed terrorists or militants. So, it’s possible that the other Americans that were killed were killed were killed in these so-called signature strikes.
But in the case of this 16-year-old boy, it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s a coincidence that two weeks after his father is killed, he just happens to be killed in a U.S. drone strike. And there were leaks at the time from U.S. officials telling journalists that, oh, he actually was 21 years old, he was at an al-Qaeda meeting. But they’ve never been able to identify who they killed in that strike. And the Obama administration has never publicly taken on the fact that they killed one of their own citizens who was a teenage boy. There are no answers to that question. So, I think that there has to be a far more intense scrutiny of the statements of the attorney general and also what we understand the president is going to say later.
Full transcript of the discussion available here.