A confidential 16-page Justice Department memo referred to as the “white paper” that considers the legal authority of the U.S. government to use unmanned aerial drones abroad was leaked to NBC News and released to the public on Feb. 4. The memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al Qaeda or an associated force, even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S. The memo further argues for a “broader concept of imminence,” declaring “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” To date, the public has been told that three U.S. citizens have been killed by drones. Samir Khan, Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki were killed by U.S. drone strikes in Yemen during 2011.
When President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, civil liberties advocates were alarmed at several provisions, including Section 1021 that empowers current and all future presidents to indefinitely imprison U.S. citizens and non-citizens who were part of or “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” Persons accused under this provision can be held by the U.S. military indefinitely or transferred to any nation in the world, without charge, trial or access to an attorney
The Dec. 14 massacre of 20 young children and 6 educators at Newtown, Conn.’s Sandy Hook Elementary School has provoked a national debate and soul-searching about how best to stop America’s epidemic of gun violence, but nowhere more than in the state where the tragedy occurred. Since the Newtown mass shooting, Connecticut legislators have convened several task forces to reconsider the state’s gun laws, the availability of mental health treatment, school safety, and have introduced dozens of bills to address those issues.