CIA Looking to Assassinate Al-Awlaki

A January 31, 2010 Los Angeles Times report by Greg Miller says the CIA is putting together a case for why US Citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki should be targeted for assassination using missile strikes or other means.

Al-Awlaki, a hugely popular Islamic lecturer in the English-speaking Muslim world, survived a December 24, 2009 strike on a home the CIA believed he was staying in. Dozens of people died in that missile strike; locals say the dead were civilians while the US claims the dead are terrorists.

The LA Times report says: “No U.S. citizen has ever been on the CIA’s target list, which mainly names Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, according to current and former U.S. officials. But that is expected to change as CIA analysts compile a case against a Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico but now resides in Yemen.

“Anwar al Awlaki poses a dilemma for U.S. counter-terrorism officials. He is a U.S. citizen and until recently was mainly known as a preacher espousing radical Islamic views. But Awlaki’s ties to November’s shootings at Ft. Hood and the failed Christmas Day airline plot have helped convince CIA analysts that his role has changed.

“Over the past several years, Awlaki has gone from propagandist to recruiter to operational player,” said a U.S. counter-terrorism official.

“Awlaki’s status as a U.S. citizen requires special consideration, according to former officials familiar with the criteria for the CIA’s targeted killing program. But while Awlaki has not yet been placed on the CIA list, the officials said it is all but certain that he will be added because of the threat he poses.

“If an American is stupid enough to make cause with terrorists abroad, to frequent their camps and take part in their plans, he or she can’t expect their citizenship to work as a magic shield,” said another U.S. official. “If you join the enemy, you join your fate to his.”

“From beginning to end, the CIA’s process for carrying out Predator strikes is remarkably self-contained. Almost every key step takes place within the Langley, Va., campus, from proposing targets to piloting the remotely controlled planes.

“The memos proposing new targets are drafted by analysts in the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center. Former officials said analysts typically submit several new names each month to high-level officials, including the CIA general counsel and sometimes Director Leon E. Panetta”

The LA Times said while the National Security Council oversees the assassination program and the decisions on who to target, when a US citizen needs to be added to the target list the White House needs to give the approval.

“If you are a legitimate military target abroad — a part of an enemy force — the fact that you’re a U.S. citizen doesn’t change that,” Michael Edney told the LA Times. Edney served as deputy legal advisor to the National Security Council from 2007 until 2009.

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