Via The Daily Beast:

President Obama’s deep embrace of drones as a tool against terror was thrust into the spotlight last week by the release of an official “white paper” detailing when, and why, the federal government could intentionally kill American citizens. Many have found the whole idea of targeting Americans for death abhorrent; the analysis has been called “chilling” and full of “twisted definitions.”

The government’s white paper declares that the Constitution doesn’t protect citizens who act as senior leaders of al Qaeda from death from above. That, and the idea that judges have no real role to play in the targeting process, has generated substantial concern about an unrestrained and trigger-happy executive branch—one that has killed some 3000 individuals via drone strikes since the 9/11 attacks.

But one aspect of the white paper has received less attention than it should. The document repeatedly states that its analysis applies only to an American killed abroad. The analysis seems to assume a strike akin to that involving Anwar al-Awlaki, an American al Qaeda member killed in September 2011 in Yemen by a U.S. drone.

But why stop there? Despite the government’s insistence that it is only talking about strikes abroad, could al-Awlaki have been targeted if, instead of Yemen, he was in Yonkers?

The answer seems to be yes. In fact there is nothing in the white paper’s legal analysis explaining why it is only permissible to kill a citizen abroad. To the contrary, the thrust of the analysis points to the conclusion that the location of the strike doesn’t actually matter. As long as the other requirements are met—such as the individual being a senior al Qaeda leader whose capture is “infeasible”—Albuquerque is no different from Abottabbad.

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