Kill Americans Memo Adding to Debate Over Use of Targeted Drone Strikes

A confidential memo regarding the United States protocol when targeting U.S. citizens in drone strikes is adding to the debate over the use of the weapons when targeting terrorists or threats to America.

The document, dubbed the "kill Americans" memo, was written by the Justice Department. It details how the U.S. government can legally kill U.S. citizens if they are suspected of being senior al-Qaida leaders or high-ranking members of affiliated groups that conduct actions aimed at killing Americans.

The 16-page memo justifies the use of drone strikes against Americans, insisting that inaction would result in a greater number of American deaths

It document also supports lethal action against those targeted in drone strikes, given that threats posed by al-Qaida and its affiliates produces a greater demand for action in response to those who are planning on attacking Americans and American interests.

News of the classified memo was first reveled by NBC News, who obtained a copy of the document.

"[The document] provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration's most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad," the memo read.

The memo added that those strikes were aimed at "American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes."

The memo has been the focus of criticism after questions began to arise regarding a citizens rights that are violated with such actions as well as the broader actions that can come about because of such practices.

"It's hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances. It summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority- the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement," Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, told The New York Times.