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US officials debate launching drone strike on American citizen

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President Barack Obama (Pete Souza/White House via Flickr)
President Barack Obama (Pete Souza/White House via Flickr)

An American member of al-Qaeda has been identified and located in a hostile nation, and according to a new report by the Associated Press, the Obama administration is struggling with the legal implications of killing him. According to the report, the CIA has determined the suspect is actively plotting attacks in a nation that refuses US military action on its soil, but is waiting on a Justice Department review before taking any action. The Pentagon has already approved the use of lethal force.

The idea of a drone strike on an American citizen has faced challenges before, both from Congress and from federal judges, under claims that the program would circumvent the constitutional right to due process. In May, the president issued new oversight for drone strikes and a higher standard for the use of lethal force, both of which will be tested in the current case. The case also mirrors a 2009 strike against cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the only previous American citizen to have been targeted and killed by drone strike.