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thedrifter
12-04-02, 07:02 AM
CIA agents licensed to kill Americans who work with terrorists, officials say

By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press
First published: Wednesday, December 4, 2002

WASHINGTON -- American citizens working for al-Qaida overseas can legally be targeted and killed by the CIA under President Bush's rules for the war on terrorism, officials say.

The authority to kill U.S. citizens is granted under a secret finding signed by the President after the Sept. 11 attacks that directs the CIA to covertly attack al-Qaida anywhere in the world. The authority makes no exception for Americans, so permission to strike them is understood rather than specifically described, these sources said.

These U.S. officials said the authority will be used only when other options are unavailable. Military-like strikes will take place only when law enforcement and internal security efforts by allied foreign countries fail, the officials said.

Capturing and questioning al-Qaida operatives is preferable, even more so if an operative is a U.S. citizen, the sources said. Any decision to strike an American will be made at the highest levels, perhaps by the President.

The CIA already has killed one American under this authority, although U.S. officials maintain he wasn't the target.

On Nov. 3, a CIA-operated Predator drone fired a missile that destroyed a carload of suspected al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. The target of the attack, a Yemeni named Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, was the top al-Qaida operative in that country. Efforts by Yemeni authorities to detain him had previously failed.

But the CIA didn't know a U.S. citizen, Yemeni-American Kamal Derwish, was in the car. He died, along with al-Harethi and four other Yemenis.

The Bush administration said the killing of an American in this fashion was legal.

"I can assure you that no constitutional questions are raised here. There are authorities that the President can give to officials," said Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, after the attack. "He's well within the balance of accepted practice and the letter of his constitutional authority."

American authorities have alleged that Derwish was the leader of an al-Qaida cell in suburban Buffalo. Most of the alleged members of the cell were arrested and charged with supporting terrorists, but Derwish was not accused of any crime.

Family members in Buffalo say they have yet to be contacted by the U.S. government about Derwish's death, which they learned about through media reports.

Mohamed Albanna, vice president of the American Muslim Council's Buffalo chapter, urged authorities to confirm the death.

"It's just a matter of common respect for the family here. After all, they are U.S. citizens." He added that Derwish "has not been tried and has not been found guilty, so, in that sense, he's still an innocent American who was killed. That's what the law states."

In killing him, the administration defined Derwish as an enemy combatant, the equivalent of a U.S. citizen who fights with the enemy on a battlefield, officials said. Under this legal definition, experts say, his constitutional rights are nullified and he can be killed outright.

Other Americans have been similarly classed since Sept. 11, including Jose Padilla, accused of plotting to use a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States, and Yaser Esam Hamdi, alleged to have fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Both are in military custody.

But a third American, John Walker Lindh, was turned over to the civilian courts for his time spent with the Taliban. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to some charges.

Previously, the government's authority to kill a citizen outside of the judicial process has been generally restricted to when the American is directly threatening the lives of other Americans or their allies.

Earlier presidential authorizations of lethal covert action, in Latin America and elsewhere, have also tacitly allowed the killing of Americans fighting with the other side, former senior intelligence officials said. But the officials knew of no instances where U.S. citizens were targeted.

Copyright 2002 Associated Press.


Sempers,

Roger