Court releases memo justifying drone attacks on U.S. citizens

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - A federal appeals court on Monday released a redacted version of the U.S. Justice Department's legal justification for the September 2011 drone attack that killed Anwar al Awlaki, a American-born Islamist preacher alleged to be an operational leader with al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate.

The memo, prepared by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, says that because the U.S. government considered al Awlaki to be an "operational leader" of an "enemy force," it would be legal for the CIA to attack him with a drone "as part of the United States' ongoing non-international armed conflict with al Qaeda," even though he was a U.S. citizen.

The memo also says the killing of al Awlaki by U.S. military forces would be legal under an authorization for the use of U.S. military force approved by Congress following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

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