Should the U.S. Drone Strike Its Own Citizens?



Should the American government be allowed to sanction a drone strike against one of its own citizens? It is a serious and potentially hazardous debate that could change the way we think about delivering justice in this country. The inception of the unmanned military drone, an apparatus with enough firepower to level a house and any of the occupants inside, has led to a whole new era of executions from the sky, a notion previously confined to the science fiction genre.

But now it is a reality, as well as a public debate, a debate that President Obama reluctantly embraced when he imposed new restrictions on drone operations last May, citing public concern over the program. The moral hazard of extra-judicial executions of foreign-born terrorists has now culminated in this–the possibility of legalizing the authorization of a U.S. drone strike against one of its own citizens.

While the legal boundaries for such a strike are unclear, the Obama administration seemed to toe that line back in September 2011 by carrying out a strike against an American citizen overseas. The CIA-piloted drone that killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen was a targeted attack on the American-born citizen turned jihadist. While all of this was going on, officials were less than transparent about their operation.

This time around, however, a public conversation is being held. This time, it is practically sponsored by the government, discussing whether the United States should carry out another strike against one of its own citizens.

The CIA, which, up until now, has handled most of the drone program, has carried out multiple assassinations over its tenure as one of America’s largest spy agencies. From General Ahmed Dlimi of Morocco in 1983, to Patrice Lumumba of the Congo in 1960, assassinations have been a less than favorable solution for the agency when matters get out of hand and threaten American interests. This is why this drone debate is so important.

Should we, as American citizens, allow our government to not only assassinate “enemies” of the state abroad, but publicly debate it and sanction such actions against American-born enemies of the state?

Proponents of extra-judicial drone strikes say that such measures have allowed American officials to keep soldiers out of harm’s way, while arguing at the same time that drone strikes have ended the reign of many leaders of terrorist organizations who are simply too dangerous or elusive to catch.

Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan says that drone strikes are the one thing that ensures America’s enemies are dealt with, going as far as lauding President Obama for his drone restrictions last May: “Individuals who would have been previously removed from the battlefield by U.S. counterterrorism operations for attacking or plotting to attack U.S. interests remain free because of self-imposed red tape.”


Opponents of the drone program say the extra-judicial killing of foreign-born terrorists is bad enough, and violates basic human rights. Opponents now say that America’s sanctioning of drone strikes against American-born citizens throws out the concept of human rights entirely, and could lead to an era where extra-judicial killings by drone strikes could be used at home as a precautionary measure against individuals deemed “too dangerous to catch.”

In regard to the public debate raging over the drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki , details are still murky, which officials say is deliberate in order to protect the operation. Officials have said, however, that the target poses a direct threat to Americans, and must be dealt with promptly.

The debate continues on whether the American government should drone strike one of its own citizens to “deal” with pending threats.

The other side of this debate is, are we Americans so desensitized to the execution by drone strike method that we are now publicly toying with the idea of attacking our own citizens? You decide.

Commentary by John Amaruso

New York Times
The Guardian

13 thoughts on “Should the U.S. Drone Strike Its Own Citizens?

  1. You failed to mention that in Yemen we also killed Mr. al-Awlaki’s teenage son a few weeks later with a drone.
    No one should be executed by the government — it is a continuation of state-sponsored violence. If this person is found in a court proceeding to be guilty, he/she should be imprisoned. I no longer trust the Department of Justice or a secret court to make a decision of this gravity without bias. There should be a trial.
    The president cannot execute American citizens without habeas corpus protections. We have finally made it to the police state definition of a government. Just read the history of Germany in the 1930s.
    Who is to stop these madmen from declaring anyone a terrorist and extinguishing them with a drone right here in the United States? A secret court like the Nazis had, would declare them guilty. Unfortunately there will be no Nurenburg trials afterwards to punish these evil people.
    W.L. Williams, MD

  2. A US citizen has spoken out urging jihad against America. A US congressman has urged summary execution of US citizens who urge jihad against America. Which one is the criminal? Why aren’t we discussing charging the congressman with attempted murder?

  3. I agree with the others. Enemies should be droned.

    First, as citizens, they should face due process. Innocent until proven guilty. But if convicted in court, then send them running loose in the Mojave Desert, and have a drone chased them down and bomb them.

    Actually, that might be seen as cruel and unusual.

    Ok… this is it: if convicted in court, drug them and have put their bodies on the sand and have a drone bomb them.

  4. Every U.S. citizen- in country or abroad, has the right to a fair trial, and is innocent before before proven guilty, period. Whoever wrote this story is a moron.

  5. “Americans” who want to kill Americans are NOT Americans so their is no debate there. Any human being who publicly announce they want to kill other human, American or not, in the name of what ever crap they believe in needs to be dealt with appropriately. There is no debate there either.

    1. In a country with tens of thousands of murders every year, there are a lot of Americans who want to kill other Americans. That is not the issue. Terrorists are murderers like the thug on Main Street committing an armed robbery.
      If found guilty of murder by due process, imprisonment is called for. (Look up what Norway is doing in their prison system. Opportunities for psychological help, education, job placement, etc. No violence and no recidivism.)
      Violence is violence — whatever the cause. Treat it in a humane way after a jury has decided guilt. Otherwise we make the mistake of keeping these circles of violence going for yet another century.

  6. The government definitely has the right, and duty, to take out any potential threat preemptively, even if the target is a citizen. It is up to each citizen to live their life in a law abiding way or face penalties.

    1. But who decides whether there is a potential threat? Liars like Mr. Clapper of the NSA? Secret courts that rubber stamp violations of the constitution? That is the problem. With the laws written the way they are now, ANYONE can be found guilty and hauled off to a concentration camp or (now) they can be eliminated secretly by a drone.

    1. Amen, this shouldn’t even be up for discussion. Just like the NSA, once again American citizens are being treated as the terrorists. How many freedoms are we going to give up?

  7. When someone goes in our military service, we swear to fight, protect and fight against foreign and domestic enemies. If one of our own becomes the enemy, well, end of conversation.

  8. It is the least they can do to traitors who want to kill Americans. That alone should strip them of citizenship.

    They have forsaken their own country to fight against us. They deserve execution as traitors, and how that execution occurs is the business of the government. Execute him, and others of the same ilk.

    They should not have the protections that loyal Americans have by dint of a citizenship they hold dear. They should be viewed and treated as the enemy of us all.

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