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NYT on Al-Aulaqi Operation and Underlying Legal Analysis

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Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 4:26 PM

[UPDATED 4:53]

Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti, and Charlie Savage of The New York Times have this lengthy article on the hunt for Anwar Al-Aulaqi.  Their piece describes, among other things, the legal analyses that approved of Al-Aulaqi’s killing.

Interestingly, the article says that OLC’s legal workup was influenced by “a legal blog that focused on a statute that bars Americans from killing other Americans overseas.”   It is unclear to what legal blog the authors refer (and hard to know for sure what affected OLC’s thinking)—but the timing and content suggest this Opinio Juris post by Kevin Jon Heller.

In any event, the Lawfarer’s must-read begins thusly:

One morning in late September 2011, a group of American drones took off from an airstrip the C.I.A. had built in the remote southern expanse of Saudi Arabia. The drones crossed the border into Yemen, and were soon hovering over a group of trucks clustered in a desert patch of Jawf Province, a region of the impoverished country once renowned for breeding Arabian horses.

A group of men who had just finished breakfast scrambled to get to their trucks. One was Anwar al-Awlaki, the firebrand preacher, born in New Mexico, who had evolved from a peddler of Internet hatred to a senior operative in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Another was Samir Khan, another American citizen who had moved to Yemen from North Carolina and was the creative force behind Inspire, the militant group’s English-language Internet magazine.

Two of the Predator drones pointed lasers on the trucks to pinpoint the targets, while the larger Reapers took aim. The Reaper pilots, operating their planes from thousands of miles away, readied for the missile shots, and fired.