The secret memo that allowed the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last month justified his killing as legal because he could not be captured alive, reports the New York Times. Completed in June 2010, the 50-page memo also was written narrowly, to deny the general targeted killings of American citizens, and only allowed killing Awlaki because he was active in the war with al-Qaeda, he posed a danger to Americans, and the Yemen government was unable to stop him.
The White House has refused to comment on the Awlaki killing, as it is officially a classified mission, but the New Mexico-born terrorist leader was reportedly put on a kill-or-capture list soon after the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas 2009. The memo dismissed a ban on assassinations, as well as arguments based on the Constitution's Fourth and Fifth amendments, because Awlaki was active in armed conflict and is a wartime enemy. The memo did impose some limits, however, including one on civilian casualties that apparently delayed the strike on Awlaki for several weeks until he moved out of a village to a less-populated area.