In what may be an unprecedented move, Barack Obama has authorized the CIA to assassinate an American citizen. The target: Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico, but now operates out of Yemen. Counterterror officials say he’s a member of al-Qaeda, and has been linked to numerous terrorist plots, including the attempted Christmas Day bombing and Fort Hood shooting.
Because Awlaki is an American citizen, the CIA had to get special permission from the White House to put him on their kill list. A former Bush official tells the New York Times that he’s not sure it’s ever happened before, and didn’t, to his knowledge, happen under Bush. But Awlaki is seen as a major threat—he’s moved from simply encouraging attacks to actively planning them, according to one intelligence official. " He knows he won’t be met with handshakes and flowers. None of this should surprise anyone."