Intel chairman: Drone strikes on Americans abroad ‘legitimate'

The United States should continue using drone strikes to kill Americans abroad who pose a terrorist threat, argues the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said al Qaeda affiliated fighters targeting the U.S. should not be handled by the court system, regardless of whether they are American citizens.

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"Enemy soldiers on the battlefield, no matter their citizenship, do not receive the protection of the Fifth Amendment or its guarantee of due process," Rogers wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.

"That fact does not mean that a president can order drone strikes against anyone sitting in a café in New York as he sees fit," he said. "But for al-Qaeda leaders, who plot attacks from lawless corners of the world where host governments are unable or unwilling to take action, drone strikes are a legitimate option for protecting America."

Rogers said that standard applied to Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011 and was a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Michigan Republican said attempting to try suspected terrorists in court allows for "two bad options."

One is for the U.S. to clear the paperwork in Washington and then dispatch American soldiers to capture the suspect, putting them at unreasonable risk, he said. The other option is to try the suspect in absentia, wasting millions of dollars and years of effort.

He said "nationals have a right to use force against legitimate enemy targets," and have had that right for hundreds of years.

"Our soldiers also need not wait until an attack — they can open fire as soon as they spot the enemy. That's because there is no such thing as due process on the battlefield. To act otherwise would be to risk American lives," he said.

Although the op-ed cites a broader authority to target enemies, it comes as lawmakers are rethinking the Authorization of Military Force that was meant to target al Qaeda terrorists responsible for 9/11 but has been used to target affiliated forces in Yemen and Africa.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are discussing ways the current AUMF could be revised to reflect the threat from al Qaeda in those areas, according to Defense News.

The White House has indicated it wishes to refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF.

"In a speech delivered at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013, the president noted that the AUMF is 12 years old and that he was willing to engage with Congress about the AUMF 'to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing,' " National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email on Friday.

"They will be a critical partner in getting us to the president’s goal of refining and ultimately repealing the AUMF," she said. 

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