President Trump’s top spokesman on Tuesday said the military will never target U.S. citizens in overseas operations, including those suspected of being involved in terrorist groups.
“No American citizen will ever be targeted,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said when asked whether the Trump administration would target American citizens with ties to extremists.
The comment put the Trump White House at odds with the Obama administration, which killed U.S.-born alleged al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
The Justice Department produced a legal memo justifying the strike, which was made public in 2014. The administration said the killing did not violate the Constitution because al-Awlaki posed an imminent threat to the U.S.
Spicer indicated those types of operations would not longer be carried out by the U.S. military.
The spokesman was peppered with questions about the policy in response to a weekend counterterrorism raid in Yemen that left al-Awlaki’s eight-year-old daughter dead, according to NBC News.
Spicer refused to confirm the death, but said the raid resulted in the killings of 14 al Qaeda operatives and the capture of sensitive intelligence.
One Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, was killed in the raid.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump floated the possibility of using controversial tactics to ramp up the fight against foreign terrorist groups, which he said was too soft under former President Obama.
The range of options he proposed using included going after the family members of suspected terrorists.
“When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he told “Fox and Friends” in December 2015. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself.”