WASHINGTON: The US government is debating whether to kill an American citizen abroad who is allegedly part of the Al-Qaeda network and plotting attacks against the United States, media reported Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
President Barack Obama’s administration is weighing the possible drone strike against the American who is in a country that refuses to allow US military action on its soil, CNN television reported, citing an unnamed US official.
The identity of the American Al-Qaeda militant and his location remain secret, as officials fear revealing that information would lead him to go deeper into hiding and derail a potential drone missile strike.
The news was first reported by the Associated Press.
US intelligence agencies and the Pentagon declined to comment on the reports when contacted by Agence France-Presse.
Under new guidelines handed down by Obama last May, a decision to use lethal force against an American overseas has to be based on “a continuing, imminent threat to US persons” and only if capturing the terror suspect is “not feasible.”
According to the media reports, two officials said the American was an Al-Qaeda operative who has been directly responsible for attacks against US citizens abroad and who continues to plan attacks using homemade bombs.
The Justice Department reportedly was still working to build a case against the American Al-Qaeda member, which would be required for any decision to go ahead.
The new rules for drone strikes came in for criticism last week from the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers of Michigan, who accused the administration last week of undermining counter-terrorism efforts.
“Individuals who would have been previously removed from the battlefield by US counterterrorism operations for attacking or plotting to attack against US interests remain free because of self-imposed red tape,” Rogers said.
Obama approved new guidelines after coming under fire for approving the targeting of another US citizen, radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September 2011.
Three other Americans have been killed in counter-terror strikes but were not intentionally targeted, US officials admitted last year.
Human rights groups say the drone strike program remains shrouded in secrecy and lacks clear legal limits.
“The public and most members of Congress are still completely in the dark about where the US claims authority to strike, the legal rules, and the identity of those already killed,” Amnesty International USA’s Naureen Shah said in a statement.
US officials defend the program as carefully regulated and say the strikes have weakened Al-Qaeda’s core leadership while reducing the threat of an attack on US soil.