President Obama last week approved of a predator drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent al Qaeda figure linked by U.S. intelligence agencies to two unsuccessful attacks on U.S.-bound airplanes. Samir Kahn, a second American killed in the attack, was the editor of the online al Qaeda magazine "Inspire." This occured in the foreign nation of Yemen.
I understand that at least one of the individuals if not both were bad men. However, I also understand that they were not an imminent threat to killing or harming another individual (i.e. self defense/defense of others). I also would have less trouble if the killing occurred in countries that we engage in War or where the U.S. Congress authorizes a "military engagement" such as Iraq or Afghanistan. I am even less comfortable with the general idea when those we kill also are American citizens (for example I seemed relatively OK with the killing of Osama Bin Ladin [but would have preferred if he was arrested and tried in a legal proceeding]. Even the Nazi war criminals were not assassinate but taken for trial.
What I am unclear on is what was Obama's legal authority to kill them? Do I have the same authority as an American Citizen to kill other American citizens overseas? I understand the Obama administration has a memorandum justifying its position (but its a 'secret' memorandum so at this time we just have to take his word for it). If Obama is authorised to kill these American citizens oversees are there American citizens overseas that he is not authorised to kill?
Will this create new precedents for when it is Ok to kill/seize/ search a home without judicial review within the confines of the U.S.?