By Ken Dilanian
5:31 PM EDT, May 22, 2013
WASHINGTON – A day before President Obama is set to deliver a major speech on national security, his administration acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that it had killed four U.S. citizens – one more than previously known – with drone missile strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.
In a letter to congressional leaders, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said the administration had deliberately killed Anwar Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was slain in September 2011 in Yemen, but had killed three other Americans inadvertently.
They include Samir Khan, an Al Qaeda propagandist who grew up in Queens, N.Y., and who was killed in the car with Awlaki, and Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, who was born in Denver and killed in Yemen two weeks later. The previously unknown fourth was Jude Mohammed, who lived in Raleigh, N.C., and was killed in November 2011 in Pakistan.
“These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States,” Holder wrote.
The development raises the stakes for the policy speech Obama is scheduled to deliver Thursday at the National Defense University. He is facing growing public pressure to explain the use of drone missile strikes to kill suspected terrorists around the globe, and to outline his evolving strategy against a weakened Al Qaeda.
Obama, who personally approves individual CIA drone strikes in some cases, has never publicly explained the legal framework his administration uses to select who is targeted and what evidence is considered and why. The highly classified program receives congressional oversight but no apparent judicial review.
The fact that drones have killed four Americans and that only one, Awlaki, was specifically targeted suggests the process is not as precise as officials have suggested.
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