Obama administration outline: How U.S. laws empower the government to kill Americans overseas

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(Reuters) – The Obama administration on Monday plans to outline how U.S. laws empower the government to kill Americans overseas who engage in terrorism against their home country, a source familiar with the matter said, months after a drone strike killed a U.S.-born cleric who plotted attacks from Yemen.

Civil liberties groups have been pressuring the administration to offer justification for what has been described as a top-secret “targeted kill” program in which Americans who have joined al Qaeda or other militants are deemed legitimate targets to be killed overseas.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder plans to address the issue and the underpinning legal principles for using lethal force during remarks at Northwestern University School of Law on Monday afternoon in Chicago, the source said Sunday on condition of anonymity.

The Obama administration has stepped up using unmanned aerial drones against terrorism suspects including the September killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born cleric who went into hiding in Yemen who had been directing al Qaeda militants to launch several attacks against the United States.

U.S. officials have refused to talk much publicly about the program but some officials said last year that Americans like Awlaki could be placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior U.S. government officials which then informs the president of its decisions.

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