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JUNE 2017


edge the targeted killing program and to describe how persons

became targets of the program.

Instead of scaling the program back, however, the Obama

administration doubled down. It essentially designated all

military-age males in a foreign strike zone as combatants, and

therefore potential targets of what it termed “signature strikes.”

Even more disturbing, it declared that strikes aimed at specific,

high-value terrorists, known as “personality strikes,” could

include American citizens.

That theoretical possibility soon became a grim reality.

In April 2010, Pres. Obama authorized the CIA to “target”

Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and a former imam

at a Virginia mosque, for assassination. Less than a decade

before, the Office of the Secretary of the Army had invited the

imam to participate in an interfaith service following 9/11.

But al-Awlaki later became an outspoken critic of the “war on

terror,” moved to his father’s homeland of Yemen, and helped

al-Qaida recruit members.

On Sept. 30, 2011, a drone strike killed al-Awlaki and another

American, Samir Khan—who was traveling with him in Yemen.

U.S. drones killed al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-

Awlaki, an American citizen, 10 days later in an attack on a group

of young men around a campfire. The Obama administration

never made clear whether the 16-year-old son was targeted indi-

vidually because he was al-Awlaki’s son or if he was the victim

of a “signature” strike, fitting the description of a young military-

age male. However, during a White House press conference, a

reporter asked Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs how he could

defend the killings, and especially the death of a U.S.-citizen

minor who was “targeted without due process, without trial.”

Gibbs’ response did nothing to help the U.S. image in the

Muslimworld: “I would suggest that you should have had a far

more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the

well-being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al-Qaida

jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.”

On Jan. 29, 2017, al-Awlaki’s 8-year-old daughter, Nawar al-

Awlaki, was killed in a U.S. commando attack in Yemen ordered

by Obama’s successor, Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the media continued to report incidents of

civilians being killed in drone strikes across the region, which

frequently target wedding parties and funerals. Many inhabit-

ants of the region along the Afghan-Pakistan border could hear

the buzz of drones circling their area around the clock, causing

psychological trauma for all those who live in the area, especially


The Obama administration was strongly criticized for the