Karl Grills Earnest: Under Your Policy Drone Strike A Justified Killing If Targets Presented An Imminent Threat. Did They?

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ABC News reporter Jon Karl asks White House press secretary Josh Earnest about the killing of an American citizen said to be a member of al-Qaeda.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: Josh, you will not tell us if they were drone strikes.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Jon, despite the information I am able to provide about this previously classified operation, I cannot discuss precisely how it was carried out. You can tell us Adam Gadan and Achmed Farouk were not targets. Does the president regret it.

No. The two individuals you mentioned were leaders of al-Qaeda. They had prominent positions in the al-Qaeda. one was a leader of AQIS. And al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent and playing a prominent role in leading that network's operation and planning in that region of the world. Mr. Gadon, had styled himself as a prominent spokesperson for al-Qaeda. And it is for that and other reasons that he was indicted by the U.S. government for treason.

JON KARL: So the administration's policy on the justification for killing of American citizens in these counter terrorism strikes according to the attorney general, they represented the imminent threat of violent attack against the U.S. and capture was not feasible. Are you saying they represented an imminent threat of a violent attack against the U.S.? That is under your policy is a justified killing of an American.

JOSH EARNEST: I am saying that these two al-Qaeda leaders were frequenting an al-Qaeda compound. And the United States carried out a counter terrorism operation against those compounds with the intent of taking al-Qaeda fighters and leaders off of the battlefield.

We do that because the al-Qaeda organization is actively planning and plotting against American citizens. as encapsulated in the AUMF. The United States is at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates because of the way they are planning and plotting against the united states and their citizens.

JON KARL: What I asked is, did they represent a threat of imminent violent attack against the United States. That is in the words of the attorney general a justified killing of an American...

Is it legal under the guidelines that this administration put in place. Is it legal to kill American citizens who do not represent a threat of imminent attack against the U.S.?

JOSH EARNEST: What is permissible in international law and in the protocol that the president established that the U.S. will carry out strikes against al-Qaeda compounds this we can assess with near certainty they are frequented by al-Qaeda leaders. That is the operation that took place. And that operation resulted in the death of al-Qaeda fighters and leaders inside of the compound.

JON KARL: Would it have been illegal to intentionally target those two men?

JOSH EARNEST: There is a separate procedure and protocol for specifically targeting American citizens.

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