Holder reveals: U.S. has killed four American citizens in drone strikes

You can read the PDF of his letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee disclosing the number here. If you’re having trouble grasping the magnitude of it, let Greg Pollowitz help you:

Correct. Three jihadis, most famously Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, were waterboarded during Bush’s first term; four American citizens, most famously Anwar al-Awlaki, have been summarily liquidated from the air by the Civil Liberties President. Awlaki, incidentally, is the only one who was deliberately targeted. The other three are collateral damage, and you’re probably familiar with two of them. One was Awlaki’s teenaged son, who was killed a few weeks after his father while in the company of another jihadi suspect in Yemen. The other is Samir Khan, one of Awlaki’s disciples in propaganda and allegedly the editor of Inspire, Al Qaeda’s “magazine.” Khan, to my knowledge, was never accused of planning an attack, although he made it a lot easier for degenerates like the Tsarnaevs to kill people by publishing bombmaking instructions. He was killed in the same strike that killed Awlaki.

Who’s the fourth victim? That’s what Holder revealed today:

While rumors of [Jude Kenan] Mohammed’s death had appeared in local news reports in Raleigh, N.C., where he lived, his death had not been confirmed by the United States government until Wednesday.

According to former acquaintances of Mr. Mohammed in North Carolina, he appears to have been killed in a November 2011 drone strike in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal area. Mr. Mohammed’s wife, whom he had met and married in Pakistan, subsequently called his mother in North Carolina to tell her of his death, the friends say.

What was he doing in Waziristan? From a story last year by WRAL in North Carolina:

Khalilah Sabra, executive director of the North Carolina Muslim American Society, says she knew Mohammad well and described him as “just a regular neighborhood kid,” but also “a vulnerable youth.”…

Sabra says Mohammad left for Peshwar, Pakistan, in 2008 with one goal – to make jihad – because he didn’t agree with the war in Afghanistan and said he was going there to fight. Family members have insisted he went there in hopes that his father, a native of Pakistan, would pay for his college education there.

“He was never secret about his intentions,” Sabra said.

November 2011 was, incidentally, an especially busy time for U.S. drones in Pakistan’s tribal areas. There were three strikes in Waziristan that month, according to Long War Journal. The first, on November 3, targeted Haqqani Network fighters and represented the sixth strike in just eight days. Two more followed on consecutive days later in the month targeting “Taliban fighters” and “militants.” The White House was casting a proverbial wide net; Mohammed got caught up in it.

What’s public reaction to the news likely to be? Given Mohammed’s alleged jihadi aspirations, probably tacit assent. Fox News conducted a poll on drone strikes after Rand Paul’s Senate filibuster that tried to gauge which variables made Americans more or less leery about a drone strike. Are strikes on foreign soil okay? What if the target’s a U.S. citizen? What about a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil? Here’s what they found:


Clear support, even among Democrats. In fact, respondents were slightly more in favor of using drones in this scenario than they were in the reverse scenario where you have drones being used against a foreign terrorist who’s operating on U.S. soil. The big caveat, though, in applying this to Mohammed’s case is that he wasn’t targeted as a “suspected terrorist,” even if he was in the area to fight with the Taliban. By Holder’s own admission, he was collateral damage in a strike that was aimed at someone else. Ask the public whether they’re okay with turncoat Americans being killed incidentally in targeting a terror suspect and the numbers might change. Or maybe not: If I had to bet, I’d guess that most of the majority won’t fret about a guy being caught up in a Predator attack when he was allegedly there to fight American soldiers across the border. And if the numbers did move in response to learning that Mohammed was collateral damage, don’t be so sure that they’d move most dramatically among Democrats. Guy Benson marvels that, based on their ferocity to Bush’s waterboarding, Dems seem to object more to that than to summary execution of people whose identities aren’t even absolutely known. Are we sure they’d object to waterboarding jihadis if Obama brought it back, though? Whether because they repose special trust in Bambi not to abuse his power (too late!) or because they’re pure partisan hacks, they might very well let him slide even on that. The objection to Bush’s waterboarding was, I suspect, always more of an objection to Bush than to the waterboarding. They’re not necessarily inconsistent in supporting drone strikes too in that context.

By the way, if you missed it last night, sources tell Fox News that the feds know exactly where the mastermind of the Benghazi attack is and could go in and grab him — or give him the Awlaki treatment — at any time. When exactly did President Dronestrike discover restraint?

Update: Almost forgot: Obama’s big counterterrorism speech on drones and Gitmo is scheduled for tomorrow. Holder’s letter seems … untimely in that light, since coverage of this story is going to swallow up O’s speech tomorrow and leave him on the defensive. Odd.