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4 Americans killed since 2009 in US drone strikes

FILE - In this May 21, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. The U.S. will refocus its attention on  homegrown terror threats against Americans, President Barack Obama will say in a Thursday speech that is forecast as skimpy on any new sweeping policies. The move reflects the global fragmentation of al-Qaida’s top leaders as the U.S. tries to safeguard against attacks like last month’s deadly Boston Marathon bombings. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

FILE - In this May 21, 2013 file photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. The U.S. will refocus its attention on homegrown terror threats against Americans, President Barack Obama will say in a Thursday speech that is forecast as skimpy on any new sweeping policies. The move reflects the global fragmentation of al-Qaida’s top leaders as the U.S. tries to safeguard against attacks like last month’s deadly Boston Marathon bombings. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The Obama administration acknowledged for the first time yesterday that four American citizens have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen since 2009. The disclosure to Congress comes on the eve of a major national security speech by President Obama in which he plans to pledge more transparency to Congress in his counterterrorism policy.

It was already known that three Americans had been killed in U.S. drones strikes in counterterrorism operations overseas, but Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed details that had remained secret and also that a fourth American had been killed.

In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Holder said that the government targeted and killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and that the U.S. “is aware” of the killing of three others who were not targets of counterterror operations.

Al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, was killed in a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen. The other two known cases are Samir Khan, who was killed in the same drone strike as al-Awlaki and al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, a Denver native, who also was killed in Yemen.

The newly revealed case is that of Jude Kenan Mohammed, one of eight men indicted by federal authorities in 2009, accused of being part of a plot to attack the U.S. Marine
Corps base at Quantico, Va. Before he could be arrested, Mohammad fled the country to join jihadi fighters in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where he was among those killed by a U.S. drone.

“Since entering office, the president has made clear his commitment to providing Congress and the American people with as much information as possible about our sensitive counterterrorism operations,” Holder said in his letter to Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. “To this end, the president
has directed me to disclose certain information that
until now has been properly classified.”

“The administration is determined to continue these extensive outreach efforts to communicate with the American people,” Holder wrote.

The White House said Obama’s national security speech today coincides with the signing of new “presidential policy guidance” on when the U.S. can use drone strikes, though it was unclear what that guidance entailed and whether Obama would outline its specifics in his remarks.

Obama “believes that we need to be as transparent about a matter like this as we can, understanding that
there are national security implications to this issue and to the broader issues involved in counterterrorism policy,” White House spokesman
Jay Carney told reporters
yesterday.

Obama’s speech today is expected to reaffirm his national security priorities – from homegrown terrorists to killer drones to the enemy combatants imprisoned at
Guantanamo Bay – but make no new sweeping policy
pronouncements.

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