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Plurality supports targeted killings of U.S.-born terrorists living outside the country: poll

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More people support than oppose the targeting and killing of Americans living in other countries who are suspected members of terrorist groups.

A clear majority, meanwhile, supports the use of drone strikes to kill suspected members of Al Qeada and other terrorist groups.

The findings are part of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey of 1,000 adults that has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

More than four in 10 respondents said they support the targeted killing of Americans who are suspected terrorists living in other countries, compared to a quarter who said they do not.

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed also said they favor using drones to kill suspected members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists living in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries, while 16 percent of those surveyed said they oppose such strikes.

Mr. Obama delivered a high-profile address at the National Defense University in Washington in May in which the Democrat laid out new guidelines of the use of drones to kill terrorists overseas, vowing to put limits on the use of the unmanned air crafts.

The speech came after Attorney General H. Eric Holder Jr. sent a letter to Congress in May in which he publicly confirmed for the first time that U.S. drone strikes have killed four Americans.

In the letter, Mr. Holder said that the U.S. “specifically targeted” Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born preacher, during strikes in Yemen and listed the three other Americans who he said had been accidentally killed in the strikes: Samir Khan, Jude Kenan Mohammed and Abderrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the targeted man’s son.

Mr. Holder called it “an unfortunate but undeniable fact” that Americans had been killed, but said U.S. citizenship doesn’t make someone immune from being targeted.

The drone program started under President George W. Bush. Some say the program does more harm than good and that the strikes have killed far more civilians than the government has acknowledged.

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul helped thrust the issue of domestic drone strikes into the national spotlight earlier this year when he led a 13-hour filibuster of the nomination of John O. Brennan to be CIA director in March, threatening to block the confirmation vote until the Obama administration clarified that it will not use drones to kill Americans on U.S. soil.

Mr. Holder responded the following day with a letter.

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no,” Mr. Holder said.

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