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Justice Department memo: Drone strikes on U.S. citizens can be legal

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The U.S. Justice Department finds it legal to target American citizens with drone strikes under certain circumstances, according to a memo that just surfaced.

The undated memo, titled "Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operation Leader of al Qaeda or An Associated Force," was obtained by NBC News. The memo defines as legal drone attacks on U.S. citizens who were involved in violent attacks, according to United Press International.

Specifically, the memo states: "The condition that an operational leader present an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future," according to UPI. Citizens who present such "imminent threats" were defined as those who participated in violent acts — and maintained the views that led to their violent acts, according to UPI.

In those instances, a fatal drone attack would be considered a "legitimate act of national self-defense that would not violate the assassination ban," according to the memo.

The memo was distributed to various members of Senate and House intelligence committees.

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