I’m not exaggerating that much (via NBC):
A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders”… of al-Qaida or “an associated force” — even if there is no… intelligence… indicating they… are… engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.
The… 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained… by NBC News, provides new details… about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the… September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never… been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes. …
But the confidential… Justice Department “white paper”… introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described… by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches.… It refers, for example,… to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.
“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,” the memo states.