Hassan-i Sabbah, First Grandmaster Assassin
MQ-9 Reaper, Current Grandmaster Assassin
NBC News has released an administration whitepaper outlining the rational behind the targeted assassination of American citizens overseas. I urge you to read it.
Pretty much all that is required is a "senior administration official" declaring you a senior operational leader of Al-Qaeda or "associated forces" and bang... out of the sky comes a Hellfire missile. Theoretically, you could be sitting in a cafe sipping coffee in some benign place like Brussels or London and it could still happen.
Twenty-five years in the military and I find this seriously disturbing, and it runs counter to everything I was ever taught about the Laws of Armed Conflict, not to mention the Constitution. As an exercise evaluator for the 7th Air Force, I have written up and had upheld 'exercise' LOAC violations for personnel shooting unarmed people in enemy uniforms, I can just imagine what the response to shooting an unarmed enemy soldier in civilian clothes sitting in a cafe sipping coffee would have been.
Beyond All RecognitionThe administration has distorted the concept of imminence and imminent threat beyond recognition. Not only that, but the assassination of Abdhulraman, Al-Awlaki's son while eating at an outdoor restaurant seems to have revived the crime of attainder or corruption of blood also specifically prohibited by the constitution.
Left or RightIt doesn't matter whether your political affiliation is Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Independent, as American's we must come together and support the principles this country was founded upon, our constitution and the rule of law. We must avow firmly and resolutely that our government cannot target American citizens not engaged in combat simply because some petty or not so petty bureaucrat designates them the enemy. Killing a fellow American engaged in combat on the field of battle is one thing, but that battlefield cannot be extended world-wide, nor can 'planning' be considered an act of war. We generate operational plans for combat all the time, for every conceivable scenario imaginable, and pretty much everywhere, friend or foe... planning does not constitute combat.
Glen Greenwald of the Guardian has a spot-on analysis here