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The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in the Name of Fighting the 'War on Terror'

Jeremy Scahill's new book, "Dirty Wars" shines a light on America’s unregulated and increasingly unilateral global assassination program.

The Obama administration’s assassination of two U.S. citizens in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old Denver-born son Abdulrahman, is a central part of Jeremy Scahill’s new book, " Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield." The book is based on years of reporting on U.S. secret operations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration has defended the killing of Anwar, it has never publicly explained why Abdulrahman was targeted in a separate drone strike two weeks later. Scahill reveals CIA Director John Brennan, Obama’s former senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, suspected that the teenager had been killed "intentionally." "The idea that you can simply have one branch of government unilaterally and in secret declare that an American citizen should be executed or assassinated without having to present any evidence whatsoever, to me, is a — we should view that with great sobriety about the implications for our country," says Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation Magazine. On Tuesday,  the U.S. Senate is preparing to hold its first-ever hearing on the Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing program. However, the Obama administration is refusing to send a witness to answer questions about the program’s legality. 

AMY GOODMAN:  Jeremy Scahill’s book,  Dirty Wars, is being published today. Jeremy takes a deep look at America’s new covert wars operated by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC. From Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia and beyond, Jeremy shines a light on America’s unregulated and increasingly unilateral global assassination program. Two central figures in the book are Anwar al-Awlaki and his Denver-born 16-year-old son Abdulrahman, two American citizens killed in separate U.S. drone strikes in Yemen in 2011.

Today, an exclusive hour with Jeremy Scahill. I began by asking him to talk about cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Anwar al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen who was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. His father is quite an extraordinary guy. He, Dr. Nasser Aulaqi, had come as a very young student to the United States, and he studied English as a young man in Lawrence, Kansas, and ended up getting a number of degrees in the United States. In fact, he was the alum of the year in 2002 at New Mexico State University, where he got one of his degrees. Very distinguished person in Yemen. And as a young man growing up in—as he put it, in a country that didn’t have a name yet, growing up in the south of Yemen, he dreamt of going to the United States, and his dream came true as a young man.

And so, he was a college student in the United States when his young—when Anwar was born, in 1971. And he really wanted to raise Anwar as an American. He viewed America as the—you know, to quote Reagan, sort of a paraphrased Reagan—the shining city atop the hill. I mean, he really did view it that way. And I looked at his essays from when he first came to the United States, and all of the international students wrote essays about, you know, what it was they wanted to get out of it. And he said that "the progressivism of America was electric, and I wanted to be a part of that, and I wanted to take my education and go back to my very poor country and to make something of my life." And so he started to build this family, and they lived in Minneapolis. And they showed me pictures of Anwar pointing out Yemen on the globe in his classroom, and he couldn’t pronounce the teacher’s name, so he just called her "Mrs. M." And, you know, there were photos of him at Disney World and—or, Disneyland in California.

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