Journalist Jeremy Scahill criticized the Obama administration on Thursday's "Democracy Now" over its recent admission that it has killed at least four American citizens in drone strikes.
Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chair Pat Leahy on Thursday, formally acknowledging for the first time that the U.S. had killed Anwar al-Awlaki and three others in strikes. Holder said that, of the four, only Awlaki had been "specifically" and deliberately targeted.
The letter also laid out the administration's case for killing Awlaki and defended the legality of his killing and of drone strikes in general. It came ahead of President Obama's Thursday speech on national security, in which the president is expected to address his policies on drones and Guantanamo.
Scahill, who has written a book about Awlaki and the drone program, was not impressed. Holder's letter, he said, "raises more questions than it answers." He said he was particularly concerned about the evidence Holder laid out against al-Awlaki as part of his case for killing him.
"All of these allegations are made by Eric Holder, but no actual evidence has ever been presented against Awlaki to indicate that he played the role that Eric Holder is asserting," he said. "His trial was basically just litigated through leaks in the press. He was never indicted on any of these charges. And Holder, in fact, in his letter, says that we have all of this evidence, but it's too dangerous to be made public. And so, there's really a continuation of posthumous trial of Anwar Awlaki through leaks and now through this letter from Eric Holder."
Scahill also spoke about three others who Holder said were not "specifically targeted," as well as all of the civilians reportedly killed in drone strikes.
"I really think that Congress needs to step it up and ask how these Americans were killed," he said. But I also think that, on both a moral level and, my understanding, also on a legal level, it really is irrelevant whether they're Americans or not Americans. Why I think it's important to focus on these cases is because how a society will treat its own citizens is a good indicator of how it's going to treat noncitizens around the world. And if the basic standards of due process are not being afforded to American citizens, then they certainly are not going to be afforded to non-American citizens."