US Attorney: US citizens abroad in al-Shabab could lose rights to trial

U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones
U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, seen here in a file photo, says a new policy on targeting U.S. citizens abroad who are believed to be involved in terrorism could apply to the roughly two dozen young Minnesota men that allegedly joined the terrorist group al-Shabab.
MPR File Photo/Steve Mullis

Minnesota's U.S. attorney says a new policy on targeting U.S. citizens abroad who are believed to be involved in terrorism could apply to the roughly two dozen young Minnesota men that allegedly joined the terrorist group al-Shabab.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder explained the Obama administration's legal rationale for targeted killings of American citizens at Northwestern University School of Law on Monday. Holder said targets with American citizenship must fulfill three requirements. They must be outside the United States, serve as a senior leader of al-Qaeda or an allied group and actively plan to kill Americans.

B. Todd Jones, acting head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm (ATF) and U.S. Attorney for the district of Minnesota, told Tom Crann on All Things Considered on Friday that his role wasn't to "second guess" the policy.

"When you choose to leave the United States and go overseas to engage in a war, a terroristic war, you do lose certain rights and privileges with respect to process — whether you call it judicial process or due process — if you select to go overseas and engage in warfare against the country that you are a citizen of," Jones said.

Jones said that suspects could be treated differently if they returned home, rather than staying overseas.

Thus far, all suspects in prosecutions having to do with support for al-Shabab in Minnesota have been given due process, Jones said.

"It's really clear that what we're doing here is in the continental U.S., if there are activities happening here involving violation of federal law on the security front," people receive civil trials and are not tried in military court, Jones said.

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