The Obama administration continues its scandal-ridden month of May with an acknowledgment from the Department of Justice this week that four Americans were killed in U.S. drone strikes. Three of the four killed were terrorists, and one was a teenager in the wrong place at the wrong time.
All four deaths reveal the administration's use of drone strikes has been targeted towards eliminating terror suspects. However, in doing so they may have diluted the terrorist machinery but encouraged "lone wolf" behavior as seen in Boston last month and London this week.
Here's more about these Americans killed in the first acknowledgment on drone deaths by the U.S.:
Al-Awlaki was long considered the most dangerous American in Al-Qaeda. Known as a "senior recruiter and spiritual motivator," the Yemeni imam recorded videos and sermons condemning the U.S. and providing information and guidance on how to carry out violent acts against Americans.
He supervised Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood U.S. Army psychiatrist that went on a shooting rampage, and was operationally supporting the "underwear" bomber Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He is also linked to the 2005 Londong bombings, the 2006 Toronto terrorism case, the 2007 Fort Dix attack plot, the 2009 Little Rock military recruting office shooting, and 2010 Times Square bomber.
President Obama placed al-Awlaki on a list of people the CIA was authorized to kill because of his terrorist activities. The drone strike that finally killed him on September 30, 2011 was the second attempt at eliminating Al-Awlaki.
Samir Khan waged "media jihad" against the U.S. from his parents' basement in a quiet neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina. As the New York Times profiles, the events of 9/11 changed Khan's perspective on Islam, which up until then he was only interested in as a means to avoid peer pressure as a teenager.
He moved to Yemen in 2009, cutting off ties with his family and starting a glossy magazine for jihadists called Inspire. The magazine was a platform for self-radicalization aimed at an American audience and served as a how-to guide on waging violence, with headlines like “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.”
The last issue edited by Khan appeared in September, 2011 — the week before he was killed in a drone strike that also killed al-Awlaki.
Inspire lives on after him. Self-radicalization is a major cause of concern in anti-terrorism today and is being blamed for the grisly incident in London this week. It is also reported that the Tsarnaev brothers used the guidelines in Inspire to build the pressure-cooker bombs they used in Boston last month.
The 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in an unmanned drone strike in October, 2011 — two weeks after his father died in a similar strike. The "bad mistake" of Abdulrahman's death "surprised and upset" President Obama according to Jeremy Scahill in his new book, Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield, which chronicles the senior al-Awlaki's death.
Abdulrahman was not expected to be present at the site of the target, which was supposed to be Ibrahim Muhammad Salih al-Banna, an important leader for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Abdulrahman was also an American citizen like his father. It is still unknown why Abdulrahman was present that day but al-Awlaki's family has demanded justice for the "brutal" death of the teen.
A 20-year-old Mohammad was arrested with a laptop, dagger, Islamic books and DVDs, and an American passport in 2008 for attempting to enter an Al-Qaeda sanctuary without the permissions required to travel through the heavily militant Pakistani region.
Mohammad first appeared as a real threat when he purportedly failed to appear for a court hearing in September, 2009 related to his travels the year before. Mohammad was then indicted as part of an eight-member terrorist group in North Carolina planning an attack against U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia in 2009.
He fled the U.S. after his indictment and joined militants in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area where he was killed in a drone strike in late 2011.