The Trump Administration signaled Tuesday that it is apparently breaking from the Obama Administration directive that allowed the government to target specific American citizens involved in terror plots overseas.
The statement came after a a strike in Yemen reportedly killed the 8-year-old American daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula propagandist—who was himself killed in 2011 by an Obama-ordered drone strike.
“No American citizen will ever be targeted,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday.
In 2014, a federal court released a redacted version of a 41-page memo justifying the Obama Administration’s to strike Awlaki, despite his U.S. citizenship.
“We do not believe that al-Aulaqi’s U.S. citizenship imposes constitutional limitations that would preclude the contemplated lethal action,” the memo stated.
Spicer opened the briefing by stating that President Trump had a “very somber and lengthy” conversation with the family of Navy Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, the Navy SEAL, who was killed in the raid.
As a presidential candidate, Trump promised to “get tough” on terror groups. In December 2015, Trump told Fox News that the families of terrorists must be targeted.
“The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he said. “They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.”
Spicer refused to comment on reports that the girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, was killed in the raid. Her grandfather confirmed her death to NBC.
The Jan. 28 strike was the first explicitly ordered by President Donald Trump, an official confirmed. U.S. Central Command said in a statement that “the operation resulted in an estimated 14 AQAP members being killed and the capture of information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”
The statement cast the raid as “one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide.”