A cornerstone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policy has been the dramatic increase in drone strikes against suspected militants overseas. That policy reached uncharted waters however, with the killing of Anwar Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, on September 30, 2011. Awlaki’s killing raises a number of important questions related to the scope of the war on terror, as well as the complex constitutional and legal issues surrounding it. In addition, the attention to the killing obscured the wide range of other approaches the United States has used against suspected American terrorists operating abroad. How robust is the American counterterrorism arsenal against foreign-based U.S. citizens? What unique challenges are presented compared to the pursuit of foreign-born terrorists?
On July 23, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and Governance Studies at Brookings released "Tools and Tradeoffs: Confronting U.S. Citizen Terrorist Suspects Abroad," a new report examining the options available to policymakers. Panelists and co-authors of the report included Senior Fellow Daniel Byman, research director of the Saban Center, and Senior Fellow Benjamin Wittes, editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog. Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion.