Obama Admin. to Release Classified Memo Detailing Drone Death Strikes on Americans
February 7, 2013 11:10 AM
Classified document defines under what circumstances a death strike is warranted
Senate Intelligence Committee
will this morning receive a classified document that provides a more formalized version of the policies contained in a white paper memo -- "
Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force
" -- which
leaked to the press
earlier this week.
Senator Dianne Feinstein
(D-Calif.) -- chairwoman of the committee -- cheered the release,
, "I am pleased that the president has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations. It is critical for the committee's oversight function to fully understand the legal basis for all intelligence and counterterrorism operations."
The committee had already received the memo, but did not receive its more highly classified counterpart, which was responsible for actual policy decisions.
The Obama Administration looked to put a positive spin on the release, commenting, "Today, as part of the president's ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters, the president directed the Department of Justice to provide the congressional Intelligence committees access to classified Office of Legal Counsel advice related to the subject of the Department of Justice White Paper."
President Obama says killing American terrorists without a warrant is the kind of "tough decision" you sometimes have to make. [Image Source: AFP/Getty Images]
The U.S. has to date killed over 28 al-Qaida terrorist leaders under the Bush and Obama administration using
. Among those was U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a Sept. 2011 drone strike in Yemen.
The controversy over al-Awlaki's death was that no warrant or indictment had been issued against him. And while he was intimately involved with al-Qaida, U.S. intelligence did not indicate he was directly involved with a current terror plot. The question was whether Mr. al-Awlaki received his Constitutionally guaranteed right to due process.
Despite the controversy, President Obama is finding some surprising support.
Rep. Mike Rogers
(R-Mich.) agreed with his political foe this time, commenting, "[al-Awlaki was] somebody who had said that he didn't want his U.S. citizenship anymore. He had officially joined al Qaeda. Al Qaeda had declared war on the United States."
"The legal basis of this goes back many, many years when U.S. citizens would go and fight for foreign nations that were engaging in combat with the United States. So what they were saying is, once you've made that choice, you no longer get the protections that you would. I mean, if you join the enemy overseas, you join the enemy overseas. And we're going to fight the enemy overseas."
On Jon Stewart's Daily Show, President Obama indirectly defended the policy in a guest appearance, stating:
There are times where there are bad folks somewhere on the other side of the world, and you've got to make a call and it's not optimal. And sometimes you've got to make some tough calls. But you can do so in a way that's consistent with international law and with American law.
American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) calls death strikes on Americans without indictments a "chilling" precedent. They and the President's critics fear that the Obama administration or future administrations could arbitrarily label political enemies "terrorists" and target them with unconstitutional death strikes.
Reaper drones are currently being used over U.S. airspace. [Image Source: The Real Revo]
The issue may be rectified if Congress steps in and pushes a more concrete definition of what constitutes a "terrorist".
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