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A broad range of militants were deemed to dangerous to be left alive in recent operations

Under fire over its defense over potential drone killings of Americans deemed as "terrorists" on U.S. soil, the Obama administration's growing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is being intensively scrutinized by both politicians and the media.

I. Deadly, But Not Very Precise

New documents obtained by McClatchy's reveal that of the 95 drone strikes in the Pakistan region between Oct. 2010 and Sept. 2011, many did not target al-Qaeda and those that did were not as accurate as thought.

The drone campaign managed to kill 482 people, but only 6 were high-ranking members of al-Qaeda.  Analyst Jonathan Landay reports, "At least 265 of up to 482 people who the U.S. intelligence reports estimated the CIA killed during a 12-month period ending in September 2011 were not senior al Qaida leaders but instead were 'assessed' as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists."

Drone death strike
[Image Source: McClatchy's]

In the past the Obama administration has claimed that the death strikes by armed Predator and Reaper drones, employed primarily by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, were used only on "specific senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces."

Micah Zenko, an expert with the bipartisan foreign-relations think-tank Council on Foreign Relations, says that the administration is misleading Americans, commenting, "[The Obama administration is] misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted."

Reaper drones
Reaper drones have been used in numerous Pakistan and Yemen death strikes.
[Image Source: The Real Revo]

But White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says that the administration does not need to specify explicitly who it is targeting and to make no assumptions.  She remarks, "You should not assume [CIA Chief John Brennan] is only talking about al-Qaeda just because he doesn’t say ’al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces’ at every reference."

So who was the administration targeting in the 43 out of 95 drone strikes that did not target al-Qaeda?  According to McClatchy's, the documents indicate that the strikes in question targeted "Haqqani network, several Pakistani Taliban factions and the unidentified individuals described only as 'foreign fighters' and 'other militants.'"

The documents also reveal that U.S. efforts to kill terrorist leaders often accidentally instead killed friends or family members.  Drone strikes were even used to target somber occasions, such as individuals leaving funerals.

II. Is the U.S. Killing Civilians, Allies Accidentally?

One major complaint of the administration's critics is lack of transparency in the deadly offensive.  The administration has refused to release a list of "terrorist" organizations that it considers "associated forces" of al-Qaeda.  So far only Afghanistan's Taliban has been officially acknowledged as an al-Qaeda ally.  Also not revealed was whether the administration conducted so-called "signature killings" -- killings of locals who met with al-Qaeda or exhibited other behavior deemed suspicious.
Drone Killing
Survivors pick through the rubble looking for relatives after an Oct. 2012 drone strike in Yemen.
[Image Source: Reuters]

New CIA chief John Brennan in February acknowledged that the drone strikes sometimes miss the mark and kill innocent civilians, but he defended the program saying the U.S. paid the families of people it accidentally killed.  He commented, "Where possible, we also work with local governments to gather facts, and, if appropriate, provide condolence payments to families of those killed."

Condolence payments range from $1,000 to $7,500 according to various reports [1][2][3], depending on the circumstances.

Civlian casualties
Drone strikes
As CIA director (bottom right) escalated drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan civilian casualties (top, left) have grown.
[Image Source: BIJ (top); The Long War Journal (bottom left); Reuters (bottom right)]

Four American citizens with ties to terrorism -- Kamal Derwish, Anwar al-Awlaki, 16-year-old Abdulahman al-Awlaki, and Samir Khan -- have been killed to date in drone strikes in Yemen.  Family members of the dead American citizens have sued the Obama administration with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In August 2012, a drone strike in Yemen killed a 40-year-old moderate cleric Salem bin Ahmed bin Ali Jaber just two days after he delivered a speech denouncing al-Qaeda.  The irony is that the al-Qaeda officers who were targeted in the strike, reportedly came into town to threaten Mr. Jaber for his support of the U.S. and pacifistic leanings.

Predator missile
Some feel the President shouldn't have the power to order the warrantless killings of Americans on U.S. soil. [Image Source: Drone Wars UK]

It's clear more questions need to be asked about the program.  But don't expect the answers to come easy from an administration who explicitly ordered its Press Secretary to dodge questions about drone strikes.

Source: McClatchy's

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Only some???
By LRonaldHubbs on 4/11/2013 8:28:35 AM , Rating: 2
Some feel the President shouldn't have the power to order the warrantless killings of Americans on U.S. soil.

The president shouldn't have the power to order the warrantless killings of Americans anywhere. Due process and all that.

RE: Only some???
By BRB29 on 4/11/2013 8:38:56 AM , Rating: 2
You're absolutely right and he really doesn't have that power. He is the final approval after a long long long process of investigation, tracking, intel gathering... Even then, the operation can be called off at any point. The president and his advisors just check that it is necessary to protect our country, within moral standards, and does not break international laws.

The president actually doesn't have the final say or choose targets. This is mostly a military operation collaborated with CIA/FBI/DIA/etc... Targets are usually tracked for years with enough info and evidence collected. We usually have spies and local help before anything is confirmed and a request for drone strike is sent to the president.

You guys make it sound like the president can just call drone strikes on whoever he thinks is a terrorist.

RE: Only some???
By LRonaldHubbs on 4/11/2013 10:04:56 AM , Rating: 2
What you just described is not due process, not in the Constitutional sense.

RE: Only some???
By BRB29 on 4/11/2013 12:40:12 PM , Rating: 2
the constitution protects our people, not terrorists. Everyone cries about terrorists and complain about the government not doing enough. Then they cries when they find out the government are taking them out before reading them their rights. WTF?!? Be glad your children's school didn't get blown up because there are people out there proactively protecting you.

If what happened was really so immoral/illegal, somebody would've leaked something already. Something like this goes through a lot of eyes and hands and most promilitary people are not even an obama fan. You can't possibly blame this on one man. Even if i hate his guts, saying the president is at fault is being blindly subjective.

RE: Only some???
By Fritzr on 4/13/2013 12:27:45 AM , Rating: 2
Read the Constitution. Under due process procedures, the victim was innocent unless a court ruling saying otherwise exists.

In a war situation things are a little different. Anyone who can be readily identified as working for the opposition is a legitimate target. Actions allowed vary according to situation, but court hearings are generally not required before eliminating an enemy.

The attacks on "terrorists" are being justified on the grounds that the targets are insisting that they are engaging in warfare and targeting the US. Noncombatant injury and death is often hidden, but are considered an unavoidable consequence of using deadly weapons outside a firing range.

When fighting a guerrilla war things get much more deadly for bystanders as the armed combatants disguise themselves and often mingle with uninvolved populations. The problems in Iraq and Afghanistan are particularly good examples of this with enemy fighters enlisting in friendly forces or hiring on as police for the express purpose of being able to bypass defensive barriers.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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