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  (Source: TheChive)
Admission comes after months of denials, obfuscation, and silence

On Wednesday while President Barack Hussein Obama was preparing for his speech on drone death strikes, his administration acknowledged details on the strikes for the first time publicly.  

I. Administration Admits It Killed Americans With Drone Strikes

In his speech today, President Obama preached a message of optimism, suggesting that the "war on terror" might one day be over via "quiet determination; that strength of character and bond of fellowship; that refutation of fear – that is both our sword and our shield."

But their were also grim overtones.  Just hours before, on Wednesday, administration took a begrudging step forward, confirming -- for the first time -- that four American citizens had been killed in the Middle East with (warrantless) drone death strikes during President Obama's two terms.  Three of the four dead Americans were "inadvertent" casualties of strikes on other targets -- only one (Anwar al-Awlaki) was intended to be killed.

This marked a reversal of earlier policies that urged White House Press Secretaries to dodge or deflect questions on the killings, which had been the subject of lawsuits and widespread media reports.

The administration in its acknowledgement defended the legality of the killings, arguing the strikes met the standard set forth in Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s letter [PDF] to Congress, in which he wrote that an American terrorist must be classified as "a continuing, imminent threat to Americans", and be in a place where capture is not a feasible possibility.  It says that the President's speech "will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action."

President Obama
President Obama promises to be "transparent" about drone death strikes on American citizens. 
[Image Source: AP]

 
While the President is standing firm on killing Americans who turn to "terrorism", he's also reportedly extending new protections for foreign terrorists.  In classified policy guidance he reportedly signed this week, the President rules that strikes on foreigners must meet the same criteria as those on Americans.  The policy is expected to reduce strikes in regions like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia -- and the civilian casualties that have accompanied such strikes.

President Obama also wants to transfer the drone strikes program to military control.  To date most of the death strikes have been the handiwork of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

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]

In his speech, the President somewhat dodged the question of warrantless drone death strikes on Americans on U.S. soil, a particular controversial part of the policy AG Holder defended.  To date no American is known to have been killed in such a strike, but AG Holder argued it would be legal in some extreme circumstances.

In his speech President Obama seems to suggest strikes on U.S. soil are off-limits, stating:

For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team.

However, the President's wording does not conclusively state that his policy is to never use drone strikes on U.S. soil -- just that he thinks it's a bad idea.

II. Lawsuits, Criticism Heats Up

Critics say the President's defense of drone killings is unacceptable.  Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International told The New York Times, "The Obama administration continues to claim authority to kill virtually anyone anywhere in the world under the ‘global battlefield’ legal theory and a radical redefinition of the concept of imminence.  President Obama should reject these concepts in his speech tomorrow and commit to upholding human rights, not just in word but in deed."

His agency has an active campaign against the death strikes.

The U.S. does pay "grief payments" of a few thousand dollars to civilian victims of drone strikes, but humanitarian groups say that is not acceptable.  The Pakistani judicial system has a current effort to propose UN war crimes charges against the U.S. for the civilian casualties.

Drone Killing
Critics say "grief payments" for civilian drone strike victims are not acceptable.
[Image Source: Reuters]
 
The President acknowledges civilian deaths, but called them a necessary evil in his speech.  He comments:

This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold. Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

The decision to acknowledge drone death strikes on U.S. citizens, also allows legal challenges to the policy to move ahead.  The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday dropped an effort to throw out a case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, which claimed that the death strikes on the four Americans violated due process.  The DOJ had been arguing that the drone strikes were not confirmed and thus could not be the subject of a lawsuit, but Wednesday's admission scuttled that argument.

III. Closing Guantánamo Bay's Prison

In his speech President Obama is also expected to discuss a final path towards closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  During his 2007 campaign, the President promised to close that prison, a controversial legacy of President George W. Bush's administration.  But once elected, President Obama moved sluggishly.  Today Guantánamo Bay is still in operation and drawing criticism, albeit with less inmates than in 2008.

Guantanamo Bay
Human rights watchers have complained that the Guantánamo Bay proceedings are a sham.
[Image Source: Getty Images]

President Obama is expected to appoint a U.S. Department of State official to spearhead the effort to finish the closure.

IV. President Obama Says He Isn't Targeting Journalists

A final issue addressed in the President's speech was the issue of freedom of the press amidst the recent seizure of Associated Press phone records.  President Obama claimed the efforts weren't meant to target journalists -- only leakers.  He comments:

The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.

Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.

Associate Press
President Obama's Justice Department stands accused of spying on AP offices and staffers.
[Image Source: Getty Images]
 
The President's proposed "Media Shield" law is currently seeing contentious debate in Congress.

Sources: The White House, The New York Times



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RE: typical
By warezme on 5/23/2013 8:38:58 PM , Rating: 5
More's typical that every country outside the US thinks their $hit don't stink and they have no issues.

The US has the guts to defend itself with no apologies as best it sees fit. If you're an American and decide to haul yourself off and fight along with terrorist then you need to be prepared to meet your maker from wherever, drone or otherwise. You gave up your rights and no one should be debating this.


RE: typical
By michael67 on 5/23/13, Rating: -1
RE: typical
By nafhan on 5/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 11:43:17 AM , Rating: 3
This is not true.

These drones fire missiles that are accurate within 3 feet. The kill radius is actually very small. Usually the kill radius is within the size of a small house.

I have to ask, if a known terrorist leader is there then what are you doing there so close to him. Chances are you are with that organization.

Yes there are also terrorists here in our country. They like to hide in a secluded spot that's covered up so they can make weapons. We usually monitor them for months and trace their activities to make sure they are doing what we think they are doing. Once everything is confirmed, the military is called for support and/or action.

If you think the president can hide his actions, you're wrong. There's a lot of people involved to make sure nobody is committing crimes. It's also interagency and involves multiple branches of the military. It has to go through a long approval chain with everyone's signature on it. I'm sure I won't sign anything that even remotely gave me a chance of being tried for war crimes.

Here's a fact: The military in general dislike politicians regardless of republicans or democrats. Almost everyone vote republicans because of pay and funding support.

Here's an example. I used to work closely with a unit with its main function being UAV(drones). They receive their missions from various agencies and branches. The CO can actually decline the mission if he sees conflicting information. Why? because he has to take responsibility for every action so he won't sign off on it unless he is without a doubt confident in this action. It's not as if what the President wants, he gets.

I just think everyone has this huge conspiracy about everything. Granted, some(very few) conspiracies are actually true. But we don't need to be making stuff up because we don't know everything. If you want to know more, then get a clearance, work for the DoD/military and you can be briefed on many things. Once you see the truth and compare it to what the media present then you will see how people have so many conspiracies.

FYI, I stopped watching the news from 2005-2011 because the news did not report what was actually happening most of the time. I was there, I had lost many friends. To think people believe that crap was infuriating.


RE: typical
By nafhan on 5/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 2:21:00 PM , Rating: 3
First of all, we don't blow up schools, churches/mosques or hospitals except if that facility is an immediate threat to us. I can personally verify this because I spent years in Iraq. It's one of the biggest frustration when they know our Geneva convention and rules of engagement. They purposely used it against us. Weapons caches are often found in schools, mosques and hospitals. They also hide in there and won't shoot at us so we can't mow it down with a 50 cal. They want us wait around so we can get ambushed.

They called them american citizens because they are. But they didn't get blown up by mistakes. These are muslims that got american citizenship working with al qaeda. Tourists don't just have meetings with terrorist leaders lol.

When innocent Americans are hurt by accident, you will see a public apology and very large compensation. You can count on that. If the government doesn't step up then the families will cry to the media anyways.

What part of foot on ground, eyes on target confirmation don't you understand? You obvious have never been in the military, DoD, CIA, FBI etc... We don't kill people on a hunch, even if it's obvious they did it. American citizens or not, we always need substantial evidence that they are an imminent danger to take them out. Hell, in Iraq, we practically had to wait until we are shot at before are allowed to take them out.

You also have not seen the actual video of Pres. Obama. This article is vastly biased, misleading and so are you.


RE: typical
By nafhan on 5/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/24/2013 3:47:24 PM , Rating: 3
What do you suggest we should do about any american citizens that are terrorists?

Currently, an act of terrorism can be considered an act of war. Didn't you see that they could've tried the Boston marathon bombers through military or civil court? But let it go through civil court mainly because of the people wanting it. It was to let people know that the government still recognize everyone's rights.

My experience is very relevant in Iraq or at home. We are constantly catching these extremists trying to bomb our camps and bases. I'm talking about world wide, not just Iraq or Afghan. I was at Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune. We've caught them there too. You guys think these things only happen if you see it in the news. It's only in the news when it's too late. So think of all the attempts that are unsuccessful and be glad there's people watching your back while you keep your rights to rant about an overreaching government.


RE: typical
By nafhan on 5/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: typical
By BRB29 on 5/29/2013 11:08:17 AM , Rating: 2
I understand your POV. What I am saying is these terrorists have no homeland, they have no nation and no country. They reside in Afghan or Pakistan right now. We don't just come in and bomb them. The Afghan and Pakistani government allowed us to. The UN would be in an outrage if we did not receive permission to bomb the people of another country.

We are taking the fight to them because our families are at home. Some of us will not hesitate to fight and risk death so our friends and families don't have to suffer. We are without a doubt the most hated country and probably targeted by more terrorists than any other. It's not the ocean that stops them, it's our proactive suppression of terrorism and hitting them where it hurts. We're hitting their network and infrastructure(training camps, weapons cache, cash storage, etc...) to disrupt their operations.


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