White House Admits 4 Americans Killed in Warrantless Middle East Drone Strikes
May 23, 2013 5:05 PM
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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.
[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 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
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
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 charge
s against the U.S. for the civilian casualties.
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
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.
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
, albeit with less inmates than in 2008.
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.
President Obama's Justice Department stands accused of spying on AP offices and staffers.
[Image Source: Getty Images]
proposed "Media Shield" law
is currently seeing contentious debate in Congress.
The White House
The New York Times
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Missing the boat entirely - Mick at his best
5/24/2013 10:02:59 AM
As a typical uneducated, ignorant 21st century "journalist", Mick completely leaves out the fact that the message from the President was in fact a step-by-step breakdown of when/what circumstances drones are used.
FYI for those who didn't actually watch the President and are looking for agenda-less coverage of this topic please do, watch it instead of reading this CRAP. The President made it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that drones are used in regions that are VERY unaccessible to ANY form of local state government assistance in capturing terrorists. He specifically refers to areas of the interior of Yemen where the Yemenese government has virtually NO influence. Remote desert regions, mountain regions in the interior of "countries" where no government exists.
Also, he goes on to mention that EVERY drone strike is brought before the appropriate committees in CONGRESS before being carried out.
I'll repeat that, YOUR ELECETED CONGRESSIAL REPRESENTATION is informed of EVERY drone attack prior to its effect.
The President also mentions drones as a tool akin to tomahawk missile strikes, full blown boots on the ground invasions, etc... Drone strikes quite sincerely are MUCH LESS likely to kill civilians than either of those other methods.. And in the same breathe risk NO AMERICAN LIVES in their execution.
Truly the President made quite clear the policy, despite the tone of Jason Mick's horrible journalistic skills.
RE: Missing the boat entirely - Mick at his best
5/24/2013 10:17:19 AM
It's obvious Jason Mick is biased. His articles only tell one side of the story. Isn't that how most news are reported these days? They want to provoke emotions out of people to get more interests/views.
RE: Missing the boat entirely - Mick at his best
5/24/2013 1:43:52 PM
Here is the thing... when YOU go to another country and plan and perform attacks to KILL Americans... all bets are off. American or not, they are terrorist. Those guys made the choice.
When the terrorist pussies bombed Boston, did anyone say "excuse me... please come out, we won't be shooting back at you why you are shooting police officers in the face". They signed their death with their own actions.
The typical thing is that the neo-cons will find anything and everything to bitch about that has to do with the blackman in the white house. Its been like that since day one. The GOP has publicly stated "Our #1 priority is to make Obama a one term president"... okay, that means they are NOT working for the American people... they are fascists traitors to the USA. If there wasn't drone attacks, they'd attack him on that... the GOP has called DEMS weak when it comes to military actions... nope, fail there. The best/worse thing they've done is lied to the American people, started a war on lies which resulted in $3Trillion in debt and 4400+ dead AMERICANS!
Here are examples:
The GOP has screwed every working American for political gain. The bill that punishes companies who send jobs overseas - killed by Republicans. They talk about the bailouts... yet the first bailout was under bush and the second was soon after Obama became president. Much of that bailout money has been returned. Companies were saved, jobs were saved. The STIMULUS helps to create jobs... our ROADS and bridges are in heavy need of repair or replacements... Either they have been blocked by the GOP or later slammed by the GOP.
Even in Texas (where I'm at) - Our stupid gov. Rick Perry bitched about spending and the stimulus. Yet, he and other Red-States SPENT that money... took pictures of themselves with big checks which were still part of the very same stimulus they are cursing.
In downtown Dallas, they just finished building a new park over a highway... Yes, Stimulus helped pushed for that project to start earlier and faster... creating JOBS.
There is a difference from FACTS and the bullshit that comes out of FOX"news" which isn't even an American owned company... its forigner owned which is supposed to be ILLEGAL! Its #1 owner is a Saudi Arabian who blamed the 9/11 attacks on the actions of Americans... Alwaleed bin Talal
You have Newcorp (FOX) which has been caught hacking phones and computers. Only complete idiots actually believe the line "fair and balanced" - because they say it, doesn't make it true.
The GOP is active against womens rights (Work, violence and health) as well as against homosexuals. Of course its funny that many in the GOP who are against gay rights... end up being closet homosexuals anyway.
Then you have idiots who think Women can "shut down" their vagina to prevent pregnancy... they have NO BUSINESS being in any public office.
The GOP has become the party of morons and nutjobs. The lies of FOX are easy to prove. The stupidity is obvious. The hatred is sad and sickening.
The United States should be better than this... and we are NOT #1.
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