Print 94 comment(s) - last by BRB29.. on May 29 at 11:11 AM

  (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

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: typical
By TSS on 5/25/2013 10:09:50 AM , Rating: 0
Lol i just had to respond to this.

Mass shootings like newtown and bombings like boston DO NOT HAPPEN in the largest parts of europe. If we look over the past 2 decades:

- northern ireland was a problem, an war for independance that has since stopped.
- england has only had terrorist attacks after they joined the US in going to the middle east.
- the only thing even remotely like a terrorist attack in holland was the shooting of a politician a decade ago, which was unrelated to the middle east. No bombings have happened here, ever.
- france has had a couple of riots due to social unrest but no actual terrorist attacks
- no terrorist attacks in germany and only 1 mass shooting that i can remember being in the news in 2 decades.
- belgium, no terrorist attacks
- spain has only had middle eastern terrorist attacks since the invasion of iraq and afgahnistan, anything other was related to a local splinter group fighting for "independance".
-switserland... hah.
- austria, nothing.
- poland, nothing
- norway, nothing
- denmark, nothing

etc etc. If you go to south-eastern europe things become more dodgy around former yugoslavia but the north is about as safe as can be. And the US? Just a quick google search:

"There were a total of 207 terrorist attacks in the US between 2001 and 2011. They went down from a high of 40 in 2001 to nine in 2011."

I hope you realise the US is the only country living in constant fear. Very much so because of your policy to fight in other people's nations. if 40 years of meddling in the middle east lead to iraq and 9/11, just imagine what iraq and afgahnistan + the arab spring are going to lead to....

RE: typical
By DougF on 5/25/2013 12:20:46 PM , Rating: 3
Selective memory at work here...I lived in Europe in the 80's and remember quite well the terrorism in England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, etc. I helped launch the retaliatory raid on Libya in 1986 in response to terrorism.
As for why others do not have terrorist incidents, the US, as the world leader (whether you like it or not) takes the brunt of the attacks. It's part of our role in securing the world's air and sea lanes so all nations may prosper. We understand the nature of being a leader, it's to take on the responsibility and to ensure the world doesn't descend into world war once again. We saw that modernized warfare evolving from WWI and WWII is entirely too destructive and we will NOT allow it to happen again, even if it means sacrificing our own on a regular basis. I say we will NOT, because we CAN, we have the most powerful military and economy on the planet, so we get to make the rules to ensure the planet's tranquility. You want to be in charge? You want a voice in the rules? Take responsibility. Go out there and ensure the air and sea lanes are open to commerce. Get off your duff and go out there into the world and put yourself at risk. I did for 21 years, 9 months and 17 days.
Now, your list is incomplete and inaccurate. Denmark and other European nations have suffered terroristic incidents, France had several killings of Jews, Denmark had cartoonists in hiding from terroristic threats, etc, etc.
Next, mass killings DO happen in other parts of the world, including Europe. Wake up, start applying the same definitions you use on the US to the rest of the world.
Last, America does NOT live in constant fear. You have been watching too much television news. We go about our business every day, terror threat or not. We visit, travel, go out to dinner, see movies, ball games, etc and do NOT cower from any threat of terror.
YOU may cower in your home, draw the blinds, and pray the evil doesn't come across your threshold, we believe in going out and killing it first, wherever it may be incubating. If that means using UAVs to take out terror leaders, even Americans who would plot against their own nation, then so be it. I'm not a fan of President Obama, but I watched his speech in it's entirety and I like much of what he had to say. We will not stand idly by and let anyone, ANYONE, plot our destruction without reaping the consequences. We WILL reach out and touch those who plot our demise with every tool at our disposal, as WE think it is right. It is our RIGHT, and we will execute (pun intended) that right at every opportunity.
Yeah, my post may sound jingoistic, but until some other nation gets off their lazy asses and puts their lives and national treasure on the line, we get to make the decisions. That's why Britain is one of our staunchest allies, as a former world-spanning empire, they understand what's at stake. They know there is a cost associated with world-keeping, but the cost is worth it, if we can keep the specters of world war at bay, even if it means regional conflicts to take out the threats to the rest of the world. That's the reality of today's international politics, you don't like it? Get YOUR national spending on defense up to match the US's and start taking over that responsibility. Put your youth and national treasure at risk, THEN, come talk to me about what YOU want the world to look like. Put up or shut up.

RE: typical
By superflex on 5/28/2013 1:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
Mass shootings like newtown and bombings like boston DO NOT HAPPEN in the largest parts of europe. If we look over the past 2 decades:

In your eyes, the Norwegian nut job who killed all the kids on the island never happened.
Try removing your head from your ass mate.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki