September 9, 2012 CNN and The Stars Hollow Gazette
In a recent interview with CNN's Jessica Yellin, President Barack Obama candidly discussed his Drone War policies. "Drones are one tool that we use, and our criteria for using them is very tight and very strict," the president said. As the Bureau of Investigative Journalism notes, Obama told CNN that a terror suspect had to pass five tests before the administration would allow him to be taken out by a drone.
Obama Defends Murder by Drone TheMomCat / The Stars Hollow Gazette
(September 7, 2012) -- In a recent interview with CNN's Jessica Yellin, President Barack Obama candidly discussed his Drone War policies. As the Bureau of Investigative Journalism notes, Obama told CNN that a terror suspect had to pass five tests before the administration would allow him to be taken out by a drone. "Drones are one tool that we use, and our criteria for using them is very tight and very strict," the president said.
1 "It has to be a target that is authorised by our laws."
2 "It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative."
3 "It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States."
4 "We've got to make sure that in whatever operations we conduct, we are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties."
5 "That while there is a legal justification for us to try and stop [American citizens] from carrying out plots ... they are subject to the protections of the Constitution and due process."
At least two of those five points appear to be half-truths at best. In both Yemen and Pakistan, the CIA is allowed to launch a strike based on the target's "signature" -- that is, whether he appears to look and act like a terrorist. [..]
"What I found most striking was his claim that legitimate targets are a 'threat that is serious and not speculative,' and engaged in 'some operational plot against the United States,' That is simply not true," emails the Council on Foreign Relations' Micah Zenko, who has tracked the drone war as closely as any outside analyst.
"The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 non-battlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the U.S. defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past ten years."
A third point -- that an American citizen is given the "protections of the Constitution" before he's approved for unmanned killing -- is dubious. [..] This is an internal review by presidential aides, not subject to any kind of independent authority, and obviously not one in which a target's representatives can contest the case. It's enough to condemn someone to death. The Obama administration has argued that this is the same as the "due process of law" guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
Legal scholars have found the argument flimsy -- with no coherent standard of evidence that amounts to an instant death sentence, and no limits to where that sentence can be carried out. [..]
When Yellin pressed further, asking Obama if he himself made the ultimate decisions about who should live and who should die, Obama demurred, saying, "I've got to be careful here. There are classified issues... I can't get too deeply into how these things work."
But, as Zenko notes, "that is total BS. The President has the authority to declassify anything. [..]
Over at emptywheel, Marcy Wheeler makes this critique:
But I'd like to push further on his comments about Obama's claims to give Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan (to say nothing of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki) due process by pointing to the way he ends this bit:
Our most powerful tool over the long term to reduce the terrorist threat is to live up to our values and to be able to shape public opinion not just here but around the world that senseless violence is not a way to resolve political differences.
And so it's very important for the President and for the entire culture of our national security team to continually ask tough questions about, are we doing the right thing? Are we abiding by rule of law? Are we abiding by due process? And then set up structures and institutional checks so that you avoid any kind of slippery slope into a place where we're not being true to who we are.
Having started by saying that drones are just a tool, he ends up by saying that we will vanquish terrorism by upholding our values-rule of law and due process.
And then the Constitution Professor President describes "set[ting] up structures and institutional checks" to make sure that we deliver rule of law and due process.
This, from the guy whose Administration refused to litigate a suit from Anwar al-Awlaki's father to make sure it was upholding the standards Obama claimed in this interview in Awlaki's case.
This, from the guy whose Administration has claimed state secrets to make sure no court can review the claims of people who have been rendered or tortured or illegally wiretapped.
This, from the guy who wouldn't do the politically difficult things to have Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried-and surely, convicted-before a civilian court in NYC.
Pres. Obama defies all logic by refusing to use the rule of law and, the best tool the US has to keep this country safe from terrorist attacks, the courts.
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