A Department of Justice white paper, entitled ““Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force” rationalizing the Obama Administration’s targeted killing of Anwar Al-Walaki was leaked to NBC today. Within the sixteen page policy paper, the government lists its rationale for the usage of military and CIA aerial drones in the deliberate capital killing of suspected terrorists outside the United States.
Those familiar with this “black project” by the Obama Administration have known that drone attacks such as those against al-Walaki have been standard US counter-terrorism policy since the Bush Administration. However, much of the American public are not familiar with the escalation of such policies under the Obama Administration, such as the usage of unmanned aerial drones crossing the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders and making sorties over the tribal region of Wazaristan.
According to statements made last year by soon to be CIA Director John Brennan (if confirmed by the US Senate), the secret project was defended by saying the usage of targeted killing is “consistent with the inherent right of self-defense.”
However, NBC has reported a further broadening and perhaps codification of this policy, at least when justifying who the program targets and why:
“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.
Instead, it says, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.
Thus, the Obama Administration has continues to use the Bush Doctrine in its policy of targeted killing due to its lack of definition of what is “imminent” nor the need to have clear evidence in order to choose its targets. In fact, it justifies such action because its is a per-emptive strategy to prevent greater losses of life.
As someone who is concerned about the legal system of this country, I would be very concerned if the Administration is justifying the targeted killings of Americans without due process. However, as an interested party in how America conducts its military and national security policy, I would also agree with the military decision to use drones in a sanctioned battlefield for tactical reasons, however the targeted killing – some may say political assassination – of may be beyond what previous American policy was on the subject.
So what is your take about this ongoing story?