OMNI DRONE/ASSASSINATION NEWSLETTER #
12, November 1, 2013. Compiled by
Dick Bennett for a Culture of Peace and Justice. (Newsletter
#1, Dec. 29, 2010; #2 July 20, 2011; #3 Feb. 16, 2012; #4 May 3, 2012; #5 June
9, 2012; #6 Oct. 12, 2012; #7 Dec. 20, 2012; #8 Jan. 22, 2013; #9, Feb. 16,
2013; #10 May 11, 2013; #11 May 29, 2013; #12 Nov. 1, 2013.) See Newsletters on ACLU, Air War, Assassinations, CIA, Civil Liberties, Constitution
and Drones, Democracy and Drones, Extra-Judicial Killing, Geneva Conventions, International
Law, Killing Civilians, Media and Drones,
Pentagon, Privacy, Surveillance, Terror,
War Crimes, and more. Obama,
The multifarious methods of oppression employed by
an oppressor state would fill an encyclopedia.
One general method is the control of language,
of rhetorical devices. A specific figure
is euphemism, one of many effective
devices designed to hide the truth. For example, our government has rebranded
state assassination as “high value targeting.” US
any subject links these newsletters, it is violence, particularly
violence, its complexity, and how to
reduce it. “Make World Less Violent, New UA Graduates
Told.” (ADG 12-16-12). US
Write or Call the White HousePresident Obama has declared his commitment to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history. That begins with taking comments and questions from you, the public, through our website.
Call the President
PHONE NUMBERSComments: 202-456-1111
Visitor's Office: 202-456-2121
Write a letter to the PresidentHere are a few simple things you can do to make sure your message gets to the White House as quickly as possible.
1. If possible, email us! This is the fastest way to get your message to President Obama.
2. If you write a letter, please consider typing it on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper. If you hand-write your letter, please consider using pen and writing as neatly as possible.
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4. And finally, be sure to include the full address of the White House to make sure your message gets to us as quickly and directly as possible:
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
My blog: War Department/Peace Department
Peace, Justice, Ecology National Days
Visit OMNI’s Library.
“Act in such a way that the principle according to which the action is performed can be accepted as a universal law.” Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
DRONE WATCH: www.MuckRock.com , a free, online data-base.
Nos. 7, 8 at end
Contents #9 2013
New Medal for Drone Pilots
: Drone Kills al-Qaeda and Innocents Yemen
Moyers and Co.: Drones vs. Democracy
Moyers and Co.: Innocents Murdered, Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize a Mistake
Reporting and Polling Washington
PBS NOVA Drone Report Underwritten by Lockheed Martin, Maker of Drones (see #8)
Dick’s Letter to PBS Ombudsman
Obama Creates Manual or “Playbook:” for the Killing Process
30,000 Drones Over US by 2020
Contents #10, May 11, 2013
Drone Strikes Illegal
Abbot, Strikes in
Violate International Law Pakistan
Amnesty International Petition: Drones Not Above Law
VFP April Black Tuesdays Project , Take Action
Goodman: Drone, Obama, CIA Assassinations—from In These Times
Stop Drone Strikes in US, Take Action
Disclose Records of Drone Strikes (ADG from NYT)
Sirota, Language of Drone War
Court Opens Secrecy, a Little
Rassbach, Germans Against Combat Drones
Robert Greenwald Film Needs Our Help
Extra-Judicial Killing, UN Rapporteur
Medea Benjamin Challenges President Obama
Sprusansky on Muslimi and Obama Admin. Preference for Killing
BOOKS ON DRONES (in reverse chronological order)
Scahill, Dirty Wars
Benjamin, Drone Warfare
Engelhart and Turse, Terminator Planet
Cavallaro, Living Under Drones (a long report)
Resistance to Obama’s Drone Wars
United Nations: Put Drones Under International Law
Draft Drone Ban Treaty
Malala to Obama: Dones Cause Terrorism
Dirty War Film
Palast, Drones, Missiles, Etc.
FAIR, Media Not Examining Drone Attacks
Against Alleged “Terrorists” in
Savage and Baker, Obama Limits Targets and Shifts to Military Control
Amy Goodman, Truthdig 31 October 13 PM
Reader Supported News
Goodman writes: "Resistance to Obama's drone wars is growing. In upstate
READ MORE http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/20174-the-rising-resistance-to-obamas-drone-wars
UN: PUT DRONES UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
There's no end to the pro-war movies we're subjected to: countless celebrations of bombs, guns, and torture. They come in the form of cartoons, science-fiction, historical fiction, dramas, and reenactments pre-censored by the CIA. Movies show us the excitement without the suffering. War in our theaters resembles almost anything else more than it resembles war.
Journalists appear in our movies too, usually as comic figures, talking-head air-heads, numskulls, and sycophants. In this case, the depiction is much more accurate, at least of much of what passes for journalism.
But, starting in June, a remarkable anti-war / pro-journalism film will be showing -- even more remarkably -- in big mainstream movie theaters. Dirty Wars (I've read the book and seen the movie and highly recommend both) may be one of the best educational outreach opportunities the peace movement has had in a long time. The film, starring Jeremy Scahill, is about secretive aspects of
wars: imprisonment, torture,
night raids, drone kills. U.S.
Dirty Wars won the Cinematography Award for
at the Sundance Film Festival 2013 and, recently, the Grand Jury Prize at the Independent Film
Festival. Variety calls it
"jaw-dropping ... [with] the power to pry open government lockboxes."
The Sundance jury said it is "one of the most stunning looking
documentaries [we've] ever seen." I agree. Boston
Typically, information that does not support our government's war agenda appears only on the printed page, or perhaps in a power-point presented to the usual heroic crowd of aging white activists gathered outside the range of corporate radar. But stroll through an airport and you'll see hardcopies of Dirty Wars displayed at the front of the bookstores. Check out the movie listings in June and July, and you're likely to see Dirty Wars listed right alongside the latest super-hero, murderfest, sequel of a sequel of some predictable
I wrote a review of the book some time back, after which I picked up a job helping to promote the film. But I'm promoting the film because it's a great film, which is different from calling it a great film because I'm paid to promote it. And my interest remains less in selling the film tickets than in recruiting those who see the film into an active movement to change the reality on which the film reports.
This is not Zero Dark Thirty. You can't walk into Dirty Wars supporting drone strikes, night raids, and cluster bombs and walk out with your beliefs reinforced. Most viewers of Dirty Wars will leave the theater believing that
U.S. wars make the less safe. In
that moment, when people who are usually otherwise engaged have come to realize
that the Department of So-Called Defense endangers us (on top of impoverishing
us) is when we should sign those people up to take part in activities the
following week and month and year. United States
The film opens by contrasting embedded war journalism -- the regurgitation of spoon-fed propaganda -- with what the viewer is about to see. And what we see is investigative journalism. The film begins by providing us with an understanding of night raids, including from the point of view of family members who have survived them. We see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell Scahill that night raids that kills civilians should not be investigated. And then we see Scahill investigate them, his search leading him to secretive branches of the
military involved in a variety
of dirty tactics in various countries. U.S.
The film does have a failing. It doesn't tell people anything they can do about the horrors they're exposed to. But, of course, activism is possible and far more effective than any journalism -- good or bad -- will tell you.
One of the stories told in the film and the book of Dirty Wars is the story of the destruction of al Majala. On December 17, 2009, U.S. Tomahawk missiles and incendiary cluster bombs rained down on the tiny Yemeni
killing 21 children, 14 women, and 6 men, and burning all the homes and their
contents. The government of village of al Majala
falsely claimed responsibility. Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye
disproved that claim. Yemen
Shaye reported on the carnage, including photographing missile parts labeled "Made in the
He reported on subsequent United States U.S.
strikes in ,
working with the Washington Post, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and other
Shaye is in prison in
for the crime of journalism, at the insistence of President Obama. A
coalition has launched a petition today urging Obama and Yemen to set Shaye free.
Fans of Dirty Wars who want to begin to do
something to end the crimes committed in their names can be sent to
was searching for its citizen Anwar
Awlaki to kill him, Shaye repeatedly tracked him down and interviewed
him. These were tough and serious interviews, with Shaye asking Awlaki
how he could possibly support acts of violence. Awlaki's image was not
helped. But the United
government began warning media outlets not to work with Shaye, falsely accusing
him of supporting al Qaeda. The Yemeni government kidnapped Shaye,
threatened and released him, then snatched him again and gave him a one-sided
"trial," universally denounced as a sham by human rights
organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. U.S.
On February 2, 2011, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, under public pressure, had drawn up, printed out, and was prepared to sign a pardon of Shaye. But Saleh received a phone call from President Barack Obama, who opposed release of the journalist. Saleh ripped up the pardon.
The White House is feeling a little pressure over recent revelations of government spying on and seeking the prosecution of
journalists. It took the targeting of a U.S. journalist for prosecution to
start people like Chuck Todd and Dana Milbank chattering about
Obama treating journalism as a crime. But have you heard U.S. U.S. media outlets raising concerns over the
imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist at the instruction of the president? U.S.
There is much else that we are not regularly told to be found in Dirty Wars. Organizations that would like to help promote this film and organize around it in
cities should contact me.
With any luck, together we'll change the
conversation to one aware of and unaccepting of acts of murder anywhere on
From: Zeke at Amnesty International [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2013 5:10 PM
To: Sue Skidmore
Subject: Drones, Dirty Wars and the secret "global war"
Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2013 5:10 PM
To: Sue Skidmore
Subject: Drones, Dirty Wars and the secret "global war"
Watch and learn the truth for yourself.
Shhh...we're not supposed to talk about it.
But you probably heard President Obama's recent speech where he acknowledged that the use of drones to kill people raises some pretty "profound questions."
We are gravely concerned that the Obama administration is killing people outside the bounds of human rights and the law. Silence is not an option.
Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is chasing down the hidden truth.
In the documentary Dirty Wars opening in theaters tomorrow, Jeremy shines a light on the
Watch the film | Learn more | Take action
When you watch the film, keep an eye out for mention of journalist Abdul llah Haydar Shayi', who was sentenced to five years' imprisonment after he reported on an alleged U.S. missile strike in Yemen. The former Yemeni President issued an order for his release, but it was not carried out after President Obama intervened. Stories like his deserve to be heard.
We're just beginning to peel back the layers. We'll keep you posted as we find out more.
Director, Security & Human Rights Program
Amnesty International USA
P.S. Be sure to take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.
Dirty Wars reporter Jeremy Scahill with Somali warlord 'General' Indha Adde, AKA 'White Eyes.' (photo: Richard Rowley/Big Noise Films)
The Drone Ranger: Obama's Dirty Wars By Greg Palast, Vice Magazine 14 June 13
round the time Barack Obama ordered the drone strike that killed Abdul-Rahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old American kid Facebooked his second-rate choice of hip-hop favourites. I say "second-rate" because Abdul was my son's age, almost exactly, so I know the kind of crap they listen to.
Every Tuesday, President Obama personally checks off the names of people he wants killed. George Bush, a bit more squeamish than Obama, never did that; but Mr Obama felt those decisions were the president's responsibility: he "want[s] to keep his own finger on the trigger", according to one report. A tidy, scheduled man, the President only picks his victims once a week, now called "Terror Tuesday".
On October the 14th, 2011, Abdul went out with his cousins and friends for a good old US-style barbecue, when Obama's drone fired a rocket, blowing the teenager to pieces. Or I should say "piece". All that was left of Abdul was a piece of skull with long curly hair that allowed his relatives to identify this hunk of his head by his US-style haircut.
Obama didn't order the killings (Abdul's friends and cousins died, too) as a random act of crazy. No-Drama Obama doesn't believe in random. Abdul's problem was that his father was Anwar al-Awlaki. Obama killed Abdul's dad as well. Daddy al-Awlaki, an American imam who voted for George Bush, had gone over to the side of the bad guys. And, after leaving the
USA, broadcast pro-terrorism radio reports from Arabia
We can argue until the cows come home about whether Daddy al-Awlaki was a legitimate kill target. It is, after all, right there in the US Constitution that the penalty for treason is death. I suppose that, before executing him, a jury trial would have been nice. But nice was not going to happen. So, OK, Barack, we'll let that one go.
But what about the 16-year-old? Obama didn't even pretend that the kid was a terrorist, or a terrorist in-the-making, nor adopting in any way his father's crazed kill-Americans crusade.
What could justify execution of Abdul? When asked, then-White House press spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said, "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father."
I guess he should have.
Obama's minions tried to cover up the hit on the teenagers. Attorney General Eric Holder informed Congress of the killings by writing that US drones had blown up Anwar al-Awlaki, the crazy cleric, and three other Americans who "were not specifically targeted".
Holder's comment makes it seem that Awlaki's son was blown up with him - a sad case of "collateral damage".
But are you ready for this? The teenager - along with his cousin and friends - was killed two weeks after and hundreds of miles away from the site where rockets killed his father.
(the trailer I had not yet seen for "Dirty Wars" was inserted here, can be viewed at the attached link)
(the trailer I had not yet seen for "Dirty Wars" was inserted here, can be viewed at the attached link)
Obama's Seal Team Sick
I was straightened out on the facts by Richard Rowley,
most courageous investigative reporter. Rowley filmed, directed and edited the
brilliant, horrific and brilliantly horrific documentary Dirty Wars, previewing
this week in the America . US
The film centres on Rowley's reporting partner, the indefatigable Jeremy Scahill, whom Rowley follows from the scene of a massacre at a wedding party in Afghanistan to an interview with a warlord in Mogadishu (while under sniper fire).
You might know Rowley as Ricardo, the pathologically calm cameraman portrayed in my book Vultures' Picnic. In
Rowley covered the US Army assault on Fallujah "embedded" with the
assaulted, the insurgents. That was insane. Insane but brilliant. (Our producer
at the BBC warned Ricardo that he was one lucky cat, but he'd already used up
seven of his nine lives.) Iraq
In Dirty Wars, Rowley and Scahill reveal that drones are just one toy in our Presidents' murderous toy-chest. And the kill list is far larger than even a smart dude like Obama can tick off on a Tuesday. Scahill calculates that the targeted kills in
now total more than 17,000! Pakistan
Drones can't kill them all. In 2009, a US cruise missile hit al Majala, a remote
village of Bedouins in , killing a dozen herdsmen and
three babies. Yemen 's
President Ali Abdullah Saleh took responsibility,
proudly, for killing supposed "terrorists". Yemen
However, a courageous Yemeni reporter, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, visited the site, photographed the remains of the
missile - and was promptly jailed. US
US is particularly shy about taking credit for
the cruise missile kills, as it boosted al-Qaeda's recruitment drive in . Yemen
Rowley and Scahill are the only
reporters to have gone to the Bedouin village and filmed the missile casing;
cold evidence confirming the
had entered a war without any legal declaration - indeed, in complete secrecy. US
Scahill also revealed that, while
President Saleh was nervous about keeping the reporter imprisoned, Saleh
withdrew his pardon at the personal request of Barack Obama. Obama wanted the
journalist not just silenced, but punished. Yemen
WikiLeaks: Cleaning up Dirty Wars?
I was curious: Did Scahill and Rowley make use of WikiLeaks?
"WikiLeaks was absolutely indispensible," Rowley told me - a treasure trove of State Department confessions confirming what they found on the ground. It was through WikiLeaks that they discovered that President Saleh joked with US operatives about lying to his Congress about the
missile attack on al Majala. US
And it was in WikiLeaks that Scahill found that the warlord Indha Adde - AKA "White Eyes" - was on the
payroll. I should say, General White Eyes - a rank he gave himself in the
Somali Army by pinning three stars on his jacket. Where did the USA
military find this cutthroat? Previously, the WikiLeaks cables revealed, the US US knew he was the protector of the al-Qaeda
bombers who blew up the US Embassy in . Nairobi
Rowley captures the warlord/general on camera saying, "The USA is the master in war" - quite a compliment from a natural born killer like White Eyes.
And General "Eyes" is quite right. Obama's secret war has now spread to 75 nations. It's all under the command of General William H McRaven.
press is in love with McRaven, lauded as the man who planned the raid on Osama
bin Laden's compound. But there's not one single US network or paper that would
report on Scahill's discovery that McRaven was also the guy who planned the
night raid on the Afghan wedding party that killed the bride, the groom and the
groom's mother. US
Maybe that was some horrible mistake. But McRaven's crew, called "The American Taliban" by Afghans, made sure that no one would finger the
Rowley and Scahill obtained a secretly recorded video of McRaven's commandos
slicing the bullets out of the bride's and groom's bodies to prevent their
killers' identification. US
McRaven's semi-private army, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), is warring in our name in 75 nations - nations he won't name and Obama will arrest you for naming. Not even Orwell could have dreamed up that one.
I asked about the value of WikiLeaks to Rowley and Scahill because of the ongoing trial of Pvt Bradley Manning and the impending capture of Edward Snowden, the contractor willing to blow away his career and freedom to let you know that nice Mr Obama has been spying on you
A rabbi from
once said, "The truth shall set you free." And that's exactly what
Obama is afraid of: faced with the truths revealed in Dirty Wars, they know
most Americans would cut themselves free of McRaven's Seal Team Sick. Nazareth
I am convinced the hit on al-Awlaki's son was meant to teach a lesson; If you want to be a martyr, we'll make your son and your mum and daughter martyrs, too.
Such terror-for-terror can be, I'll admit, quite effective. During the Ronald Reagan years, that gutless faux-cowboy President sent weapons to Ayatollah Khomeini in return for the release of hostages taken by Hezbollah. The Russians got their hostages home another way. The
didn't accept an arms-for-hostage deal. Rather, the KGB systematically
assassinated the hostage-takers' cousins, mothers and brothers one by one -
until Hezbollah released all the Russian hostages. USSR
By rocketing the children of those we fear, we are indeed teaching them a lesson. But what are they learning?
Next year, Malia Obama turns 16. I hope we never hear that harm has come to Malia while some chuckling spokesman for al-Qaeda says, "She should have had a far more responsible father."
Greg Palast's films with Richard "Ricardo" Rowley for BBC Television and Democracy Now! are available on the DVD, "Palast Investigates: From 8-Mile to the Amazon - On the Trail of Financial Marauders." This week, you can download it here without charge from the Palast Investigative Fund.
If you're in
or the States, click here to
locate showings of Dirty Wars near you. And click here for Ricardo's story in Vultures'
Defining Drone Deaths in
Media present dubious official claims as fact
8/13/13 FAIR email@example.com
has reportedly carried out nine drone attacks in the last few weeks in ,
generating headlines about the targeting and killing of suspected Al-Qaeda
militants in the impoverished country. Yemen
But how can media know for sure who is being killed?
The uptick in attacks is apparently related to the alleged terrorist chatter that prompted the
government to close down embassies and diplomatic offices. To hear the media
tell it, the U.S.
is striking at terrorist fighters. U.S.
"An American drone delivers a deadly message to Al-Qaeda," announced the CBS Evening News (8/7/13). Correspondent Bob Orr reported, "For the fifth time in two weeks,
drones fired on militants.
Seven suspected operatives riding in two cars were killed by a barrage of
On August 8, when Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell asked, "Who is being targeted by these drone strikes?," Orr answered:
Well, sources tell us that most of those killed so far had been terrorist foot soldiers.... It's worth noting, though, even the elimination of rank-and-file operatives does have value; it reduces the group's manpower, and, more importantly, it forces the other terrorists to keep an eye on the skies.
The New York Times ran an Associated Press story (8/9/13) that led, "Three American drone strikes in
on Thursday killed a total of 12 people suspected of being members of Al-Qaeda,
a Yemeni military official said." The piece went on to note that
"since July 27, drone attacks have killed 34 suspected militants,
according to a count provided by Yemeni security officials." Yemen
Two days later, the CBS Evening News (8/11/13) declared that "just this week, drone strikes in the country may have killed at least two dozen suspected Al-Qaeda militants, according to Yemeni officials."
And on ABC's This Week (8/11/13), correspondent Martha Raddatz said that those the government suspects of plotting a major attack "were not killed in those strikes in
, but the dead are part of
what they called the network of terrorists trying to kill Americans." Yemen
But how would anyone have any confidence about who is dying in the drone strikes in
If the information about targets comes from the Yemeni government, journalists
might consider the fact that it is also fighting the same group--Al-Qaeda in
the Arabian Peninsula--and thus might have an interest in declaring victories
over its foe, and a reluctance to admit that its Yemen allies are killing innocent
citizens. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that U.S. U.S.
drone strikes in
may have killed more than a hundred civilians since 2002. Yemen
As the Washington Post (12/24/12) reported under the headline "When U.S. Drones Kill Civilians, Yemen’s Government Tries to Conceal It," the Yemeni government "has often tried to hide civilian casualties from the public, fearing repercussions in a nation where hostility toward U.S. policies is widespread."
Some outlets have expressed caution, like this McClatchy report (8/9/13):
While Western news reports have cast casualties of the next strike, on Aug. 1, as militants, locals in the area of Hadramawt where it took place have claimed that the dead had no links to the Al-Qaeda group and included a child.
As for the strikes dealing any sort of blow to the group, another report from the Post(5/30/12) noted that "an unintended consequence of the attacks has been a marked radicalization of the local population." The paper added:
In 2009, when President Obama was first known to have authorized a missile strike on
Yemen, officials said there were no
more than 300 core AQAP members. That number has grown in recent years to 700 or
more, Yemeni officials and tribal leaders say. U.S.
And it appears that the
has broadened its rules for who it
considers a target. As the New York Times (8/12/13) reported, a "senior American
official" acknowledged that the terrorist threat has "expanded the
scope of people we could go after." The official explained: United
Before, we couldn't necessarily go after a driver for the organization; it'd have to be an operations director.... Now that driver becomes fair game because he's providing direct support to the plot.
Given that the administration had previously defined militants as military-age males in the vicinity of a target (Salon, 5/29/12), one would hope reporters would take official claims--from
or Yemeni officials--with a grain of salt. U.S.
Obama, in a Shift, to Limit Targets of Drone Strikes
By CHARLIE SAVAGE and PETER BAKER
Published: May 22, 2013
LIVE VIDEO AT 2 P.M. ET
Obama Delivers Speech
· The Caucus: Q & A: Answering Readers’ Queries on Drones (May 23, 2013)
· One Drone Victim’s Trail From Raleigh to Pakistan (May 23, 2013)
· How a U.S. Citizen Came to Be in America’s Cross Hairs (March 10, 2013)
· Debate Aside, Number of Drone Strikes Drops Sharply (May 22, 2013)
Related in Opinion
· Op-Ed Contributor: Obama’s Forgotten Victims (May 23, 2013)
Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined American priorities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even foresees an unspecified day when the so-called war on terror might all but end, according to people briefed on White House plans.
As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of
and Iraq, arguing that
its actions were justified by the danger to the . Mr. Obama approved
providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing
his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies. United States
A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like
Yemen and . The rules will impose the
same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American
citizens deemed to be terrorists. Somalia
Lethal force will be used only against targets who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and cannot feasibly be captured, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, suggesting that threats to a partner like
alone would not be enough to justify being targeted. Yemen
The standard could signal an end to “signature strikes,” or attacks on groups of unknown men based only on their presumed status as members of Al Qaeda or some other enemy group — an approach that administration critics say has resulted in many civilian casualties. In effect, this appears to be a step away from the less restricted use of force allowed in war zones and toward the more limited use of force for self-defense allowed outside of armed conflict.
In the speech he will give on Thursday at the
University, Mr. Obama will also renew his long-stalled effort to close the
prison at . Officials said they would make a fresh push to
transfer detainees to home countries and lift the ban on sending some back to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba .
The president plans to reappoint a high-level State Department official to
oversee the effort to reduce the prison population. Yemen
The combined actions constitute a pivot point for a president who came to office highly critical of his predecessor, George W. Bush, yet who preserved and in some cases expanded on some of the counterterrorism policies he inherited. Much as Mr. Bush did in 2006 when he acknowledged and emptied secret overseas C.I.A. prisons, Mr. Obama appears intent on countering criticism of his most controversial policies by reorienting them to meet changing conditions.
In his speech, Mr. Obama is expected to reject the notion of a perpetual war with terrorists, envisioning a day when Al Qaeda has been so incapacitated that wartime authority will end. However, because he is also institutionalizing procedures for drone strikes, it does not appear that he thinks that day has come. A Pentagon official suggested last week that the current conflict could continue for 10 to 20 years.
Yet even as he moves the counterterrorism effort to a next stage, Mr. Obama plans to offer a robust defense of a continued role for targeted killings, a policy he has generally addressed only in passing or in interviews rather than in a comprehensive speech. A White House official said he “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.”
While Mr. Obama may not explicitly announce the shift in drones from the Central Intelligence Agency in his speech, since the agency’s operations remain formally classified, the change underscores a desire by the president and his advisers to balance them with other legal and diplomatic tools. The C.I.A., which has overseen the drone war in the tribal areas of
and elsewhere, will generally cede its
role to the military after a six-month transition period as forces draw
down in ,
officials said. Afghanistan
Drone strikes have already been decreasing in the past few years as targets have been killed and opposition has grown. John O. Brennan, the new C.I.A. director, has been eager to shift the agency more toward espionage, intelligence gathering and analysis and away from the paramilitary mission it has adopted since Sept. 11.
Senator Jack Reed of
, a top Democrat on the Armed
Services Committee, said that after more than a decade of war it was time to
“rebalance” the missions of the Pentagon and C.I.A. “The policy is intended to
refocus the activities of the intelligence community to collection, which is
crucial,” he said. Rhode Island
But Mr. Obama’s moves may provoke criticism from some Republicans who say a law enforcement approach underestimates the continuing threat from terrorism. An aide to Representative Howard P. McKeon of California, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said his boss would insist on “concrete answers” about what Mr. Obama planned to do with “terrorists who are too dangerous to be released” from Guantánamo.
In his letter to Congressional leaders, Mr. Holder confirmed that the administration had deliberately killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who died in a drone strike in September 2011 in
Mr. Holder also wrote that Yemen forces had killed three other
Americans who “were not specifically targeted.” United
The American involvement in Mr. Awlaki’s death has been widely reported, but the administration until now had refused to confirm it. Likewise, Mr. Holder confirmed the government’s role in the deaths of Samir Khan, who was killed in the same strike, and Mr. Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who died in another strike. The letter disclosed the death of a fourth American named Jude Kenan Mohammad but gave no further details.
Mr. Holder defended the actions, saying they were consistent with American law and taken only after careful consideration. “Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during the current conflict, it is clear and logical that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted,” he wrote.
Critics were not assuaged. “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,” said Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International. “President Obama should reject these concepts in his speech tomorrow and commit to upholding human rights, not just in word but in deed.”
The lifting of the veil of official secrecy over the Awlaki killing could have broad legal ramifications. The Justice Department on Wednesday afternoon dropped an effort to throw out a
lawsuit seeking documents related to the killing, while a judge here ordered
the government to address the disclosure in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by
Mr. Awlaki’s family. California
Mr. Holder, in a speech at Northwestern law school last year, laid out the administration’s basic legal thinking that it could target American citizens deemed to be operational terrorists who pose an “imminent threat of violent attack” and where capture is not feasible.
Mr. Holder’s letter expanded the rationale for the killing of Mr. Awlaki. Mr. Holder said Mr. Awlaki not only had “planned” the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009, a claim that has been widely discussed in court documents and elsewhere, but had also “played a key role” in an October 2010 plot to blow up cargo planes bound for the United States, including taking “part in the development and testing” of the bombs. He added that Mr. Awlaki had also been involved in “the planning of numerous other plots.”
“The decision to target Anwar al-Awlaki was lawful, it was considered, and it was just,” Mr. Holder said.
version of this article appeared in print on May 23, 2013, on page A1 of
edition with the headline: Obama, In A Shift,
To Limit Targets Of Drone Strikes. New York
Editorial: Obama won't ground aerial strikes that kill terrorists. Good.
U.S. President Barack Obama listens to an audience member interrupting his speech on the administration's counterterrorism policy at the
at Ft. McNair
May 23, 2013. (LARRY DOWNING ) Washington
President Barack Obama has taken a lot of heat over
's targeting of terrorists
overseas with lethal drone strikes. Critics argue that the secret CIA-run
program provokes political backlash in America Pakistan,
Yemen and , outweighing the value of
the terrorists killed. That the attacks too often go awry and inadvertently
kill innocents. That there's no effective oversight. And that Obama hasn't
given Congress sufficient legal rationale for the aerial strikes. Somalia
Those complaints include kernels of validity but often have been exaggerated. Drone attacks also have exterminated many sworn enemies of this country without risking
lives on the ground or in the air. U.S.
Obama on Thursday answered his critics with a full-throated defense of drones:
"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 Sanaa and Kabul and Mogadishu — where terrorists seek a foothold," Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington. "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." U.S.
He's right. The drone campaign has been extremely and surgically effective, targeting militants across
Afghanistan, Yemen and parts of Africa.
It has killed wide swaths of al-Qaida leadership.
But the president also has suggested that he thinks the program has shortcomings. That's why Obama administration officials have indicated that the drone strike program will be narrowed and subjected to greater scrutiny: A new classified policy directive signed by Obama reportedly curtails when the unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not declared war zones. The president also is shifting more responsibility to the military from the CIA, an effort to provide more rigid accountability for the strikes.
Bottom line: This speech wasn't some dramatic new statement of policy. And none of these refinements means
's drone program will be
significantly weakened. These adjustments mostly reflect changing reality on
the ground in those countries where the America U.S.
targets terrorists: The number of reported drone attacks already has
fallen sharply since 2010. One likely reason is the absence of high-value
targets, those al-Qaida kingpins of yore. Many are dead or on the run. U.S.
Obama also promised more transparency for the drone program, something critics have long sought. One day before his speech, the administration acknowledged for the first time that it has killed four
U.S. citizens in strikes in Yemen and . Pakistan
The president also mentioned the possibility of a secret court that would sign off on future strikes. That's an idea floated by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of
and others. We've said before that we'd like to hear a debate on that. However: California
risks losing the advantage of surprise if individual drone strikes become
entangled in slow-motion bureaucracy back home. We fear United States warriors shrinking from what
in effect are battlefield decisions because they have one eye on Congress, or
judges, or some other overseer who is not their commander in chief. We don't
want drone operators hoping their targeted terrorist will stay put in U.S. Pakistan while judges in debate whether it's appropriate
to fire the missile. Nor, we imagine, would the president. Washington