After winning re-election and quieting many of his critics, President Obama still faces nagging complaints from those who believe the “secretive” drone attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere are inhumane and unjustified.
To date, there have been more than 300 unmanned drone strikes, killing some 2,500 people by the CIA and the U.S. military, according to reports. These strikes have mainly occurred in Pakistan and Yemen in which only terrorists, members of Al Qaeda, have been targeted.
But, given the eruption of protests in the countries under attack, the singling out and targeting certain “personalities” have left untold collateral damage, and may be backfiring in some instances.
An article in the Sunday’s New York Times goes to some length detailing several of the problems and issues related to the strikes and the extent to which the program should be modified or curtailed.
One of the main concerns of the American Civil Liberties Union, which along with the Times has filed lawsuits seeking secret legal opinions on the targeted killing, is that the operation remains officially classified, in effect, virtually something that the government insists does not exist.
What the ACLU states in its assertion is that the “executive branch has, in effect, claimed the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of a secret determination, based on secret evidence, that a person meets a secret definition of the enemy.” It charges that “the program operates with virtually no oversight outside of the executive branch, and essential details about the program remain secret, including what criteria are used to put people on CIA and military kill lists or how such evidence is required.”
The government apparently justifies these pre-emptive strikes based on the possibility that those on the kill lists are potential terrorists.
Whether this constitutes a violation of international law is also an issue raised by the ACLU.
Even within the government there appears to be some concern about the action and the conduct of these illegal targeted strikes and if they are in fact violations of the Constitution.
While the Defense Department and the CIA continue to carry out the strikes—and if reports are right—are seeking even greater latitude, the Justice Department and the State Department as well as John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, have pushed for some restraint. And it should be noted that this operation is a continuation of Bush’s policies.
As the issue worsens, it is certainly something that Obama is carefully considering, realizing some “legal architecture” has to be applied. “We need Congressional help in order to make sure…that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the decisions that we’re making,” he said last month on “The Daily Show.”
This wanton killing is clearly causing him some sleepless nights but he has the power to check his own executive power, and it can’t come soon enough for innocent people in Yemen, Somalia, and particularly Pakistan.