A leaked internal memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel for the Obama administration 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” explains the White House’s justification for conducting targeted killings. The Obama administration claims that this document does not exist, yet the 16-page white paper originating with the Department of Justice (DoJ) has been given to select members of the Senate.
This document outlines in detail the legal reasoning used by the Obama administration for carrying out targeted assassinations of American citizens with suspected ties to al-Qaeda. No proof is necessary for any American to be put on this list; simply the federal government’s suspicions are sufficed.
Broken down into a three-part “test” to justify targeted assassinations, the white paper states:
1. An informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted American poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States
2. Capture is infeasible
3. The operation is conducted in a manner consistent with the four fundamental principles of the laws of war governing the use of force
There are specific references to the use of drone attack as not in violation of the “due process rights” afforded Americans under the authority of the US Constitution.
The white paper includes redefinitions and expansions of self-defense and imminent attack with the ideology of a “broader concept of imminence” without the necessity of actual intelligence to support those assumptions. If the American is thought to be a threat to the US, they could become eligible of these targeted assassinations.
Language such as “informed, high-level” US government official could independently determine that a US citizen was “recently” involved with al-Qaeda in undetermined “activities” and be found without proof to be a sure threat by committing a possible attack on the US.
This briefing paper was extracted from another document that surfaced in 2011 and states that due process is not applicable in cases where a US citizen is placed on the White House kill list. The document explains that “judicial enforcement of such orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, remarked that the paper was “a profoundly disturbing document. “It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances. It summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority — the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement.”
In May of 2012, Obama gave his chief of counter-terrorism advisor, John Brennan, a promotion. Brennan has been designated as the one person in the Obama administration who is in charge of choosing who will be assassinated.
Brennan, who was a CIA official during the Bush administration, recently remarked that drone killings were moral, ethical and just.
Brennan will work with the State Department and the Pentagon (along with various federal agencies) in creating target lists; deciding who lives and who dies. Brennan’s recommendation will be delivered directly to Obama for final consideration.
How the process will be enacted is a classified matter; however advocacy groups are alarmed and are demanding that the Obama administration make use of the legal process in the US before ordering people killed by drones.
Boston's police chief wants to use drones to spy on Americans:
Next year's Boston Marathon could be watched over by drones.
The city's police commissioner, Ed Davis, told the Boston Herald that using the aerial surveillance technology during next year's race is "a great idea."
"I don’t know that would be the first place I’d invest money, but certainly to cover an event like this, and have an eye in the sky that would be much cheaper to run than a helicopter is a really good idea," Davis said.
Davis' interest in drones comes after the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 on April 15.
Davis also told WBZ NewsRadio that, "there are certainly serious privacy concerns that we have to consider before we do something like that.”
The Herald praised the idea in an editorial on Friday, arguing that "there may be no more useful tool" to help law enforcement prevent another attack:
Surveillance drones can be a useful tool for law enforcement, and like it or not they’re coming to a city near you. It is important that their use be restrained, with proper oversight to prevent abuse. But in an emergency situation, there may be no more useful tool.
Privacy advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the growing use of domestic drones. The group argues that, because the technology is relatively inexpensive, drones are likely to be used more and more frequently across the country.
The ACLU also warns that, unlike police helicopters, drones pose unique and potentially dangerous privacy concerns if they aren't tightly regulated.
Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald has expressed similar concerns:
The fact is that drones vest vast new powers that police helicopters and existing weapons do not vest: and that’s true not just for weaponization but for surveillance. Drones enable a Surveillance State unlike anything we’ve seen. Because small drones are so much cheaper than police helicopters, many more of them can be deployed at once, ensuring far greater surveillance over a much larger area. Their small size and stealth capability means they can hover without any detection, and they can remain in the air for far longer than police helicopters.
Some Massachusetts legislators are already looking at stopping the spread of drones in their state before law enforcement agencies capitalize on the aircraft’s surveillance capabilities: in January, Republican State Senator Robert L. Hedlund introduced S.B. 1664, “An Act to regulate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.”
If Sen. Hedlund’s bill is passed, Massachusetts law enforcement will be limited with how they operate drones within the state. The senator’s act has been approved by a number of colleagues in the state capitol, and if enacted it will forbid police agencies from using UAVs for dragnet surveillance. Hedlund’s law limits drone to single out only persons of interest named in official court warrants, and biometric matching technology would not be allowed to be implemented on any other person picked up by a drone’s cameras.
Earlier this month, the Florida State Senate voted unanimously to ban law enforcement agencies there to conduct overhead spy missions using unmanned aerial vehicles except in situations where the DHS believes that drones could deter a high-risk terrorist attack.
Drone industry report claims drones are great for the economy:
The robotic warfare arms race has gone global, with unmanned aerial vehicles taking center stage. A new U.S. study by the Association For Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) shows why drone proliferation continues to ramp up at a nearly exponential rate: it has become one of the fastest growing areas of the U.S. economy. A report entitled, "The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States" is clear in its conclusion that competition for jobs and tax dollars created by drone tech development is likely to provide the impetus to loosen state regulations on drone use. The AUVSI is projecting 70,000 new jobs in the first three years of full integration.
Cenk Uygar in the video below, the AUVSI has a vested interest in promoting drone use despite the organization's "non-profit" status. From their About Us page they don't hide their goals and connections:
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is the world's largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community. Serving more than 7,500 members from government organizations, industry and academia, AUVSI is committed to fostering, developing, and promoting unmanned systems and robotic technologies. AUVSI members support defense, civil and commercial sectors. (Read full mission statement and their goals for the world HERE
The disturbing history behind U.S. drone assassinations:
The world is a battlefield: Jeremy Scahill on "Dirty Wars" and Obama’s expanding drone attacks:
Uncertainties remain as FAA integrates drones into American skies: