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Entries in Drone Strikes (3)

Wednesday
Apr242013

Yemeni Activist Likens Impact of Drone Strikes to Boston Marathon Bombings 

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Yemeni man whose village was struck by American drones likened that practice with the Boston bombing in testimony before U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday.

Farea-al-Muslimi, who was educated in the U.S. courtesy of a State Department scholarship and now works as an activist and fixer for journalists in Yemen, said the face of America in his home country is the face of drones and that they are helping al Qaeda turn his countrymen against the United States.

“I am from Wessab, a remote mountain village in Yemen, about nine hours’ drive from my country’s capital, Sana’a,” said al-Muslimi before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Most of the world has never heard of Wessab. But just six days ago, my village was struck by a drone, in an attack that terrified thousands of simple, poor farmers. The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine,” he said.

Al-Muslimi put a human face on the targeted killing program, which has been in use in the war on terror for more than a decade. But this was the first public hearing on the matter in Congress, according to Sen. Dick Durbin. The Illinois Democrat has been a political mentor to President Obama, but has pushed the president on the issue of targeted killing program.

“Even as President Obama commands a military with the most sophisticated weapons known to man, including the weaponized drones used in targeted killing operations, his authority is still grounded in words written more than 200 years ago,” said Durbin.

While the president promised during his State of the Union address this year to “engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

The hearing Tuesday was meant to explore the legal justification for the drone program. But the Obama administration declined to send a representative. Only in 2012 did the administration officially disclose details of how the CIA program operates. Members of Congress have not all been shown the legal justification for the program, which remains rooted in the 2001 authorization for military force after the 9/11 terror attacks. CIA director John Brennan faced tough questions in Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year. His nomination was also briefly filibustered by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Durbin said he was disappointed by the administration.

Drones make for strange political bedfellows. Durbin was joined by fellow liberal Sen. Al Franken and also Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas conservative Republican in voicing frustration with the White House.

“I’d like to echo the concern that the chairman raised and the disappointment that the Obama administration declined to send a witness particularly after this hearing was delayed for one week in order to accommodate the administration’s schedule,” said Cruz, “and I am hopeful that they will provide witnesses at subsequent hearings.”

A spokesman said the administration is in contact with the committee, albeit outside of public view.

“We have been in regular contact with the Committee about how we can best provide them the information they require,” said National Security Council spokesman Caitlin Hayden. “As the president has indicated, we will continue to engage Congress and to ensure that our counterterrorism efforts are not only consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb072013

White House Authorizes Release of White Paper on Drone Strikes

JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With new questions surrounding the White House policy on targeted drone strikes overseas, President Obama has directed the Justice Department to release a just disclosed 16-page document that apparently justifies the killing of Americans with suspected terrorist connections.

NBC News first obtained the white paper, which is not described as a legal document, in which White House attorneys maintain a drone strike is justified if a “high-level” government official believes the target is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda who poses “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States” and capture is not feasible.

Since the issue of drone strikes against U.S. citizens is expected to be raised when counterterrorism chief John Brennan, Obama’s pick to become the next CIA director, testifies during a Senate hearing on Thursday, the White House turned over the classified policy statement.

The document is entitled, “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S. Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qaeda or an Associated Force.”

Speculation is that the paper summarizes the legal justification for the September 2011 drone attack that killed American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Al-Awalki was considered a major operative with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the U.S. says was behind several attempted attacks against American interests, including deploying a bomb-carrying follower on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Apr302012

Brennan Defends Drone Strikes as Pakistan and Protestor Object

C-SPAN(WASHINGTON) -- As White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan delivered a speech Monday defending the U.S. drone campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda militants, an audience member interrupted and delivered a minute-long speech of her own protesting the targeted killings and the death of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki's teen son in Yemen.

"What about the hundreds of innocent people we are killing with our drone strikes in Pakistan and in Yemen and Somalia?" said the well-dressed blonde woman as Brennan tried to address the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington Monday. Before she was carried from the auditorium, she condemned Brennan for the death of Awlaki's U.S.-born son Abdulrahman in an October 2011 drone strike and said "I speak out on behalf of the Constitution...Shame on you!"

Brennan's speech defending the U.S. drone campaign, the Obama administration's first public admission that it is using drones to take down al Qaeda, comes as Pakistan delivered its strongest and most public condemnation yet of U.S. strikes, accusing the U.S. of violating Pakistani sovereignty, calling the campaign "a total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations."

"The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone attacks are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty," said the statement.

In his remarks, Brennan confirmed that the U.S. "in full accordance with the law – and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and save American lives ... conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. And I'm here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts."

Brennan stressed his belief that the strikes are allowed under both U.S. and international law, and also that they are ethical and "wise."

"They can be a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to U.S. personnel, even eliminating the danger altogether," said Brennan. "Yet they are also a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to innocent civilians."

Brennan also asserted that the U.S. holds itself to "rigorous standards...when considering and authorizing strikes."

"I know that for many people the issue of targeted strikes raised profound moral questions," said Brennan. "It forces us to confront deeply held personal beliefs and our values as a nation. If anyone in government who works in this area tells you they haven't struggled with this, then they haven't spent much time thinking about it." But until al Qaeda "fades into history," concluded Brennan, "if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will. And it is unfortunate that to save innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives – the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens."

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric and leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, died in a drone strike in Yemen last September. His 16-year-old son Abdulrahman died less than three weeks later in a separate drone strike.

Pakistan's protest came after a U.S. drone strike Sunday in Waziristan.

The strike killed three suspected militants who were hiding out in an abandoned girls school, according to U.S. officials. There were no other casualties.

Drones strikes have become increasingly unpopular in Pakistan. Earlier this month, lawmakers there established a new set of guidelines for rebuilding the country's relationship with the United States. Among their first conditions was the immediate cessation of all drone strikes in Pakistani territory.

Monday's harsh condemnation is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat accusations that have soured Pakistan-U.S. relations ever since the May 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Relations hit a new low last November when a U.S. airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Solala, along the country's Afghan border. U.S. officials said the attack was a mistake, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology. In response, Pakistan closed the NATO supply route from its side of the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, cutting off supplies desperately needed to support the Afghan mission.

Recently, there had been signs that both sides were willing to compromise. Marc Grossman, U.S. special envoy to the region, recently wrapped up a two day visit to Pakistan, during which he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan's foreign minister to lobby for the reopening of the route. Pakistani officials themselves say they want the route re-opened, but have set the cessation of drone strikes and a formal apology for the Solala incident as preconditions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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