Medea Benjamin and Noor Mir | The Huffington Post
Rand Paul’s marathon 13-hour filibuster was not the end of the conversation on drones. Suddenly, drones are everywhere, and so is the backlash. Efforts to counter drones at home and abroad are growing in the courts, at places of worship, outside air force bases, inside the UN, at state legislatures, inside Congress — and having an effect on policy.
1. April marks the national month of uprising against drone warfare. Activists in upstate New York are converging on the Hancock Air National Guard Base where Predator drones are operated. In San Diego, they will take on Predator-maker General Atomics at both its headquarters and the home of the CEO. In D.C., a coalition of national and local organizations are coming together to say no to drones at the White House. And all across the nation — including New York City, New Paltz, Chicago, Tucson and Dayton — activists are planning picket lines, workshops and sit-ins to protest the covert wars. The word has even spread to Islamabad, Pakistan, where activists are planning a vigil to honor victims.
2. There has been an unprecedented surge of activity in cities, counties and state legislatures across the country aimed at regulating domestic surveillance drones. After a raucous city council hearing in Seattle in February, the mayor agreed to terminate its drones program and return the city’s two drones to the manufacturer. Also in February, the city of Charlottesville, Va., passed a two-year moratorium and other restrictions on drone use, and other local bills are pending in cities from Buffalo to Ft. Wayne. Simultaneously, bills have been proliferating on the state level. In Florida, a pending bill will require the police to get a warrant to use drones in an investigation; a Virginia statewide moratorium on drones passed both houses and awaits the governor’s signature, and similar legislation in pending in at least 13 other state legislatures. Read More
Charlie Savage | The New York Times
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court held Friday that the Central Intelligence Agency must disclose, at least to a judge, a description of its records on drone strikes in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The 19-page opinion by Judge Merrick B. Garland rejected an effort by the Obama administration to keep secret any aspect of the C.I.A.’s interest in the use of drone strikes to kill terrorism suspects abroad.
It does not necessarily mean the contents of any of those records will ever be made public, and it stopped short of ordering the government to acknowledge publicly that the C.I.A. actually uses drones to carry out “targeted killings” against specific terrorism suspects or groups of unknown people who appear to be militants in places like tribal Pakistan. The Obama administration continues to treat that fact as a classified secret, though it has been widely reported.
But the ruling was a chink in that stone wall. Judge Garland, citing the C.I.A. role in analyzing intelligence, as well as public remarks by a former director and other top officials about what they asserted was the precision and minimal civilian casualties caused by drone strikes, said it was a step too far to ask the judicial branch to give its “imprimatur to a fiction of deniability that no reasonable person would regard as plausible.” Read More
Natasha Lennard | Salon
NBC obtains a confidential document on legal reasoning behind targeted killing, which the ACLU calls “chilling”.
Organizations including the ACLU and the New York Times have for some months been engaged in lawsuits to gain information from the government about the legal reasoning behind the targeted killing of U.S. citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son in a 2011 drone strike. A federal judge told the Times that the Obama administration does not, under law, have to provide legal justification for its targeted kills.
However, a confidential Justice Department memo obtained by NBC News sheds some light on the legal reasoning for including U.S. citizens on Obama’s controversial kill lists. According to the ACLU’s Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, “It’s a pretty remarkable document.”
NBC’s Michael Isikoff, who obtained the white paper from an unnamed source, wrote that it “concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be ‘senior operational leaders’ of al-Qaida or ‘an associated force’ — even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.” Read More
Jennifer Saba and Johnathon Stempel | Reuters
Credit: Reuters/ Shannon Stapleton
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected The New York Times’ bid to force the U.S. government to disclose more information about its targeted killing of people it believes have ties to terrorism, including American citizens.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan said the Obama administration did not violate the law by refusing the Times’ request for the legal justifications for targeted killings, a strategy the Times said was first contemplated by the Bush administration soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
McMahon appeared reluctant to rule as she did, noting in her decision that disclosure could help the public understand the “vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty.”
Nonetheless, she said the government was not obligated to turn over materials the Times had sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), even though it had such materials in its possession.
“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” McMahon said in her 68-page decision. Read More
The U.S. Government on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over the killing of three American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen earlier this year: alleged al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Anwar al-Awlaki, his son Abdulrahman, and alleged AQAP magazine editor Samir Khan.
The administration also threatened to invoke the State Secrets Privilege if the suit is not dismissed on other grounds. The privilege, which 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama regularly blasted the Bush administration for invoking, allows the government to seek dismissal of a suit if it could expose national security secrets.
In the motion to dismiss, Justice Department lawyers argue that the necessity for the strikes and the viability of any alternatives is a question beyond the proper purview of the courts. Read More
Josh Bell | ACLU
Speaking passionately in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Nasser al-Awlaki talked on television for the first time about the drone strike that killed his 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman. The teenager, an American citizen born in Denver, was killed by a U.S. missile in 2011.
“I want to know why Abdulrahman was killed,” al-Awlaki said via satellite from Cairo. You can watch the full interview here:
The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights represent Nasser al-Awlaki ina lawsuit challenging the targeted killing of Abdulrahman as well as two other Americans killed by a drone strike two weeks earlier: Abdulrahman’s father Anwar and Samir Khan. Read More
The American Civil Liberties Union is taking the CIA to court for the agency’s refusal to comply with a FOIA request to hand over documents about the Obama administration’s “targeted killing” drone program.
The CIA claims its drone program is “secret,” even though President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior government officials have publicly spoken about the program. In May, the New York Times found that President Obama personally oversees a drone “kill list,” using the weapon to target and kill terrorists abroad and often cause fatalities to bystanders near the target. But the CIA considers all military-age males killed in a strike zone to be “combatants,” the Times found.
The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in January 2010 asking the government to disclose “its use of predator drones to conduct ‘targeted killings’ overseas,” but the CIA refused to confirm or deny any information regarding the drones.
“The CIA cannot deny the existence of the government’s targeted killing program and refuse to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests about the program while officials continue to make public statements about it,” the ACLU wrote in a press release. Read More