WASHINGTON, February 5, 2013 — It’s official: An intelligence officer in the U.S government can now order the remote control killing of an American citizen without judicial review, due process, or actionable intelligence indicating a specific terror threat.
In a 16 page memo obtained by NBC News, the Justice Department outlined the legal reasoning behind the use of drone strikes on Al-Qaeda targets abroad, including those aimed at U.S citizens.
One of the conditions that must be met before the use of a drone strike on an American citizen is that the targeted individual must pose “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”
At the same time, the memo also states that “the condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
In other words, a drone strike can still be used in cases where there is no “clear evidence” of an imminent threat.
The idea that an American citizen can be killed by a drone missile based on uncorroborated intelligence or mere suspicion of loose association with Al-Qaeda members should raise concerns in the minds of all Americans.
In 2011 for example, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16 year old American citizen and the son of Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone strike two weeks after the death of his father. Former Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs justified the drone strike by saying, “he should have had a far more responsible father…”
So the only reason an underage American boy deserved the verdict of death by drone is because he happened to be the son of a terrorist? Somehow the Bush administration’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” sounds a little more merciful compared to this.
If there are progressives within the Democratic Party who have serious questions and concerns about this drone policy, preferably the same voices that were outraged by the waterboarding of three terrorists under the Bush administration, they should come forward now ‒ with the same righteous indignation.
If there are human rights activists, preferably the same voices that vociferously criticized the Bush administration for the lack of due process for Guantanamo Bay prisoners, they should also speak out now.
The failure to do so will be a sign of selective morality and self-serving hypocrisy. The Obama administration’s drone program deserves serious scrutiny.
Also read: The mass torture of drone strikes
Ayobami is a Graduate Student in George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
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