By Kira Zalan |
President Obama's national security record has been regarded as one of his administration's strong points, but scrutiny of his policy regarding drones and the so called "kill list" has grown. On Monday 11 lawmakers signed a letter demanding more transparency from the administration on its legal justification for its counterterrorism policies.
Hours later, NBC News leaked a Department of Justice "white paper" memo outlining the legality of the administration's current policy. Critics say the memo included vague and cryptic language that defied the Constitution: It gives "informed, high-level" officials permission to kill American citizens (by drone strike or otherwise) that are "senior operational leaders" of al Qaeda or "an associated force" if they are determined to be "an imminent threat of violent attack" on the country. It goes on to say, "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."
The memo emerges the week of John Brennan's Senate hearing for his nomination for CIA director. In addition to being associated controversial torture policies of the Bush administration (during which Brennan was CIA deputy executive director), he has been regarded as the architect of the current administration's drone policy as Obama's senior counterterrorism adviser. Since 2002, an estimated 4,700 people have been killed by targeted missile strikes, the most high profile of which was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born top level al Qaeda leader. Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the president's drone policies, calling them constitutional and adding, "These strikes are legal. They are ethical and they are wise."
Has Obama gone too far with his drone policies? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Dixon Osburn Director of Human Rights First’s Law and Security Program
Rosa Brooks Fellow at the New America Foundation
Alexa Koenig Executive Director of University of California-Berkeley's Human Rights Center.
Daniel J. Gallington Senior Policy and Program Adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute i