Editor of End the Lie sept 2012
While the Obama administration has no problem boasting about their supposed successes in the international undeclared drone war, President Obama himself tends to steer far clear of the issue, evidenced by the evasiveness of Obama’s answers given to Ohio-based reporter Ben Swann.
Similarly, when the Obama administration has been confronted on the program in court, they choose to simply refuse to explain it and even act as if it doesn’t exist. Thankfully that is being challenged and with increasing coverage of the undeclared drone war, including the brutal campaign in Yemen which just continues to increase in intensity, more people seem to be aware of the issue.
Recently Obama broke his relative silence on the drone program – only slightly, mind you – in an interview with Jessica Yellin of CNN.
During the interview, Obama made the most thorough public comments on the drone war so far, but as Danger Room puts it, outside experts have found the claims he made to be “total baloney.”
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism outlines the “five tests” supposedly used by the Obama administration to justify the killing of an individual in their article published today. These include:
1 “It has to be a target that is authorized by our laws.”
2 “It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative.”
3 “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”
4 “We’ve got to make sure that in whatever operations we conduct, we are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties.”
5 “That while there is a legal justification for us to try and stop [American citizens] from carrying out plots… they are subject to the protections of the constitution and due process.”
Danger Room puts it lightly in writing, “At least two of those five points appear to be half-truths at best.” In fact, they are outright lies.
In reality, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is authorized to use so-called “signature strikes” in both Pakistan and Yemen. This allows the CIA to strike absolutely anyone who supposedly fits the “signature” of a terrorist. In other words, if they think you look or act like a terrorist they can kill you without even knowing your identity. Simple as that.
Furthermore, as I pointed out in my article on the increasingly deadly drone campaign in Yemen, the claim that they “are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties” is quite dubious.
That being said, it is indeed closer to a half-truth since, technically speaking, the U.S. military considers any male of military age in a strike zone to be a combatant. Therefore, when they say they “are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties” they actually mean they “are very careful about killing anyone except males of military age.”
It doesn’t matter if they’re actually militants or if they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As far as the military is concerned, they’re not to be included in the civilian casualty numbers.
Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations (not quite the most reliable source, mind you) wrote to Danger Room, “What I found most striking was his claim that legitimate targets are a ‘threat that is serious and not speculative,’ and engaged in ‘some operational plot against the United States,’ That is simply not true.”
“The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 nonbattlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the U.S. defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past ten years,” Zenko added in his email.
Similarly, the claim that American citizens are given the “protections of the Constitution” is outright absurd, unless you consider classified reviews of secret evidence conducted without outside input due process, as does Attorney General Eric Holder.
It is far from surprising to learn that legal scholars have found the argument to be quite weak seeing as the process involves no public standard of evidence required to issue the death sentence and involves no opportunity for defense on the part of the accused.
Unsurprisingly, when Yellin pushed Obama and asked if he was the one who actually made the final call on who is killed, Obama quickly backed away into the comfortable darkness of the veil of secrecy.
“I’ve got to be careful here. There are classified issues… I can’t get too deeply into how these things work,” Obama said, in order to avoid answering what could be a quite damning question.
Once again, this claim turns out to be an outright lie with Zenko calling it “total BS.”
“The President has the authority to declassify anything. That authority was reaffirmed by the White House in one of its first executive orders,” noted Zenko.
Danger Room rightly points out that if Obama wanted to talk about the approval process for drone kills, he could. He is in no way obligated “to leave the discussion up to unnamed officials, former subordinates, and authored leakers,” which is precisely what he does.
Noah Schachtman, writing for Danger Room, states that this is likely because “the issues involved are so thorny.” Indeed, I think Obama is avoiding it because it could be used against him in court and they are doing their best to steer clear of being held liable for this program.
The only defense they can muster is that the program is so secret and so sensitive that they can’t even address it. If Obama delved into the material he would then likely be forced to answer in court.
“A lot of what you read in the press that purports to be accurate isn’t always accurate,” claimed Obama. At two points Obama bemoaned supposed “misreporting” by the media, which is hilarious coming from someone who can’t even lay out five statements without lying through his teeth at multiple points.
Shachtman also rightly points out, “What he didn’t mention was his own role in perpetuating the confusion.” With the constant flip-flopping between bragging about the supposed successes of the program to pretending it doesn’t exist, it’s quite hard for anyone to know what is actually going on with the drone program.
The little bit we do know is not pretty and it involves the extra-judicial slaughter of Americans, not to mention unknown numbers of innocent civilians across the globe. Hopefully with the increased scrutiny will come increased pressure to actually justify the program but so long as courts allow the Obama administration to simply refuse to address it, I’m not going to be all too expectant.
Did I forget anything or miss any errors? Would you like to make me aware of a story or subject to cover? Or perhaps you want to bring your writing to a wider audience? Feel free to contact me at admin@EndtheLie.com with your concerns, tips, questions, original writings, insults or just about anything that may strike your fancy.