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You Might Have Missed: Drones Abroad and at Home

The MQ-9 Predator B unmanned drone at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (Jeff Topping/Courtesy Reuters).
The MQ-9 Predator B unmanned drone at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (Jeff Topping/Courtesy Reuters).

June 8, 2012

The MQ-9 Predator B unmanned drone at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (Jeff Topping/Courtesy Reuters).
The MQ-9 Predator B unmanned drone at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (Jeff Topping/Courtesy Reuters).
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Michael Crowley, “Drone Dilemma,” Time, June 18, 2012.

When the White House announced on June 5 that a CIA drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal area had killed al-Qaeda’s No. 2 official, Abu Yahya al-Libi, even the Wall Street Journal editorial page, hardly a White House fan site, cheered: "President Obama’s decision to expand the drone program into Pakistan and Yemen -- which are difficult for U.S. troops to access -- is one of his finest accomplishments." A May 29 story in the New York Times described Obama’s intimate involvement in the drone campaign, right down to his approval of specific people for elimination, offered up on what’s come to be known as the kill list. One Administration official insists to TIME that the President’s personal role has been exaggerated. Obama "outlines the parameters of our counterterrorism policy. He does not make the call on every action," says the official.

Uri Friedman, “Good Leak, Bad Leak,” Foreign Policy, June 8, 2012.

House Committee on the Judiciary, Hearing on Justice Department Oversight, June 7, 2012.

NADLER: Mr. Attorney General, we have made several requests to you to allow us to review the Office of Legal Counsel memo that reportedly provides the legal justification for the lethal targeting of U.S. citizens who are terror suspects. The department has sought to (inaudible) cases seeking judicial review of lethal targeting by arguing, among other things, that the appropriate check on executive branch conduct here is the Congress and that information is being shared with Congress to make that check a meaningful one. Yet we have yet to get any response to our requests. Will you commit to providing that memo to us and to providing a briefing?

HOLDER: Well, we certainly want to provide information to the extent that we can with regard to the process that we use in selecting targets. I gave a speech at Northwestern University. Mr. Brennan gave a speech here. I believe...

NADLER: Excuse me. Will you commit to providing a copy of the briefing—a copy of the—of the legal memo from OLC?

HOLDER: We will certainly look at that request and try to determine whether...

NADLER: And a briefing to the members of this committee?

HOLDER: And we’ll certainly consider the possibility of a briefing.

NADLER: The possibility? You won’t commit to giving a briefing to this committee?

HOLDER: I think that we are probably going to be in a position to provide a briefing, but I would like to hear from the involved people in the intelligence community, as well as people at OLC, about how we might structure such...

NADLER: And you’ll you get back to us on that within, let’s say, a month?

HOLDER: We can do that.

Tony Capaccio, “U.S. Arms Exports Surge on Sales Push to India, Brazil,” Bloomberg, June 7, 2012.

The State Department approved a record number of export licenses last year for weapons and military parts and services sold overseas by U.S. companies, according to a report to Congress.

The estimated value of licenses issued by the department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls was $44.3 billion, an increase of more than $10 billion from the previous year, according to the annual military assistance report delivered to lawmakers today.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Opening Remarks at the Global Counterterrorism Forum, June 7, 2012.

When nations violate human rights and undermine the rule of law, even in the pursuit of terrorists, it feeds radicalization, gives propaganda tools to the extremists, and ultimately undermines our efforts. The international community cannot turn our eyes away from the effects of these tactics because they are part of the problem. I know that the United States has not always had a perfect record, and we can and must do a better job of addressing the mistaken belief that these tactics are ever permissible. That is why President Obama has made our standards very clear. We will always maintain our right to use force against groups such as al-Qaida that have attacked us and still threaten us with imminent attack.

(3PA: Secretary Clinton’s warning is useful, and hopefully will be shared with senior Obama administration counterterrorism officials.)

House of Representatives Voice Vote, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act 2013, June 7, 2012.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

Sec. __. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for the purchase, operation, or maintenance of armed unmanned aerial vehicles.

(3PA: It is remarkable that the House felt compelled to vote down any possibility of armed drones being utilized by the Department of Homeland Security. Recall in March when Representative Tom Graves asked FBI Director Robert Mueller, “Does the federal government have the ability to kill a U.S. citizen on United States soil, or just overseas?” Mueller answered: “I am going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice.”)

John Yoo, “Obama, Drones, and Thomas Aquinas,” Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2012.

National Counterterrorism Center 2011 Report on Terrorism, June 2012.

(3PA: Click here for my reactions to the recently-released report on trends in global terrorist attacks.)

Stockholm Institute, Trends in International Security, June 2012.

James Risen and David Johnston, “Threats and Responses: Hunt for al-Qaeda; Bush Widened Authority of CIA to Kill Terrorists,” New York Times, December 15, 2002.

President Bush has provided written legal authority to the C.I.A. to hunt down and kill the terrorists without seeking further approval each time the agency is about to stage an operation. Some officials said the terrorist list was known as the ’’high-value target list.’’ A spokesman for the White House declined to discuss the list or issues involving the use of lethal force against terrorists. A spokesman for the C.I.A. also declined to comment on the list.

(3PA: Sound familiar?)

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