Tags: Obama | drones | terror | bush

White House Drone Plan Reveals Obama's 'Hypocrisy'

Thursday, 07 Feb 2013 12:41 PM

By Jim Meyers

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As a senator, Barack Obama decried George W. Bush’s use of presidential war powers to prosecute the war on terror. As president, Obama has embraced those powers and promoted the preemptive use of drones to target al-Qaida operatives.

That’s the thrust of an editorial in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal that accuses the administration of “hypocrisy.”

Sen. Obama and Eric Holder, before he became attorney general, denounced memos from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that explained why waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” techniques were legal. And as attorney general, Holder boasted that the new administration had banned those techniques.

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“Yes, this crowd doesn’t arrest and interrogate suspected terrorists,” the Journal observes. “It merely blows them away with missiles from the sky.”
The editorial comes after the leaking of a confidential 16-page Justice Department memo asserting that the U.S. can order the killing of American citizens it deems a threat.

The “white paper”, obtained by NBC News, states that Americans and others can be targeted if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force,” even if there is no evidence that they are engaged in an active plot to attack American interests.

Drone strikes in Yemen in September 2011 killed al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both American citizens “who had never been indicated by the U.S. government or charged with any crimes,” NBC reported.

The Justice Department memo states: “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.”

Rather, it claims, an “informed, high-level” American official may determine that the targeted American has been recently involved in activities posing a threat of violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.”

Targeted killings carried out by U.S. drones do not violate a U.S. executive order banning assassinations,” the white paper also asserts: “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination.”

The Journal, while pointing to Obama’s flip-flop on the issue, actually supports the legal claims made in the memo.

“Hypocrisy aside, the Justice Department makes an adequate legal case,” the editorial declares. “The Obama paper gets to the correct legal conclusion.”

The Journal dismisses claims from some of the left that the administration has no legal basis for drone strikes, noting that several congressional acts give the president the power to capture and kill members of al-Qaida and its allies who have taken up arms against America.

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The Journal suggests that the timing of the white paper leak was no accident, coming before Thursday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as CIA chief. Brennan was the main architect of the drone program and the first administration official to publicly acknowledge drone strikes in a speech last year.

The editorial also comes two days after The New York Times reported that a clandestine U.S. drone base was built in Saudi Arabia to carry out strikes against al-Qaida operatives in neighboring Yemen. The Times and other news organizations say they knew about the base for some time but had not revealed its existence at the request of U.S. officials.

The Times’ managing editor, Dean Baquet, said the newspaper decided to reveal the base’s existence now because of the Brennan hearings scheduled for Thursday.

The Times also disclosed that the Saudi base was used to launch the drone that killed al-Awlaki in 2011.

Karen DeYoung, who covers national security for The Washington Post, told NPR that the base was built in 2010 “specifically for the CIA to launch drones both for surveillance and for targeted killing strikes.”

She said the Obama administration sought to keep the base secret “because of sensitivities in Saudi Arabia itself. Because of their internal politics and because of what they see as their position in the Islamic world, they didn’t want it published that they were allowing the CIA to actually occupy real estate inside Saudi Arabia.”

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