Former National Security Heads Slam Obama Drone Policy

Image: Former National Security Heads Slam Obama Drone Policy A Yemeni boy walks past a mural in Sanaa depicting a U.S. drone.

Thursday, 26 Jun 2014 09:08 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism drone policy has come under fire from a panel of national security leaders, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The 10-member task force from the Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations criticized current government measures on drone strikes and urged more transparency in their use against terrorists.

The panel’s report, released by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, a Washington think tank specializing in global security, said that U.S. drone policy sets disturbing precedents in international law and human rights, according to the Journal.

The task force warned that other nations could use the reasoning behind recent U.S. drone use and make their own targeted strikes. The report also concluded that the Obama administration policy could provide a "playbook" for foreign powers to assassinate political opponents.

"We've opened up the Pandora's box of drones," said John Bellinger, a panel member and former top legal adviser to the Bush administration, according to the Journal. "We have not cabined the program legally in a way that would allow us to complain if other, less well-meaning countries were to use drones."

Rosa Brooks, a former member of the Obama administration and panel co-chairwoman, said, "A pretty good test of whether your policies and your legal analysis is solid is to say, 'How would you feel if [Russian President] Vladimir Putin did the same thing, if Iran did the same thing?' In terms of the example we set, we need to be really attuned to the fact that others will use it in ways we don't like if we aren't careful."

The Obama administration admitted last month that the United States had killed four American citizens in drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.

Attorney General Eric Holder disclosed that the United States had deliberately killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, with a drone strike in September 2011 in Yemen.

On Monday, a U.S. government memo revealed the government can legally use a deadly drone strike on an American citizen abroad if the person is plotting to attack Americans and cannot be caught. The memo was released to explain the government’s rationale for killing al-Awlaki, the newspaper reported.

"We've only acknowledged killing four people, all of whom were Americans," Bellinger told the Journal. "If we're going to continue this, we need to be more transparent about what we're doing."

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