Tags: Barack Obama | War on Terrorism | drone | strike | death | hostage

Officials: Drone Strikes Highlight Need for Higher Standard of Proof

By    |   Saturday, 25 April 2015 10:39 AM

The deaths of two hostages in drone strikes in Pakistan in January highlights that a higher standard of proof may be needed before such attacks are carried out, but for years, such strikes have been kept a secret.

"To demand a higher standard of proof than they had here could be the end of these types of counter-terrorism operations," said California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, reports The Guardian.

But that standard of proof is different than in traditional attacks. In the current campaign, agencies such as the CIA, and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) also conducts drone strikes identify targets based on what a facility's use may be, rather than the specific terrorists that are being targeted.

This means the agencies can kill persons in those locations without being required to know who is being put to death, The Guardian reports.

Such signatures of activity includes random indicators such as a gathering of me who may be traveling in convoys and carrying weapons, but in 2012, a senior official told The New York Times that "three guys doing jumping jacks" could be considered a signature of terrorist activities.

The secrecy behind such strikes has built over decades, but President Barack Obama is continuing it, meaning that there is nobody outside the administration that knows how many such signature strikes are taking place.

No requirements are in place, The Guardian reports, that make the CIA or JSOC account for the strikes or provide estimates of how many people are killed, and Obama's admission last week about the hostages was a rare statement about the secretive program.

And as a result, the deaths from signature strikes are not like the "collateral damages" from earlier wars, because such strikes take place without confirmation that an enemy is actually on the site.

"It is a different kind of use of the drone, and it raises issues that are important," said Glenn Carle, a former CIA interrogator. He says he is not opposed to strikes, but he knows how the CIA functions and insisted that "people are as responsible and serious as humans can be."

The strikes are also considered a more minimal risk to civilians than traditional airstrikes, according to CIA officials and the Obama administration, which says the alternative to such strikes is putting boots on the ground.

On Friday, Obama told intelligence officials at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that "we’re not cavalier about what we do, and we understand the solemn responsibilities that are given to us," reports The New York Times. 

The first job is to make sure the American people are protected, he said, but "we have to do so while upholding our values and our ideals and our laws and our constitutions and our commitment to democracy."

Schiff described Obama as being "very conflicted" on the issue of drone strikes.

"This is a president who won a Nobel Peace Prize and who understands the moral imperative of avoiding any civilian casualties, but who also takes his duties as commander in chief to protect the country very seriously," said Schiff. "Those counterpressures are enormously difficult."

However, Obama is not likely to change his drone strike program any time soon. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted that the pressure from the strikes "have been effective in enhancing the national security of the United States."

Further, the administration argues that such strikes undermine al Qaida's ability to execute attacks, operate military forces, and even recruit followers.

"Narrowly tailored counterterrorism operations are the kinds of operations that do the most to reduce the risk of civilian casualties," Earnest said. "But necessarily, these kinds of operations are contemplated in regions of the world where absolute certainty is just not possible."

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The deaths of two hostages in drone strikes in Pakistan in January highlights that a higher standard of proof may be needed before such attacks are carried out, but for years, such strikes have been kept a secret.
drone, strike, death, hostage
Saturday, 25 April 2015 10:39 AM
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