Yesterday, the Obama administration offered its first extensive explanation of how American officials decide when to use drones to kill people — a tactic that the government often treats as a classified secret even though it is widely known around the world.
What is must disturbing is the idea that international law progresses through violations.
“Yes, in full accordance with the law — and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives — the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific Al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,”
- John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser
“If you do something for long enough, the world will accept it. The whole of international law is now based on the notion that an act that is forbidden today becomes permissible if executed by enough countries… International law progresses through violations. We invented the targeted assassination thesis and we had to push it. At first there were protrusions that made it hard to insert easily into the legal moulds. Eight years later it is in the center of the bounds of legitimacy.”
-Colonel Daniel Reisner, former head Israeli Defense Force Legal Dept
“We’re not in Kindergarten on this anymore: we’ve been doing this [targeted killings] since 2001, and there’ a well-established protocol.”
- Bruce Riedel, former CIA official
"John Brennan’s speech yesterday was important for at least three reasons: (1) it marked the first official White House acknowledgment that “the United States Government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qa’ida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones”; (2) it provided a robust defense not only of the legality of targeted killing, but also of the morality, wisdom, and humanity of the practice; and (3) it provided significant detail about the government’s processes and standards for deciding whom to kill – including a general discussion of the “very high bar” the government imposes on itself in analyzing intelligence to avoid mistakes and the loss of innocent life. (The speech did not state which agencies are involved in targeted killing, and most notably did not say a word about the CIA.)"Drone Necessary – Not Vengence
“President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser used the anniversary of the Osama bin Laden’s killing to mount a broad public defense of the ethics and efficacy of military drones.
The drone programs, which have been widely reported but rarely discussed by administration officials, were acknowledged by Obama during a Google chat in January in what many national security observers believe was an accidental moment of candor.
But John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism, expanded at great length in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, calling the drones an integral part of prevention”
US Targeted Killings and International Law (Human Right Watch)
The international drone summit last weekend was a truly inspiring meeting of activists sharing information, analysis and strategies to stop the proliferation of drones and targeted killing as US policy. Look for details in upcoming posts.