Back in 2013, in the aftermath of his murder of Americans Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year old son, when Mr. Obama was trying to justify his arrogated powers to incinerate people with his fleet of flying death robots, he made certain assertions about the process by which he and his merry minions selected victims [bolding mine]:
First, there must be a legal basis for using lethal force, whether it is against a senior operational leader of a terrorist organization or the forces that organization is using or intends to use to conduct terrorist attacks.
Second, the United States will use lethal force only against a target that poses a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons. It is simply not the case that
all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.
Third, the following criteria must be met before
lethal action may be taken:
1) Near certainty that the terrorist target is present;
2) Near certainty that non – combatants will not be injured or killed;
3) An assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation;
4) An assessment that the relevant governmental authorities in the country where action is contemplated cannot or will not effectively address the threat to U.S.
5) An assessment that no other reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat to U.S. persons.
Further on in the document Obama states:
These decisions will be informed by a broad
analysis of an intended target’s current and past role in
plots threatening U.S. persons.
Fast forward to 2015.
From recent news coverage:
The White House was forced to concede on Thursday that it killed two innocent hostages – one American, one Italian – in a drone strike that targeted an al-Qaida compound despite officials not knowing precisely who was in the vicinity. …
Conceding that the operation was not ordered against any individual targets, Earnest said the administration only discovered later that the compound was occupied by Weinstein, La Porto and another American named Ahmed Farouq, who the White House says was a “leader” of the terrorist group.
Farouq was not, however, the target of the operation. The drone strike was not targeted at known al-Qaida members; instead, it was directed against anyone in the vicinity of what the US believed was a compound being used by the terrorist group.
Here’s one of today’s headlines:
Here’s a little additional information:
The targets of the deadly drone strikes that killed two hostages and two suspected American members of al-Qaida were “al-Qaida compounds” rather than specific terrorist suspects, the White House disclosed on Thursday. …
The two US civilians killed, longtime English-language propagandist Adam Gadahn and Ahmed Farouq of al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, were not “high-value targets” marked for death, he confirmed.
What we have here is very strong evidence that at best Mr. Obama is operating in bad faith with the American people and at worst he is a devious liar.
The standards that he proclaimed in the document entitled “U.S. Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Outside the United States and Areas of Active Hostilities” are nothing but a sham.
To wit: Obama did not know that the persons he incinerated posed “a contniuing, imminent threat to US persons,” Obama did not know to a “near certainty that the [or any] terrorist target [was] present,” and one can only hope that he isn’t lying that he did not know to a “near certainty that non – combatants will not be injured or killed.”
Further, since Obama had no idea of who he was incinerating, it would be impossible to know whether they could have been captured, that the relevant authorities would not have cooperated in “effectively addressing the [unknown] threat” that the unknown persons posed, nor could Obama have known of any other reasonable alternatives existed.
There’s good reason to wonder if Obama ever really knows who is present when he sends his flying death robots. Amy Goodman points out on Democracy Now:
Despite hundreds of hours of surveillance, the White House said it had no reason to believe the U.S. and Italian hostages were being detained in the al-Qaeda compound targeted during the operation.
It appears that the methods by which Obama collects information in order to verify to a “near certainty that non – combatants will not be injured or killed” is horribly unreliable and hence amounts to a violation of his stated standards. Frankly, if the intelligence that Obama collects “hundreds of hours of” is this poor, then there would seem to be no reasonable basis for his flying death robot attacks at all.
Regardless of whether use of the intelligence was negligent, it is quite plain that no “broad analysis of an intended target’s current and past role in plots threatening U.S. persons,” was ever conducted, since of course, there was no intended target.
It’s not like this, “let’s blow some stuff up and see who we kill,” is something new for Obama, though:
For years, the vast majority of drone strikes victims have never been positively identified as terrorists. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has the most comprehensive data on drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, published a study last year showing only 12% of victims were identified as militants and only 4% were identified as members of al-Qaida. This study is backed up by the excellent reporting by McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay, who gained access to years of classified CIA reports to show that the vast majority of drone strike victims were not high level terrorist operatives like the administration claimed.
And we know the government thinks it can kill US citizens overseas without a trial or even a finding by any independent body. Despite a clear public interest in knowing about such an extreme claim to power, the Justice Department has fought to keep its supposed legal authority for drone strikes on Americans completely secret.
When will there be accountability?
Unfortunately, members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee have been the biggest cheerleaders of drone strikes, rather than their biggest skeptics. … If there’s ever going to be accountability for the CIA and military drone program, we need a fully independent commission, divorced from the intelligence committees. Without it, this controversy will just fade back into the background, where it will stay hidden under the government’s ever-expanding veil of secrecy.
Obama has irresponsibly used the vast powers that come with the office of President. His use of the fleet of flying death robots under his command is both a crime and a national disgrace.
To use an idiom that the President is known for, it is time for Americans to step up and take away the car keys.