[Vision2020] Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy

Sunil Ramalingam sunilramalingam at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 26 05:49:17 PST 2012

Paul is exactly right here, on all points. I'll just add that this administration is happy to leak 'classified' information when it's politically helpful. I don't think that makes them different from other administrations; what does make them different is their zealous willingness to prosecute people for leaks.


Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2012 22:44:19 -0800
From: godshatter at yahoo.com
To: thansen at moscow.com
CC: vision2020 at moscow.com
Subject: Re: [Vision2020] Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy


      Snarkiness aside, the question at hand is: why is the President
      running an assasssination-by-drone op that he denies even exists
      and that any information concerning is classified so top secret
      that it has to be walked from office-to-office by hand because
      email within the intelligence community and the White House is not
      secure enough for it?


      It sounds pretty Orwellian to me.  It almost makes me think they
      understand that it's probably wrong to be running this program,
      hence the over-the-top secrecy.  At least that's something.


      And for the record, there is a lot of information out there that
      is classified that should be made public record by now.




      On 11/25/2012 11:11 AM, Tom Hansen wrote:

      That's right, V-Peeps.

      Mr. Rumelhart is suggesting that everybody should have
        unfettered access to classified information.

      We'll jus' shut down all the intelligence branches of our
        armed forces and simply have unit commanders post this
        information to Facebook.

      Oh, yes.  I feel so much safer now. 


        Seeya round town, Moscow, because . . .

        "Moscow Cares"
          Tom Hansen
          Moscow, Idaho

        On Nov 25, 2012, at 10:53 AM, Paul Rumelhart <godshatter at yahoo.com>



            Why didn't they start trying to codify this *before* the
            first drone strike, instead of waiting until Romney was
            possibly about to take over?


            There is so much wrong here, I don't know where to begin. 
            Why didn't our constitutional scholar of a president
            question this "signature" assassination thing?  Why didn't
            he question the idea of assassination as a military tool, to
            begin with?


            Oh, and I loved this bit:


            "The draft rule book for drone strikes that has been passed
            among agencies over the last several months is so highly
            classified, officials said, that it is hand-carried from
            office to office rather than sent by e-mail."


            So much for his promises of an open and transparent




            On 11/25/2012 08:12 AM, Art Deco wrote:

            November 24, 2012
            Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy
            By  SCOTT

               WASHINGTON — Facing the possibility that President

                  Obama might not win a second term, his
                administration accelerated work in the weeks before the
                election to develop explicit rules for the targeted
                killing of terrorists by unmanned drones, so that a new president would
                inherit clear standards and procedures, according to two
                administration officials. 
               The matter may have lost some urgency after Nov. 6.
                But with more

                  than 300 drone strikes and some 2,500 people killed
                by the Central Intelligence Agency and
                the military since Mr. Obama first took office, the
                administration is still pushing to make the rules formal
                and resolve internal uncertainty and disagreement about
                exactly when lethal action is justified. 
               Mr. Obama and his advisers are still debating whether
                remote-control killing should be a measure of last
                resort against imminent threats to the United States, or
                a more flexible tool, available to help allied
                governments attack their enemies or to prevent militants
                from controlling territory. 
               Though publicly the administration presents a united
                front on the use of drones, behind the scenes there is
                longstanding tension. The Defense Department and the
                C.I.A. continue to press for greater latitude to carry
                out strikes; Justice Department and State Department
                officials, and the president’s counterterrorism adviser,

                  O. Brennan, have argued for restraint, officials
                involved in the discussions say. 
               More broadly, the administration’s legal reasoning has
                not persuaded many other countries that the strikes are
                acceptable under international law. For years before the
                Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States routinely
                condemned targeted killings of suspected terrorists by
                Israel, and most countries still object to such
               But since the first targeted killing by the United
                States in 2002, two administrations have taken the
                position that the United States is at war with Al Qaeda
                and its allies and can legally defend itself by striking
                its enemies wherever they are found. 
               Partly because United Nations officials know that the
                United States is setting a legal and ethical precedent
                for other countries developing armed drones, the U.N.
                plans to open a unit in Geneva early next year to
                investigate American drone strikes. 
               The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted
                killing began last summer after news

                  reports on the drone program, started under
                President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama,
                revealed some details of the president’s role in the
                shifting procedures for compiling “kill lists” and
                approving strikes. Though national security officials
                insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the
                president and top aides believe it should be
                institutionalized, a course of action that seemed
                particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney
                might win the presidency. 
               “There was concern that the levers might no longer be
                in our hands,” said one official, speaking on condition
                of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper
                limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave
                an “amorphous” program to his successor, the official
                said. The effort, which would have been rushed to
                completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be
                finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said. 
               Mr. Obama himself, in little-noticed remarks, has
                acknowledged that the legal governance of drone strikes
                is still a work in progress. 
               “One of the things we’ve got to do is put a legal
                architecture in place, and we need Congressional help in
                order to do that, to make sure that not only am I reined
                in but any president’s reined in terms of some of the
                decisions that we’re making,” Mr. Obama told Jon Stewart
                in an appearance

                  on “The Daily Show” on Oct. 18. 
               In an interview with Mark Bowden for a new book on the
                killing of Osama bin Laden, “The

                  Finish,” Mr. Obama said that “creating a legal
                structure, processes, with oversight checks on how we
                use unmanned weapons, is going to be a challenge for me
                and my successors for some time to come.” 
               The president expressed wariness of the powerful
                temptation drones pose to policy makers. “There’s a
                remoteness to it that makes it tempting to think that
                somehow we can, without any mess on our hands, solve
                vexing security problems,” he said. 
               Despite public remarks by Mr. Obama and his aides on
                the legal basis for targeted killing, the program
                remains officially classified. In court, fighting
                lawsuits filed by the American
                  Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times
                seeking secret legal opinions on targeted killings, the
                government has refused even to acknowledge the existence
                of the drone program in Pakistan. 
               But by many accounts, there has been a significant
                shift in the nature of the targets. In the early years,
                most strikes were aimed at ranking leaders of Al Qaeda
                thought to be plotting to attack the United States. That
                is the purpose Mr. Obama has emphasized, saying in a CNN

                  interview in September that drones were used to
                prevent “an operational plot against the United States”
                and counter “terrorist networks that target the United
               But for at least two years in Pakistan, partly because
                of the C.I.A.’s success in decimating Al Qaeda’s top
                ranks, most strikes have been directed at militants
                whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or
                who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan. 
               In Yemen, some strikes apparently launched by the
                United States killed militants who were preparing to
                attack Yemeni military forces. Some of those killed were
                wearing suicide vests, according to Yemeni news reports.
               “Unless they were about to get on a flight to New York
                to conduct an attack, they were not an imminent threat
                to the United States,” said Micah

                  Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign
                Relations who is a critic of the strikes. “We don’t say
                that we’re the counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan,
                Yemen and Somalia, but we are.” 
               Then there is the matter of strikes against people
                whose identities are unknown. In an online

                  video chat in January, Mr. Obama spoke of the
                strikes in Pakistan as “a targeted, focused effort at
                people who are on a list of active terrorists.” But for
                several years, first in Pakistan and later in Yemen, in
                addition to “personality strikes” against named
                terrorists, the C.I.A. and the military have carried out
                “signature strikes” against groups of suspected, unknown
               Originally that term was used to suggest the specific
                “signature” of a known high-level terrorist, such as his
                vehicle parked at a meeting place. But the word evolved
                to mean the “signature” of militants in general — for
                instance, young men toting arms in an area controlled by
                extremist groups. Such strikes have prompted the
                greatest conflict inside the Obama administration, with
                some officials questioning whether killing unidentified
                fighters is legally justified or worth the local
               Many people inside and outside the government have
                argued for far greater candor about all of the strikes,
                saying excessive secrecy has prevented public debate in
                Congress or a full explanation of their rationale.
                Experts say the strikes are deeply unpopular both in
                Pakistan and Yemen, in part because of allegations of
                large numbers of civilian casualties, which American
                officials say are exaggerated. 
               Gregory D. Johnsen, author of “The

                  Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda and America’s War in
                  Arabia,” argues that the strike strategy is
                backfiring in Yemen. “In Yemen, Al Qaeda is actually
                expanding,” Mr. Johnsen said in a recent talk at
                  the Brookings Institution, in part because of the
                backlash against the strikes. 
                  Nawaz, a Pakistan-born analyst now at the Atlantic
                Council in Washington, said the United States should
                start making public a detailed account of the results of
                each strike, including any collateral deaths, in part to
                counter propaganda from jihadist groups. “This is a
                grand opportunity for the Obama administration to take
                the drones out of the shadows and to be open about their
                objectives,” he said. 
               But the administration appears to be a long way from
                embracing such openness. The draft rule book for drone
                strikes that has been passed among agencies over the
                last several months is so highly classified, officials
                said, that it is hand-carried from office to office
                rather than sent by e-mail. 


            Art Deco (Wayne A. Fox)

            art.deco.studios at gmail.com






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