Members of Congress demand answers about the combat drone program
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Published on Jun 13, 2012
Last month, an article published in The New York Times revealed that the President and members of his national security team unilaterally decide who is targeted by a U.S. drone strike abroad. It is done without any oversight from anyone outside of the Administration. According to this report, the Administration "counts all military age males in a strike zone as combatants" in an effort to mask any harm done to innocent civilians. In response, The New York Times editorial board wrote that the "United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused..."
Yet the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have been given authority to conduct "signature" drone strikes against individuals whose identity is not even known. This expanded authority could dramatically increase the risk of killing innocent civilians or those who have no relationship to a potential attack on the U.S., even as the President's own advisors raise serious questions about "how much killing will be enough" in our combat drone program. Such "signature" strikes will only further enflame anti-American sentiment abroad and provide additional fuel for those who do want to attack the U.S.
That is why 25 of my colleagues have signed the letter I am sending to the President today, asking for the legal justification for the CIA and JSOC's use of "signature" strikes abroad. Regardless of one's support or opposition to our use of drones, Congress must weigh in to ensure proper oversight and accountability of our done program.
Congress has a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that our use of drones abroad is subject to the same restrictions and laws as any other weapon. We should reject the notion that we can only keep our nation safe by flouting the very same international laws and standards the U.S. helped to create.
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