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Joe Scarborough Blasts 'Terrifying' Drone Memo: 'If George Bush Had Done This, It Would Have Been Stopped'

Joe Scarborough


The morning after NBC's Michael Isikoff scooped the memo on the U.S. government's rationalization for legally killing American citizens, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tore into the program as "terrifying."

"It's hard to say how many stop signs were blown through here," Scarborough said of the white paper, a 16-page document that details the legality of drone strikes on American citizens.

"But for those who were shocked at the Bush administration 'torture memos,' they must be really stunned at this." He called the drone memo "child's play" compared to the so-called "torture memos."WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Thursday promised to be more forthcoming with the American public on his administration's campaign of lethal drone strikes amid criticism over the targeting of suspected U.S. terrorism suspects abroad.

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON, Feb 14 (Reuters) 

President Barack Obama on Thursday promised to be more forthcoming with the American public on his administration's campaign of lethal drone strikes amid criticism over the targeting of suspected U.S. terrorism suspects abroad.

Obama, under pressure from the left and right to allow greater scrutiny of the secret decision-making process for killing Americans overseas, vowed to work with Congress to craft a "mechanism" to be more open about how the drone war is conducted.

"What I think is absolutely true is it's not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we're doing the right thing," Obama said in an online video question-and-answer session sponsored by Google.

Asked whether the U.S. government could target a citizen on American soil, Obama appeared to rule that out.

"There has never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil," he said. "We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counterterrorism operations outside of the United States. The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States."

The issue moved to the forefront last week when Obama yielded to congressional demands and in a policy reversal provided access for House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees to a classified legal opinion on killing U.S. terrorism suspects with drone strikes abroad.

The release on the eve of a Senate confirmation hearing last Friday appeared intended to avoid a clash in testimony by John Brennan, the president's choice for CIA director. He has overseen the use of armed, unmanned aircraft in counterterrorism operations in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.

During last week's debate, some lawmakers proposed creation of a special federal "drone court" that would approve suspected militants for targeting. But a number of U.S. officials said at the time that imminent action on this was unlikely.

However, Obama, in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, said he intended to engage with Congress to make sure "our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."


On Thursday, Obama said it was his responsibility to work with Congress to ensure that "we have a mechanism to also make sure that the public understands what's going on, what the constraints are, what the legal parameters are."

"That's something that I take very seriously. I'm not somebody who believes that the president has the authority to do whatever he wants or whatever she wants, whenever they want, just under the guise of counterterrorism," Obama said, insisting on the need for "checks and balances."

Civil liberties groups have criticized the drone program as effectively a green light to assassinate Americans without due process in the courts under the U.S. Constitution.

In 2011 a drone strike killed U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki, described by U.S. investigators as a leader of al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate. His 16-year-old son, also a U.S. citizen, was killed in a separate drone strike in Yemen that year. The administration has fought lawsuits filed by Awlaki's relatives.

Administration officials insist that Obama is acting legally to protect the United States from further attacks like the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes.

The president, who banned the harsh interrogation techniques of the Bush era when he took office in 2009, has intensified the drone program started by his Republican predecessor. (Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Xavier Briand) 214


Leaked Justice Department Memo Details 'Legality' Of Drone Strikes On Americans

A 16-page document recently leaked to NBC details the 'legality' of drone strikes on American citizens.

Investigative journalist Michael Isikoff obtained the ground-breaking document through an anonymous source who had access. The administration supplied the memo to members of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees on the condition that it would be kept confidential.

From Isikoff's piece:

The confidential memo lays out a three-part test that would make targeted killings of American lawful: In addition to the suspect being an imminent threat, capture of the target must be “infeasible, and the strike must be conducted according to 'law of war principles.'” But the memo elaborates on some of these factors in ways that go beyond what the attorney general said publicly. For example, it states that U.S. officials may consider whether an attempted capture of a suspect would pose an “undue risk” to U.S. personnel involved in such an operation. If so, U.S. officials could determine that the capture operation of the targeted American would not be feasible, making it lawful for the U.S. government to order a killing instead, the memo concludes.The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

Though Isikoff notes that the memo is not meant to be a binding legal document, rather a "legal framework," nonetheless there's a glaring lack of legal definition for key words that act as steps in determining a citizen's guilt and subsequent death penalty.

For clarification, Isikoff talked to Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union who recently had a drone-strike suit against the U.S. Government dropped in a somewhat perplexing context.

The judge on the case, Judge Colleen McMahon, determined that she was in a "Catch 22," and dismissed the suit on the grounds that she could not force the government to reveal information key to the National Security of the U.S., though revealing that information would normally be tantamount to a death penalty.

From her ruling:

I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.

Upon looking at the leaked white paper, Jaffer told NBC that he thought it was "chilling."

“Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen," he told NBC. "It recognizes some limits on the authority it sets out, but the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”

Perhaps the most chilling line — "An individual's interest in avoiding erroneous deprivation of his life is 'uniquely compelling'" — was paired with — "These same realities must also be considered in assessing 'the burdens the Government would face in providing greater process' to a member of enemy forces."

The document also states multiple times that "citizenship" does not "immunize" and individual against "lethal" attack.

We will continue to update this report as we study the white paper.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/leaked-white-paper-details-legality-of-drone-strikes-on-americans-2013-2#ixzz2Ki3C1UWG
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