Obama Administration to release memos outlining justifications of drone killings
The Obama Administration has announced the decision to release previously confidential memos regarding the use of drones and targeted attacks to Congress following the publication of one of the memos by NBC News.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the White House reported, “Today, as part of the President’s ongoing commitment to consult with Congress on national security matters, the President directed the Department of Justice to provide the congressional intelligence committees access to classified Office of Legal Council (OLC) advice related to the subject of the Department of Justice White Paper.”
Published online by NBC News, the memo, entitled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a U.S Citizen Who Is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida Or An Associated Force”, outlines the legal justifications used by the Obama Administration to legitimise the use of drones.
Prior to NBC’s publication, 11 members of Congress had written to President Obama asking him to release the dossiers outlining the legal justifications.
The letter had hinted at possible implications regarding Obama’s candidate for the position of Head of CIA, John Brennan, who is the former counterterrorism advisor behind the current Drone programme, if Obama failed to hand over the classified information.
Indeed, according to sources at The Guardian, the letter read: “The executive branch’s co-operation on this matter will help avoid an unnecessary confrontation that could afford the Senate’s consideration of nominees for national security positions.”
That the Obama Administration had kept these memos private is unsurprising. Certainly the use of drones and targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries has caused controversy with many questioning the ethics of using unmanned aircrafts armed with laser-guided missiles to kill targeted suspects.
Addressing issues related to international law and state sovereignty, the memo asserts that state sovereignty is not violated by the use of drone attacks if the host nation gives their consent or is unable, or unwilling, to address the threat themselves.
While Senator Dianne Fenstein, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the statement, “I am pleased that the President has agreed to provide the Intelligence Committee with access to the OLC opinion regarding the use of lethal force in counterterrorism operations”, according to The Guardian some members of Congress are dissatisfied with the level of information the memo provides.
With John Brennan due to face Congress for his confirmation hearing, Congress will no doubt push for further information.