What Needs to Happen Next on Drones?

President Obama should publicly disclose the secret drone memos with only the redactions truly necessary, as well as the facts about who has been killed. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Obama administration must follow the law on lethal force (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s been a hectic 24 hours on the Obama administration’s use of drones and lethal force. As I write this, Senator Paul has accepted Attorney General Holder’s answer about drone strikes on US soil and the Senate has confirmed John Brennan—one of the architects of the drone killing program—as Director of the CIA. There’s a lot to unpack about what’s happened and where things stand now.

But I want to focus on what should happen next to make sure that no person—US citizen or anyone else—is killed outside the bounds of law with a drone or other weapons.

1) The Obama administration must follow existing law on the use of lethal force.

Senator Durbin said yesterday that the administration is interested in working with Congress to pass legislation, but that misses a key point, namely, that the law governing any state’s use of lethal force—whether with a drone or a gun or most other weapons—already exists: international human rights law and, in the exceptional circumstances where it applies, international humanitarian law as well. The US government must follow the law.

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Drones, Filibusters, Kill Lists and More

Anti-war protesters disrupt the start of a nomination hearing for U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan before the Senate Intelligence Committee February 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Anti-war protesters disrupt the start of a nomination hearing for U.S. Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan before the Senate Intelligence Committee February 7, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Yesterday,the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed a new director of the CIA — John Brennan. He is a controversial figure, and as you read this Senator Rand Paul and a bi-partisan group of Senators may still be attempting to filibuster the final Senate vote on his nomination. (You can check here.)

What’s the controversy? John Brennan is one of the chief architects of the administration’s drone killing policy, which has reportedly resulted in 4,700 people killed so far, according to Senator Lindsey Graham.

Read that number again. 4,700 human beings killed. Call us crazy, but don’t you think the world — including the thousands of people and families directly affected by drone attacks worldwide – deserves to know on what basis the Obama administration claims the right to kill people?

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12 Questions for John Brennan On Drones and Torture

drones fb graphicOn Thursday, February 7th, John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee to head the CIA, will face a confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing comes on the heels of yesterday’s release of troubling information about the Obama administration’s use of lethal force.

John Brennan has served in important leadership roles in the Bush and Obama administrations, including at the CIA.  The Senate and the U.S. public have a right to know the truth about his involvement, if any, in human rights violations. Brennan should also be asked what he will do to make sure human rights violations are never committed again.

Amnesty International does not currently take a position on whether or not John Brennan should head the CIA. However, all government officials—including Brennan—have an obligation to ensure that the U.S. meets its responsibilities under international law to respect, protect and fulfill human rights.

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Drones: The Known Knowns

Pakistan drone attack

Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack. (Photo by THIR KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday John Brennan, the President’s adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, popped up at the Woodrow Wilson Center to give a major policy speech on the “ethics and efficacy” of drone use.

Brennan’s argument had two main planks: That drones work and that their use is entirely legal. Both claims deserve close examination because neither is quite as simple as it seems.

In a classic rhetorical device Brennan threw out perhaps the most contentious aspect of his analysis as though it was a given, stating that “as a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces.”

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What the Fourth of July Is All About

Fireworks explode over the White House. (Matt Campbell-Pool/Getty Images)

Last Thursday the Obama administration launched its new National Strategy for Counterterrorism, tailored to the post-bin Laden era. At first glance there seems to be a great deal for human rights advocates to welcome in this document.

Introducing the new strategy John Brennan, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, told his audience that the foundation of this new strategy would be a fundamental commitment to core American values and human rights:

“When we fail to abide by our values, we play right into the hands of al-Qa’ida, which falsely tries to portray us as a people of hypocrisy and decadence. Conversely, when we uphold these values it sends a message to the people around the world that it is America—not al-Qa’ida—that represents opportunity, dignity, and justice. In other words, living our values helps keep us safe.”

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