In the same week that the deaths in Afghanistan reached a terrible milestone, 2000, the topic of debate in Congress has shifted to the Obama’s administration’s choice to announce its use of drones in Yemen and Somalia, where al Qaeda militants are known to exist.
President Barack Obama acknowledged the use of drones in an open letter to Congress which declassified the military’s use of targeted-killing against al Queda, which has become a key component of our nation’s military efforts against the terrorist group. This is the first time that the president has mentioned drone strikes in the semiannual War Powers report to Congress. Prior to this open acknowledgement, operations were only mentions in a classified annex.
"In a limited number of cases, the U.S. military has taken direct action in Somalia against members of al-Qa'ida, including those who are also members of al Shabaab, who are engaged in efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and our interests," reads a portion of President Obama’s letter.
Previous acknowledgement was foregone on the basis of national security. "When U.S. military forces are involved in combat anywhere in the world, and information about those operations does not compromise national or operational security, Gen. Dempsey believes the American public should be kept appropriately informed," said Col. David Lapan, the spokesperson for Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had pushed for making the public disclosure.
The military and the CIA conduct separate campaigns in Yemen. The military works in conjunction with the Yemeni government to target al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula. The CIA conducts drone strikes against al Qaeda factions in Yemen and in tribal areas of Pakistan. Along with the disclosure came clarification that while the public is now aware of these programs, details about specific strikes would not be publicly disclosed.
Jameel Jaffer, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy legal director has said that the announcement is just a step in the right direction, but still insufficient in terms of providing information about the CIA’s targeted-killing operations. "The public is entitled to more information about the legal standards that apply, the process by which they add names to the kill list, and the facts they rely on in order to justify targeted killings," Jaffer said.
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