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Iran Press TV

US lawmakers question Obama's drone policy

Iran Press TV

Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:18AM GMT

A number of US lawmakers have expressed concern about President Barack Obama's use of assassination drones to kill US citizens overseas and the secrecy in legal justifications for the targeted killings.

'The same president who opposes the detention of foreign terrorists, who opposes the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on foreign terrorists, and who attempted to bring foreign terrorists to trial in New York City is now personally approving the killing of Americans,' Reuters quoted House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte as saying on Wednesday.

Goodlatte also noted that current privacy laws are not good enough to protect Americans from undue surveillance by unmanned aerial vehicles and the panel needs to consider a legislation that would limit domestic drone use.

'I'm very open to people's concerns about Big Brother's eye in the sky and the questions raised about due process rights as a result of that,' he said.

The lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee also criticized Obama's secrecy in laying out legal justifications for the attacks.

'To date, the administration has not even acknowledged that this program exists - let alone provided this committee with the information it requires to examine the legality of the program,' said Representative John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan.

Earlier this month, the bipartisan leadership of the committee requested access to the Obama administration's classified opinions that justify drone strikes on Americans.

The committee's Republicans and Democrats, however, said they had not received the administration documents that laid out legal underpinnings for targeted killings.

Obama's administration refuses to publicly discuss any details of the covert program and the death toll from drone strikes remains a mystery.

A report by the Washington-based New America Foundation has said that there have been 350 US drone strikes since 2004, most of them during President Obama's terms in office. The foundation has put the death toll between 1,963 and 3,293, with 261 to 305 civilians killed.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2,627 and 3,457 people have been killed by US drones in Pakistan since 2004, including between 475 and nearly 900 civilians.

The use of assassination drones overseas under the administration of Obama has caused a national debate.

Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has also called for the formation of a third group to check on the president's ability to conduct drone strikes.

'I think this idea of being able to execute, in effect, an American citizen, no matter how awful, having some third party -- informing the Congress or the intelligence committees or something like that... some check on the ability of the president to do this has merit, as we look to the longer term future,' Gates said.

On February 14, Obama promised to be more forthcoming with the American public on his administration's campaign of drone strikes.

'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.

He vowed to work with Congress to craft a 'mechanism' to be more open about how the drone war is conducted.

Washington uses assassination drones in several countries, claiming that they target "terrorists." According to witnesses, however, the attacks have mostly led to massive civilian casualties.


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