At an open public briefing yesterday, President Obama admitted that the United States has been directing the CIA to carry out targeted killings, or assassinations, in Pakistan.
The drone program, extensively discussed among activists and legal scholars, has been Washington's worst-kept secret. Last night CIA drones killed 12 in Yemen.
Here is the big question. At what point does official acknowledgment of an on-going 'covert' action that is killing thousands of people demand accountability? And, how do you stop it?
Jonathan Master writing with the Council on Foreign Relations lays out the post 9/11 strategy and rationale for CIA and special forces targeted killings.
“The United States adopted targeted killing as an essential tactic to pursue those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have employed the controversial practice with more frequency in recent years, both as part of ongoing combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.”
The domestic rational rest on the expansive language of a statute passed by the US Congress just days after the 9/11 attack.
“As a matter of domestic law, the legal underpinning for U.S. counterterrorism operations and the targeted killing of members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and its affiliates across the globe is the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which the U.S. Congress passed just days after 9/11. The statute empowers the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force" in pursuit of those responsible for the terrorist attacks.”
The New American Foundation estimates that drone strikes in Pakistan alone have killed between 1,700 and 2,700 people in the last eight years. The government of Pakistan has consistently condemned the bombing attacks as a violation of its sovereignty.
Additional Resources: How the CIA Became a Killing Machine