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Public Kept in the Dark About Drone Strikes

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January 14, 2010

Yesterday, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about the U.S. government’s use of armed drones to target and kill individuals in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Today, in an article entitled “We don’t need no stinking authority,” The Economist’s “Democracy in America” blog points out that drone-launched missile strikes on al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan have never been voted on by Congress and that in the ongoing debate about drone strikes, there has been relatively little discussion about where the authority for these strikes come from. The article points out:

The entire process seems to result from systematic governmental attempts on all sides to evade any kind of responsibility. The Pakistani government doesn’t want to take responsibility for eliminating Taliban insurgents in the unruly bits of its own territory. The American government doesn’t want to take responsibility for invading those unruly bits, so it carries out pseudo-secret drone strikes without describing or explaining them.

The article also cites Spencer Ackerman reporting on our newly-filed FOIA request (PDF).

We are troubled by reports that the Obama administration has stepped up the drone program without explaining publicly what the legal basis for the program is, what limitations it recognizes on who can be targeted and where strikes can occur, and what the civilian casualty toll has been thus far. We believe that the American public has a right to know whether the drone program is consistent with international law, and that all efforts are made to minimize the loss of innocent lives.

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