ACLU Statement on President Biden’s New Rules on Drone Strikes and Lethal Force
President Biden has reportedly signed new classified rules governing lethal strikes outside of recognized warzones abroad. According to The New York Times, the new Biden rules are not public, and are accompanied by a classified counterterrorism strategy memo. Presidents Obama and Trump also issued secret lethal force policies, which eventually became public in redacted form after the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times sued and forced their release in 2016 and 2021.
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, issued the following response:
“President Biden promised to end America’s forever wars, but this secret new extrajudicial killing policy will only entrench them. For two decades now, successive presidents have flouted the constitutional separation of powers by authorizing unlawful and unaccountable killing abroad. Experience shows that the most stark result of this lethal program has been years of devastating harm to Black and Brown people in majority-Muslim countries.
“It’s also unacceptable that this new lethal force policy is secret. Secrecy prevents public oversight and democratic accountability, and the American people have a right to know what rules govern killing in their name.
“President Biden could have set our country on a rights-promoting path by ending the unlawful lethal strikes program and investing instead in lawful intelligence-gathering, peacebuilding, diplomacy, and other tools that experts identify as more effective to address conflict and violence abroad. Instead, he appears to be repeating President Obama’s failed approach of authorizing extrajudicial killing with weak and inadequate bureaucratic safeguards that can be easily cast aside by the next president – as President Trump did when he took office, with horrifying consequences.”
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The ACLU’s National Security Project is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights.