- Finally the White House has released a redacted version of President Obama's 3-year-old guidance for the use of lethal force against terrorists overseas. It includes safeguards to minimize civilian deaths while at the same time allowing quick action.
The guidance applies to drone attacks and other means. The guidance says that outside of areas of active hostilities, direct action will only be taken when there is "near certainty" that the terrorist target is present and non-combatants will not be killed or injured. Lethal action can only be undertaken against a lawful target that poses "a continuing imminent threat" to Americans. There are more details in this release than a fact sheet that had been released in 2013. Obama has spoken about the "near certainty" standard. However this applies to areas outside of active hostilities. Critics have still complained of civilian deaths from drones.
Ned Price, spokesperson for the National Security Council said:"As the president has said, 'near certainty' is the 'highest standard we can set,'" Price said. The U.S. "takes feasible precautions to minimize the risk of civilian casualties" even when the U.S. is not operating in conditions covered by the guidance, he added, "or when we act quickly to defend U.S. or partner forces from imminent attack."The Obama administration has admitted to 116 civilians killed in drone strikes, a figure much lower than the estimates of others: "This is a fraction of the 380 to 801 civilian casualty range recorded by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from reports by local and international journalists, NGO investigators, leaked government documents, court papers and the result of field investigations." The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had sued for release of the information and welcomed its release. The document is dated May 22, 2013.
However, Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director said that questions remain, as to exactly where the guidance applied and how often Obama has waived the requirements as is allowed. Jaffer also wondered how the "relatively stringent standards can be reconciled with the accounts of eyewitnesses, journalists and human rights researchers who have documented large number of bystander casualties. Jaffer also noted that the release does not indicate what is meant by a "continuing" and "imminent threat" or what it means to be unfeasible to capture a target. The president does not need to sign off on high value targets unless there is disagreement within the National Security Council.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.