Obama to release more details on drone policy

US not ruling out strikes against Americans on US soil in circumstances akin to 9/11 attacks, attorney general says.
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2013 04:04

President Barack Obama will soon reveal more about the administration's legal rationale for using drone strikes, US Attorney General Eric Holder has said.

He told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that Obama would address the issue directly "in a relatively short period of time".

Congress has been seeking access to at least 11 memos produced by the US Justice Department that lay out the legal rationale for using drone strikes to target individuals overseas.

Until this week only four members of Congress had been allowed access to the information regarding the administration's policy on drone strikes.

"I heard you. The president has heard," Holder said. As a result, the administration is prepared to make more materials available, he said.

Earlier, Holder wrote a letter to Republican Senator Rand Paul saying that while drone strikes against Americans on US soil were not anticipated, the Obama administration is not ruling it out in circumstances akin to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Paul's filibuster

Late into Wednesday evening, Paul took to the floor of Congress in an attempt to block the confirmation of Obama's counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, as director of the CIA, vowing to continue his opposition until more information is released about the drone program.

The Obama administration has increasingly used drone strikes to target militants overseas. In 2011, for example, strikes in Yemen killed US-born Anwar al-Awlaki, accused of being a leader of al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, and his son, also a US citizen.

Civilian casualties from drone strikes have angered local populations and created tension between the US and Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The US has sought to portray civilian casualties as minimal, but organisations that collect data on these attacks put the number of civilians killed in the hundreds.

"We have talked about a need for greater transparency," Holder told senators.

He predicted there "would be a greater level of comfort" about the use of drones after the information is shared.

Documents shared

As part of a deal that led the Senate Intelligence Committee to approve Brennan's nomination as the new director of the CIA, the administration agreed on Tuesday to share two more of the documents with committee members and some staffers.

Senators on Wednesday also questioned Holder over whether the Obama administration would ever countenance using drone strikes to target citizens on American soil.

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz questioned Holder about whether it could ever be legal to launch strikes against US citizens on US soil unless that individual was an imminent threat.

"I would not think that would be an appropriate use of any lethal force," Holder said.

Cruz said he intends to introduce legislation that would clarify when deadly force against US citizens on American soil could be used.


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