Kucinich/Conyers drone strike amendment made in order; talking points

The Kucinich-Conyers amendment to prohibit the military from conducting drone strikes against unidentified targets ("signature strikes") has been made in order.

http://www.rules.house.gov/Legislation/legislationDetails.aspx?NewsID=828

http://www.rules.house.gov/amendments/KUCINI_055_xml514121743264326.pdf

I have heard that it will be considered early.

Some things worth noting:

- Whatever one thinks about drone strikes against specific suspected terrorist leaders, nothing in the amendment would prevent them. If the amendment were law and policy, it would not have prevented the recent killing of Fahd al Quso, the senior commander of al Qaeda's wing in Yemen, who was killed in a drone strike two weeks ago; he was specifically targeted based on intelligence indicating where he was. The amendment only prohibits the military from conducting a drone strike when it does not know who it is targeting.

- The amendment only applies to the military, that is, to the Joint Special Operations Command, not to the CIA. According to press reports, JSOC is not carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan. According to the Washington Post, JSOC did not ask for authority to conduct "signature" drone strikes in Yemen, but they were granted it anyway.

- According to the Washington Post, senior U.S. officials expressed concern about authorizing "signature" drone strikes in Yemen, both because it would increase the risk of civilian casualties, and because by killing "militants" who have a dispute with the Yemeni government but not with the U.S., such strikes would increase the perception that the U.S. is taking sides in Yemen's civil war.

- Just in the last week, Yemeni officials say that a U.S. drone strike killed eight civilians in Yemen, CNN reported 5/15.

- If you were concerned by what the Administration did in Libya without Congressional authorization, you should be concerned by what the Administration is doing in Yemen without Congressional authorization. If the Administration wants to engage the United States in Yemen's civil war, it should ask for Congressional authorization to
do that.

- Senior U.S. officials have expressed concern that drone strikes in Pakistan are counterproductive: they cost the U.S. more in terms of Pakistani ill-will towards the United States and by destabilizing the Pakistani government than the benefit to the U.S. of killing low-level militants.

- AP reported in April that signature strikes in Pakistan (conducted by the CIA in any event) have been all but curtailed. Thus, even if this amendment applied to the CIA, which it doesn't, ending "signature strikes" in Pakistan would merely formalize existing policy.

- In the recent U.S.-Afghanistan partnership agreement, the U.S. pledged not to use Afghan territory to launch attacks on other countries. U.S. officials subsequently claimed that this would not obstruct drone strikes in Pakistan, because the U.S. has the right of "self-defense." But "signature strikes" are not self-defense: it cannot be "self-defense" to kill somebody if you don't know who they are.

--
Robert Naiman
Policy Director
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org
naiman@justforeignpolicy.org

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