- Sign Up
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 15 November 2013 - 2:38pm
by Robert Naiman
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently took an important step by passing an intelligence authorization which would require for the first time - if it became law - that the Administration publicly report on civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes.
Sarah Knuckey, Director of the Project on Extrajudicial Executions at New York University School of Law and a Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, calls this provision "an important step toward improving transparency," and notes that "Various U.N. officials, foreign governments, a broad range of civil society, and many others, including former U.S. Department of State Legal Advisor Harold Koh ... have called for the publication of such basic information."
This provision could be offered as an amendment in the Senate to the National Defense Authorization Act. It could be offered in the House as an amendment on the intelligence authorization, or as a freestanding bill. But it's not likely to become law unless there's some public agitation for it (you can participate in the public agitation here.)
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 12 November 2013 - 4:38pm
Below is the text of the drone strike transparency provision of the Senate intelligence authorization. [You can urge Congress and the President to support this provision here. The full bill is here.]
SEC. 312. UNCLASSIFIED ANNUAL REPORT ON THE USE OF TARGETED LETHAL FORCE OUTSIDE THEUNITED STATES.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 22 August 2013 - 3:13pm
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 4 June 2013 - 12:17pm
Next week, I'm heading to Yemen on a delegation of US peace advocates, where we'll be meeting Gerald Feierstein, the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen. We'll urge Ambassador Feierstein to use his influence to end U.S. drone strikes in Yemen—especially "signature strikes" in which the US doesn't even know who it is targeting—and to ensure that Yemeni prisoners at Guantanamo who the US government has cleared for release are sent home without delay.
Add your voice! Sign our petition and I'll hand-deliver it—with your signature—to Ambassador Feierstein:
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,
Just Foreign Policy
Help support my trip to Yemen! Our delegation will help draw the media spotlight to the US's ongoing drone war in Yemen and put further pressure on the Administration to reform US drone strike policy.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 18 April 2013 - 10:48am
On April 23, the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the ethics, legality, constitutionality, and political costs of the drone strike policy. This will be the first time in the history of the drone strike policy that there has been a public Congressional hearing like this focused on the policy.
If you live in Illinois, Minnesota, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Texas, South Carolina, or Utah, you have a Senator who serves on the subcommittee.  That means you're in a position to influence what takes place during next week's hearing.
Urge your Senator to publicly call for a Congressional subpoena of the Office of Legal Counsel memos during the hearing and ask pointed questions about key issues that the Administration has tried to obscure.
Senate committees are supposed to oversee Administration agencies, including the CIA and the Justice Department. But they can't do effective oversight if the Administration won't disclose key documents such as the Office of Legal Council memos that detail elements of the drone strike policy that the Administration has refused to share with Congress. Senator Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has threatened that his committee will issue a subpoena of the drone strike memos if the Administration doesn't hand them over. But the Administration hasn't complied.
In addition, key questions about the drone strike policy have been obscured by the Administration's secrecy, including:
- How many civilians have been killed, and why is government information about this classified?
- Is the CIA low-balling civilian deaths by automatically classifying "military age males" as "militants" when they are killed by US drone strikes, as the New York Times reported in May?
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 4 March 2013 - 8:05pm
As US Attorney General, Eric Holder has been instrumental in keeping the Justice Department's drone memos detailing the legal justification for US drone strikes a secret from the public—and from Congress.
But on Wednesday, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will have the opportunity to question Holder on anything related to his role at the Department of Justice.
If you live in AL, AZ, CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, IA, MN, NY, RI, SC, TX, or VT, you have a Senator on the Judiciary Committee. That means you can have an influence on what Holder is asked. Don't you think Holder should have to face some questions on drones?
If so, write to your Senator today to tell him/her to demand the release of the secret drone memos and to question Holder on drones!
Here are some questions we think members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask Attorney General Holder:
- Will you release the Justice Department drone memos detailing the legal justification for US drone killings? If not, why?
- What are the mechanisms in place for the investigation of unlawful killings during a drone strike? What are the mechanisms for redress of such killings?
- Has the Justice Department investigated allegations of secondary drone strikes targeting civilian first responders and other extrajudicial killings, such as that of 16 year-old US citizen Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki? If not, why?
- What is the Justice Department's definition of “imminent threat”?
- Is it true that the CIA is counting every “military age male” killed in a US drone strike as a “militant”? What would this imply about CIA claims that civilian casualties have been “exceedingly rare”?
If you think Holder should have to face these questions and others, let your Senator know.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 15 February 2013 - 7:57pm
If you live in California, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Maine, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Indiana, or Idaho, you have a Senator on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Please call one of your Senator's local offices on Monday—or anytime during the Senate recess this week when you can—and urge them to support a public hearing on CIA drone strikes in the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Local offices and phone numbers are listed below.
Our goal in this campaign is to get the Senate Intelligence Committee to publicly commit to holding a public hearing on CIA drone strikes before the Senate confirms John Brennan to head the CIA. (Not necessarily to hold a public hearing before then, but to get the Committee to publicly commit to holding a public hearing in the future.)
After you're done, report your call here.
If you don't live in one of the above listed states, please forward a link to this page to folks you know who do who might be willing to call.
Also, you can sign our petition to Senator Feinstein: Hold a Public Hearing on CIA Drone Strikes
Dianne Feinstein, California, Chair
San Francisco Office: (415) 393-0707
Fresno Office: (559) 485-7430
Los Angeles Office: (310) 914-7300
San Diego Office: (619) 231-9712
Ron Wyden, Oregon
Portland Office: (503) 326-7525
Eugene Office: (541) 431-0229
Bend Office: (541) 330-9142
LaGrande Office: (541) 962-7691
Medford Office: (541) 858-5122
Salem Office: (503) 589-4555
Martin Heinrich, New Mexico
Santa Fe Office: (505) 988-6647
Alburquerque Office: (505) 346-6601
Farmington Office: (505) 325-5030
Las Cruces Office: (575) 523-6561
Roswell Office: (575) 622-7113
Mark Udall, Colorado
Denver Office: (303) 650-7820
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 13 February 2013 - 11:57pm
Different Senate committees are supposed to do oversight of different federal agencies. The Senate Judiciary Committee is supposed to oversee the Department of Justice. The Senate Armed Services committee is supposed to do oversight of the Pentagon. And the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to do oversight of the Central Intelligence Agency. Since the CIA is conducting drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and since this is, to say the least, a controversial policy, the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be doing oversight of that.
But contemplating the Senate Intelligence Committee's past oversight of the drone strike policy evokes the quote attributed to Gandhi when asked what he thought about Western civilization: "I think it would be a good idea."
Now that criticisms of the drone strike policy are getting some play in the press, people are floating ideas for various reforms. That's great! Let a hundred flowers bloom. But please call on me. I have an idea for a reform.
Why don't we ask the Senate Intelligence Committee to do its job of overseeing the CIA?
Now, you might think, that's a pretty arrogant claim, saying that the Senate Intelligence Committee has been asleep at the switch. Here, therefore, are three pieces of evidence for the claim.
Exhibit A: No public hearings.
Reporting on the Senate Intelligence Committee's confirmation hearing of John Brennan to head the CIA, Ken Dilanian of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the Senate Intelligence Committee
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 13 February 2013 - 5:21pm
California Senator Dianne Feinstein said something recently that's making our heads spin.
Following John Brennan's confirmation hearing last Thursday in which the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned him on US drone policy, Politico reported Sen. Feinstein as saying that
she was unaware of reports that in some instances U.S. officials assumed any male of fighting age killed in a strike was a combatant - a method that could undercount the number of civilian deaths. 
Apparently, Sen. Feinstein doesn't have a subscription to the New York Times. Last May, the Times ran a major expose on US drone policy that featured the revelation that the CIA was counting all “military-aged males in a strike zone” as “combatants” in their drone strike kill counts. 
What makes this situation even more outrageous is that Sen. Feinstein is the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is responsible for overseeing the CIA and US drone policy. How is it possible that she was unaware of a widely-noted New York Times article on a policy she is responsible for overseeing?
We think "oversight" of drone strike policy includes the responsibility to know what's being reported about it in the press and to ask government officials about these concerns. That means someone needs to get a subscription to the New York Times ASAP. Don't you agree?
Join us in telling Sen. Feinstein and her staff to get subscriptions to the New York Times and to read the articles related to drone strikes.
Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,
Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy
Help support Just Foreign Policy! With our small staff and minimal overhead, you know your contribution will go a long way.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 5 February 2013 - 7:05pm
At long last, the Administration has released a "white paper" explaining its legal rationale for conducting drone strikes on Americans. Why did this happen? Because of pressure.
What might more pressure accomplish?
John Brennan is appearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday for his confirmation hearing as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Urge your Senators to press John Brennan on US drone strike policy.
The New York Times reports that the Justice Department "white paper" closely tracks a classified memorandum in which the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel signed off on the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in U.S. drone strike in September 2011.  Members of Congress, the press, and human rights groups have been pressing the Administration for disclosure of this memo (which still has not been disclosed).
In January, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter demanding to see the memo.  On February 4, a bipartisan group of Senators made the same demand. 
This shows that the Administration's policy can move under the pressure of Senators' questions. More questions will generate more movement.
There are many other questions Senators should ask Brennan:
- How many civilians do you believe have been killed by drone strikes?
- Is it true that the CIA counts all "military-aged males" as "militants" when they are killed by a drone strike?
- Do you agree with those who say that drone strikes should not be conducted by the CIA?
- Is it true that the CIA has conducted "secondary strikes" where they hit the same target twice, after rescuers have come to the scene of a strike?
- Is it true that the CIA has targeted funerals and weddings with drone strikes?
- Is it true that the CIA has targeted unknown persons with "signature strikes," simply on the basis that they were carrying weapons?