Target: President Barack Obama
Goal: Urge the President to uphold promises of transparency in regards to drone warfare policies.
The veil of secrecy enshrouding what’s being termed the President’s “secret war” needs to be removed. President Obama, in his 2013 State of the Union address, vowed to make counterterrorism efforts even more transparent to the American people, though he avoided specifically mentioning drones.
“To date, the administration has not officially acknowledged that this program exists,” said Michigan Senator John Conyers, who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which was focused recently on the policies surrounding the use of lethal drones.
Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee have complained of the administration’s refusal to share key documents and details. Of a purported eleven memos regarding the legal basis for targeting terrorist suspects with drone strikes, only four have been made available. The committee recently held a public hearing entitled “Drones and the War on Terror: When Can the U.S. Target Alleged American Terrorists Overseas?” There has been increased focus on drone strikes lately, after the leak of a Department of Justice “white paper” that outlines the legal framework for targeted killings of American citizens suspected of being members of Al-Qaeda or an affiliated group. Not until several days after the leak to the press did the Department of Justice release an official copy.
And when it comes to other information, such as civilian casualty numbers, or the criteria used to determine the “signatures” that are the basis for a strike against unidentified targets, the administration has remained opaque.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a recent interview, “For a program that is so far-reaching and that has so many consequences, not just in the world, but for the rule of law, the Obama administration has an obligation to be far more transparent than they’ve been so far.”
Lethal drone use is a relatively new frontier in an asymmetric war spreading beyond national borders. If the administration continues to treat constraints on the use of lethal drones as matters of discretion rather than legal requirements, they could be setting a dangerous precedent for countries that will inevitably acquire the same technological capabilities.
Urge the President to follow through with his promises of transparency, thereby establishing a bond of trust with the American public and setting an example for the rest of the world.
Dear President Obama,
You have made it your mission to provide an unprecedented level of openness and transparency in your administration, and in your 2013 State of the Union address you acknowledged that a democracy such as ours cannot simply take your word that you are doing things the right way. You promised to make your efforts regarding counterterrorism more transparent, and yet a curtain of secrecy still hangs over your administration.
The use of lethal drones in matters of national security is still a relatively new and untested approach, and as the U.S. continues its operations, we are undoubtedly setting a global precedent. The eyes of the world are on us, and we must ensure that we convey the commitment our nation puts on the value of human life. Oversight and disclosure is absolutely necessary, not only to reassure the American public, but citizens the world over. Please uphold your promises to us and reestablish the bond of trust.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons