Today, a coalition of national organizations released a short film from Brave New Foundation that created a virtual debate with the Obama administration. You might be wondering why we had to go to the trouble to create a virtual debate -- it's because President Obama and his administration refuses to engage with those of us who question the legal use of drones in Pakistan and throughout other regions of the world.
Check out the virtual debate below. The legal experts highlighted in the short film explain the rampant fallacies the Obama administration uses to justify drone warfare.
Amnesty International scrutinizes the rhetorical disconnect this president uses to discuss the drone program from fact based reality. Suggesting that the program treats the world as a global battlefield, Amnesty's blog states, "The U.S. government's policy appears to permit extrajudicial executions, in violation of international human rights law."
Another strong argument over the legality of the drone policy comes from Daphne Eviatar from Human Rights First. She describes the historical context that developed the laws of war which were created after the horror of World War II. Human rights laws followed thereafter. These laws govern when a nation can kill in self-defense. Eviatar writes, "As the most powerful nation in the world, the U.S. seems to believe either that it need not really follow those laws, or at least that it need not explain how its actions comply with them."
Kenneth Roth from Human Rights Watch makes a compelling argument about the illegality of our drone policy. He writes, "The US government's targeted killing program has been cloaked in secrecy, making it difficult to determine under which legal framework the government believes it operates." [Emphasis added]. Kenneth raises the point that, without the veil of secrecy being lifted, legal experts can only claim that the U.S. is breaking the law. This is exactly the point - by keeping these policies in the dark no legal proof exists and, as such, demand that legal experts and scholars just believe the government.
Noa Yachot, from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), suggests that the CIA's silence is unlawful, " ...even though a federal judge ruled this past March that the CIA can no longer stay mum on its intelligence interest in the killing program, the agency recently told the court, in an ACLU transparency lawsuit, that it can provide no more information because the CIA's participation in the program remains an official secret."
These six experts lay out a very logical and legal explanation as to why these policies continue to fall into a legal gray area and break international and humanitarian law. Where is the due process? Where is Congressional oversight? If the administration has nothing to hide and insists that our drone policy is entirely legal, why not create an open and transparent process for the use of drones? It would bring the legal debate out of the shadows, a move that is desperately needed.