Members of the US Congress convened in Washington on Thursday to discuss the United States’ ongoing extrajudicial slayings of Americans and foreigners overseas using unmanned drones.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) led a House Judiciary Committee discussion that demanded more transparency from President Barack Obama over how his administration carries out the targeted killing of suspected terrorists using drone aircraft, an increasingly likely tactic in America’s war on terror that has left a substantial death toll that includes perhaps hundreds of civilians, including women, children and US civilians.
Despite the growing number of kills, the White House has remained mostly quiet on its drone program, with the lions’ share of information only surfacing through intelligence leaks made to the media. On the record, Pres. Obama and his administration has said little about the program, aside from defending it. In Washington this week, opponents of that policy asked for something more.
“This is the first real discussion this committee has had on the topic of drone strikes,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said during the hearing, Huffington Post reports.
According to HuffPo, members of Congress have been adamant about getting answers from the White House. Despite repeated demands, however, hardly any information has been sent to the Capitol Building from the oval office.
“We’re just waiting for a response,” Nadler told HuffPo after the hearing. “They’ve showed us some things, but inadequately.”
When debates wrapped up on Thursday, Rep. Kucinich issued a statement from his office announcing a proposed resolution that would require the Obama administration to provide the legal basis for the drone strikes.
“Despite the committee’s decision to report the resolution unfavorably, the committee engaged in a timely and important debate on the use of drones abroad and the violation of the constitutional rights of US citizens that are targeted abroad,” said the congressman.
“Our policies create a dangerous legal precedent that other nations will emulate. As the combat drone program continues to be expanded, it is critical that Congress weigh in,” said Kucinich. “Today, Congress demonstrated that our foreign policy will not be conducted absent congressional review.”
In February, US Defense Department lawyer Jeh Johnson defended the drone strikes, saying, “Under well-settled legal principles, lethal force against a valid military objective, in an armed conflict, is consistent with the law of war and does not, by definition, constitute an ‘assassination.’”
One month later, Attorney General Eric Holder also justified the extrajudicial killings, going on record to say, “the US government’s use of lethal force in self-defense against a leader of al-Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the Executive Order banning assassination or criminal statutes.”
In Washington this week, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) condemned the lack of transparency within the program. “But there is no process to make sure you’ve got the facts right. There’s no way to cross-examine the evidence. And no way to file an appeal,” he said.
“My concern is not why drones are used, or when drones are used but the legal authority for the use of drones,” added Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas). “I hope the committee will use this opportunity to take the issue up.”