Other groups the documents said were targeted have parochial objectives: the Pakistani Taliban seeks to topple the Islamabad government; Lashkar i Jhangvi, or Army of Jhangvi, are outlawed Sunni Muslim terrorists whove slaughtered scores of Pakistans minority Shiites and were blamed for a series of attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including a 2006 bombing against the U.S. consulate in Karachi that killed a U.S. diplomat. Both groups are close to al Qaida, but neither is known to have initiated attacks on the U.S. homeland.
I have never seen nor am I aware of any rules of engagement that have been made public that govern the conduct of drone operations in Pakistan, or the identification of individuals and groups other than al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban, said Christopher Swift, a national security law expert who teaches national security affairs at Georgetown University and closely follows the targeted killing issue. We are doing this on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis, rather than a systematic or strategic basis.
The administration has declined to reveal other details of the program, such as the intelligence used to select targets and how much evidence is required for an individual to be placed on a CIA kill list. The administration also hasnt even acknowledged the existence of so-called signature strikes, let alone discussed the legal and procedural foundations of the attacks.
Leaders of the Senate and House intelligence committees say they maintain robust oversight over the program. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., disclosed in a Feb. 13 statement that the panel is notified with key details . . . shortly after every drone strike. It also reviews videos of strikes and considers their effectiveness as a counterterrorism tool, verifying the care taken to avoid deaths to non-combatants and understanding the intelligence collection and analysis that underpins these operations.
But until last month, Obama had rebuffed lawmakers repeated requests to see all of the classified Justice Department legal opinions on the program, giving them access to only two dealing with the presidents powers to order targeted killings. It then allowed the Senate committee access to all opinions pertaining to the killing of U.S. citizens to clear the way for the panels March 7 confirmation of John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism chief and the key architect of the targeted killings program, as the new CIA director. But it continues to deny access to other opinions on the grounds that they are privileged legal advice to the president.
Moreover, most of the debate in the United States has focused on the deaths of four Americans all killed in drone strikes in Yemen, but only one intentionally targeted and not the thousands of others whove been killed, the majority of whom have been hit in Pakistan.
Obama and his top aides say the United States is in an armed conflict with al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban, and the targeted killing program complies with U.S. and international laws, including an inherent right to self-defense and the international laws of war. Obama also derives his authority to order targeted killings from the Constitution and a Sept. 14, 2001, congressional resolution empowering the president to use all necessary and appropriate force against those who perpetrated 9/11 and those who aided them, they say.