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Tags: Drones

President Drone-Strike Wishes He Could ‘Reach Out’ in Nigeria



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In between Democratic Party fundraisers in California last week, President Obama told an audience, ”Every day when I wake up and I think about young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria, when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids.”

You might think the president who joked about his authority to kill the Jonas Brothers with a drone strike if they got too close to his daughters might have an actual ability to “reach out” and, if not save the abducted girls, rain a little hellfire upon their captors. After all, during Obama’s presidency, he’s authorized roughly 400 drone strikes that have killed an estimated 2,700 to 4,100 people.

Tags: Barack Obama , Nigeria , Drones

‘We are now consulting our drone policy with potential targets.’



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Over in the Washington Free Beacon, Alana Goodman finds Representative Alan Grayson (D., Fla.) was scheduled to get a briefing on U.S. drone strikes from . . . well, a guy who might be on the drone-strike target list one day:

The representative of a human rights group headed by a designated al Qaeda terrorist was denied a visa by the State Department after being invited by congressional Democrats to discuss drone strikes.

Mohammad Al Ahmady, the Yemen director for Geneva-based NGO Al Karama, was expected to brief Reps. Alan Grayson (D., Fla.), Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), and Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) the morning of the Nov. 19, according to press release from Grayson’s office.

Ahmady, who also serves as a top official in an al Qaeda-linked Yemeni political party, did not attend because of visa issues. The State Department said it could not comment on visa matters.

Grayson’s office told the Free Beacon that Ahmady did not actually attend the briefing and that the terrorist designation of Al Karama’s president was “not in place at the time of the briefing, so again, we had no reason to suspect any wrongdoing on the part of Mohammad [Al Ahmady].” Al Karama’s founder, Abdul Rahman Naimi, “reportedly oversaw the transfer of over $2 million per month to al Qaeda in Iraq for a period of time” and “provided approximately $250,000 to two U.S.-designated al-Shabaab figures” according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

One of Grayson’s potential GOP opponents, Jorge Bonilla, issued this statement in response:

Calls for review of our overseas and domestic drone policies are an entirely appropriate part of our national conversation, and oversight of such policy matters is well within the purview of the United States Congress.

However, I am outraged to discover that several progressive Members of Congress (including Alan Grayson) sought to elicit testimony from a representative of a group with deep links to Al Qaeda, headed by an individual who was found to have funneled millions of dollars to Al Qaeda at the height of the Iraqi insurgency. In other words, we are now consulting our drone policy with potential targets.

Such an invitation is a slap in the face to the brave men and women who have served in the Global War On Terror, to our returning Wounded Warriors, to our cherished Blue and Gold Star Families, and to the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom.

Still, by meeting with al-Qaeda terrorists, Grayson may finally encounter genuine extremists whose policy goal is indeed for Americans to “die quickly.”

Tags: Alan Grayson , Drones , Jorge Bonilla

The 2003–08 Liberal Foreign-Policy Vision Lies in Ruins



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The front page of today’s Washington Post previews President Obama’s trip to the EU summit in Northern Ireland, observing that Europeans are deeply disappointed, and feeling betrayed, by Obama’s policies on long-delayed assistance to Syrian rebels, widespread NSA eavesdropping, and expansion of drone warfare.

In his use of drones and the NSA, Obama is acting more like the European caricature of President George W. Bush. Le Monde, in fact, referred to him as “George W. Obama.”

What the five years of Obama’s presidency have taught us is that the dominant worldview in the American Left and Europe in the preceding five years — 2003 to 2008 — was an unrealistic, idealistic fantasyland wishing away complicated problems of terrorism, security, and the politics and culture of the Middle East. As discussed in today’s Jolt . . . 

A Foreign-Policy Shift That Obama Won’t Even Personally Discuss, Much Less Explain

From 2003 to 2008, we were served up large heaping piles of crap that somehow managed to become foreign-policy conventional wisdom:

  • A major obstacle to Middle East peace was that the Bush administration wasn’t making it enough of a priority.
  • The Iraq War was the main cause of alienation and anti-American attitudes in the Muslim world.
  • Greed for oil and war profiteering drove American interventions in the Middle East, not humanitarian concerns or desire to check aggressive, inherently dangerous forces.

After taking the wheel of American foreign policy, the Obama administration pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed the Israelis and Palestinians, and five years later, we see that the basic obstacle to peace — i.e., one side wants to destroy the other, and the other side refuses to accept destruction — remains. The troops are home from Iraq, and the United States is still hated in much of the Muslim world. (They actually hate us even more now in Jordan and Pakistan than during the Bush years.)

And now the United States will be sending some sort of military assistance to the Syrian rebels, finding the brutal actions of Ba’athist Arab dictator — including use of sarin gas — too dangerous to ignore any further.

Although apparently the president doesn’t really want to do this. This weekend, the New York Times reported:

[Obama’s] ambivalence about the decision seemed evident even in the way it was announced. Mr. Obama left it to a deputy national security adviser, Benjamin J. Rhodes, to declare Thursday evening that the president’s “red line” on chemical weapons had been crossed and that support to the opposition would be increased. At the time, Mr. Obama was addressing a gay pride event in the East Room. On Friday, as Mr. Rhodes was again dispatched to defend the move at a briefing, the president was hosting a Father’s Day luncheon in the State Dining Room.

Come on, man! Mr. President, own your decision. If you don’t think this is the right decision, tell your advisers and former President Clinton and McCain and Graham and everyone else that you think they’re wrong, and stick by it. Don’t adopt a policy that you don’t really believe in just because you want the complaining to stop.

Tags: Barack Obama , Syria , Drones , Europeans , NSA

Meet the New Drone Policy . . .



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President Obama, speaking at the National Defense University, May 23:

The use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty.

Around the time of that speech, White House sources revealed that the drone program would no longer be managed by the CIA, and would move over to the Defense Department.

Whoever is managing the drone program, the results look pretty much the same.

Since that speech:

May 29: “A U.S. drone strike killed the number two of the Pakistani Taliban in the North Waziristan region on Wednesday, three security officials said. . . . The drone strike killed seven people, Pakistani security officials said, including Taliban deputy commander Wali-ur-Rehman . . .”

June 1: “A U.S. drone strike killed at least eight members of the Yemen-based al-Qaida offshoot in the southern province of Abyan on Saturday, a government official told Xinhua. The U.S. unmanned aircraft fired three missiles at a convoy of the al-Qaida militants in the Mahfad region, in Abyan province, leaving at least eight terrorists killed and three others injured, the local government official said on condition of anonymity.”

June 7: “A suspected U.S. drone strike killed seven people Friday night in northwest Pakistan, two days after the country’s new prime minister vowed to stop such attacks. Pakistani intelligence officials said the attack occurred shortly after sunset in a forested tribal area that straddles North and South Waziristan, not far from the border with Afghanistan. Four people were seriously hurt, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.”

Remember that line about “bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty”?

A top American envoy was summoned by Pakistan’s new government to protest a U.S. drone strike that killed at least six militants in the volatile North Waziristan province, the Pakistan government said Saturday.

U.S. charge d’affaires Richard Hoagland was summoned Friday at the order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and given a letter of protest, the government said.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strikes which are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasized,” it said in a written statement.

Now, I don’t particularly care if the Pakistanis are outraged about this, but I don’t think it’s good for the American president to loudly and proudly declare that we’re doing all of this in consultation with our partners, and then not actually do so.

June 9: “Yemeni security and tribal sources say an apparent U.S. drone strike has killed at least three suspected al-Qaida militants in the north of the country. The sources said several drone-fired missiles struck at least one vehicle carrying the militants in the northern province of al-Jawf on Sunday.”

So, since the new policy was announced, four strikes, 25 killed, unknown number of people injured.

Shooting the breeze.

Tags: Drones , Barack Obama

Spared by the Sequester: Catfish Inspections, $500K Hotel Stays, New U.S. Drone Complexes



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Jazz Shaw notices more spending “Spared by the Sequester”: $14 million per year for catfish inspections.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department spent $500,000 on lodging, hotel conference rooms. and other services in San Jose, Costa Rica; the cost is associated with President Obama’s May 3 visit.

Oh, and there’s a new $16.3 million “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Complex” to be built at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Despite the dire warnings, the Sequester has not yet required President Obama to look for loose change that fell behind the Oval Office couch cushions.

Tags: Drones , Sequester , Government Waste , President Obama

New Revised, Morally Nuanced Drone Policy Gets Familiar Results



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Hey, check out our new new, morally nuanced, totally different drone policy:

A U.S drone attack early Wednesday killed seven people and injured four others in volatile North Waziristan tribal region, Pakistani security officials and local tribesmen said. It was the first attack by the unmanned U.S. spy planes on Pakistani territory since the election of the new civilian government two weeks ago.

Looks like one of the seven (or perhaps four) was a high-value target:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani intelligence officials say a U.S. drone strike has killed the No. 2 commander of the Pakistani Taliban. The militant group denies he is dead. Three Pakistani officials say Waliur Rehman was among four people killed in a drone strike Wednesday morning in the North Waziristan tribal region near the border with Afghanistan.

Tags: Pakistan , Drones

Rand Paul’s ‘Epic’ Filibuster



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The Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt features a contrast in government tours, helpful words from a critical reader, and then the big news of the day . . .

Rand Paul Goes to Washington

Rand Paul added a lot of big fans Wednesday.

A day that was supposed to be just another Washington snow day brought us something we haven’t seen in a long time: an honest-to-goodness, in-keeping-with-the-Constitution, old-fashioned filibuster, all over a basic, fundamental concept central to our founding: the power of the central government is limited, and the government’s authority to exercise lethal force must be particularly and specifically limited.

Actual headline in USA Today: “Rand Paul ends epic filibuster over Brennan”

He started speaking around 11:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. He finally ceded the floor at about 12:40 a.m. local time on Thursday.

Andrew Johnson & Nathaniel Botwinick give you the highlights of Rand Paul’s crusade:

Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) took to the Senate floor today to filibuster President Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan, as well as to challenge the administration’s policy on drones. Paul began speaking at approximately 11:47 a.m. . . .

Paul said he would be happy to end it if he had reassurance from the Obama administration that drone-strikes would not be used on noncombatants. After Reid left the floor, senators Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and John Cornyn of Texas joined in the effort.

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) took to the floor of the Senate this afternoon in support of Senator Paul. He thanked the senator for “defending the institution” of the Senate and its “constitutional obligation to ask relevant questions of public policy and get answers” through his filibuster.

The filibuster became a bipartisan effort when Oregon’s Democratic senator Ron Wyden joined Paul on the floor in its fourth hour. Wyden called for reining in the executive branch’s “serious, far-reaching” drone-strike program, saying that the targeted killings “should not be allowed . . . without any scrutiny.”

Three hours into Paul’s filibuster, fellow Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas joined the Kentucky senator on the floor. Cruz praised Paul for his leadership on the issue of drones and the rights of American citizens, calling him a “modern Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” who is “surely making Jimmy Stewart smile.” Along with Cruz, senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas joined Paul on the floor at roughly the same time.

John Podhoretz: “Attention everybody in Washington: This is how you make yourself a star.”

Writing at Breitbart, the Ace of Spades declared it genuinely exciting:

I have the same feeling of receding cynicism I did when the Tea Party first exploded on to the scene and began doing things that just weren’t done in America anymore — taking politics seriously, taking the Founders’ legacy to us seriously, showing up at Town Halls to ask their once and future representatives some real questions, engaging, questioning, insisting, demanding.

There was a time 200 years ago when this was commonplace. Americans had just won their liberty and were enthused about it. They treated their civic duty not as a mere duty but as the highest aspiration of political man.

This filibuster excites me for the same reasons — a return to the Old Ways, the ways that actually work, the way American politics is actually supposed to be conducted, with Senators offering thoughtful defenses of their positions and, above all, insisting that this nation is We the People not We the Ministers & Lesser Bureaucratic Warlords of Whatever Current Government the Public Has Had the Folly to Install in Office.

Jon Henke: “Kinda shocking that it takes a filibuster to get back the right not to be killed by our own government without a trial.”

Dana Loesch: “The left just exposed their hypocrisy on waterboarding by supporting drone killing without due process.”

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz generated his own fireworks, getting Eric Holder to appear to concur that the drone policy, as currently stated, runs afoul of the Constitution.

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice sent shockwaves through the nation when Attorney General Eric Holder informed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in writing that the White House would be within its legal authority to execute an American citizen via drone on U.S. soil if that person was determined to pose a threat to national security. On Wednesday, testifying before a Senate panel, Holder was prodded repeatedly about this assertion by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Holder eventually admitted that it would not be constitutional to execute an American citizen without due process.

“In your legal judgment, does the Constitution allow a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil to be killed by a drone?” Cruz asked Holder pointedly.

“For sitting in a café and having a cup of coffee?” Holder replied. Cruz clarified that his hypothetical individual subject to a drone strike did not pose an “imminent and immediate threat of death and bodily harm,” but that person is suspected to be a terrorist.

“I would not think that that would be an appropriate use of any kind of lethal force,” Holder replied.

“With all respect, Gen. Holder, my question wasn’t about appropriateness or prosecutorial discretion. It was a simple legal question,” Cruz clarified.

“This is a hypothetical, but I would not think, that in that situation, the use of a drone or lethal force would not be appropriate,” Holder replied.

“I have to tell you I find it remarkable that in that hypothetical, which is deliberately very simple, you are not able to give a simple, one-word answer: no,” Cruz added. He said he think that his scenario would constitute a “deprivation of life without due process.”

. . . When Cruz was about to abandon his line of questioning after a number of equivocations from Holder, the attorney general clarified that he was saying “no” such actions would not be constitutional.

Our Charlie Cooke: “I’m very disappointed. Rand Paul has been speaking about foundational American values for hours but he hasn’t yet mentioned contraception.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Drones , Marco Rubio , Rand Paul , Ted Cruz

Double-O-bama: Self-Licensed to Kill



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It’s a special Morning Jolt today. First, a genuinely surprising development, as there seems to be almost-bipartisan objections to the Obama administration’s assertion that they can kill a U.S. citizen with a drone, as long as an executive branch official is pretty sure they’re involved with terrorism.

Double-O-bama: Self-Licensed to Kill

Let me throw you a curveball by quoting Adam Serwer of Mother Jones, reacting to the administration’s release of its legal justification to kill Americans believed to be involved with terror without a trial, by drone:

The Obama administration claims that the secret judgment of a single ”well-informed high level administration official” meets the demands of due process and is sufficient justification to kill an American citizen suspected of working with terrorists. That procedure is entirely secret. Thus it’s impossible to know which rules the administration has established to protect due process and to determine how closely those rules are followed. The government needs the approval of a judge to detain a suspected terrorist. To kill one, it need only give itself permission. 

Of course, the hypocrisy of most liberals doesn’t get us off the hook on the need to have a coherent view on this. Okay, conservatives, big question now:  If this were President Romney, would we be shrugging, concerned, complaining or screaming? I think “concerned.” At the very least, you would want another set of eyes – the House or Senate intelligence committees, or some independent judges – taking a look at the presidential “kill list,” right? At least for the American citizens?

Our Charles C.W. Cooke: “In case my position isn’t obvious: I am appalled by any president possessing the unilateral power to kill American citizens extrajudicially.”

Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, puts it rather bluntly: “Every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”

That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Tags: Barack Obama , Drones

Why Are Tools of War Being Deployed in American Skies?



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Over in the Corner, Charles Krauthammer expands upon his previous objections to the use of surveillance drones on U.S. soil.

A thought on drones: While they’ve been around for a lot longer than the War on Terror, and while few are suggesting Hellfire-missile-toting drones should patrol America’s skies, there’s a particular reason this technological development seems so ominous and unnerving.

The development and deployment of Predator and Sentinel drones accelerated greatly after 9/11. Americans understood why our military needed drones; it reduced risk to pilots, the targets were far away and deep in hostile territory, and the initial target was the man, and the group, that had killed thousands of Americans. Pretty extraordinary circumstances.

So now that drones have proven a useful tool in that noble fight . . . they end up appearing in American skies? Watching U.S. citizens?

What threat from the American citizenry could possibly be so menacing that it would require our most advanced military technology to be used against us? These things were developed to deal with some of the most dangerous folks alive in a war zone, who either never qualified for or effectively renounced any Fourth Amendment rights.

I suppose Americans might accept their use over regions of our borders that are particularly violent or dangerous. Assistance to a SWAT team headed into a dangerous situation seems like an acceptable use. But once law enforcement, federal agencies, and dozens of other organizations are given the ability to conduct aerial surveillance . . . how long will they resist the temptation?

Tags: Drones

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