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Category Archives: Targeted Killing: Drones

CIA, Drone Strikes, and Public Authority: Responding to Kevin Heller

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 11:36 PM

Kevin Heller and I have been debating whether the CIA drone strike targeting Anwar al-Aulaqi violated 18 USC 1119, which makes it a felony to kill American citizens overseas (to be clear, our exchange has not extended to Due Process Clause questions or to international law questions such as whether that attack related to a . . .
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DOD Confirms Death of Ahmed Godane

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Friday, September 5, 2014 at 12:12 PM

The White House has just released a statement confirming the death of Ahmed Godane, the leader of Al Shabaab in Somalia. According to the statement, the U.S. military targeted Godane in a successful air strike last weekend. The full statement is below: Today, the Department of Defense confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the leader of al-Shabaab, . . .
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February 2010 OLC Opinion on the Al-Aulaqi Strike and the CIA

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Friday, August 15, 2014 at 9:41 PM

Here it is. The seven-page, heavily redacted legal analysis was apparently released earlier today, as a consequence of the FOIA action brought by the New York Times and the ACLU.  

Reading the AUMF Tea Leaves, 2002 Edition

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Monday, July 28, 2014 at 12:42 PM

Nowadays figuring out what sort of post-2001 AUMF authority the White House wants is a bit of a tea leaf-reading exercise. Potentially relevant to it are the events of last Friday concerning the 2002 AUMF, which Congress passed in advance of the Iraq war. Friday evening saw the House’s approval of H. Con. Res. 105, a concurrent . . .
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Readings: Civilian Intelligence Agencies and the Use of Armed Drones by Ian Henderson

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Friday, June 27, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Footnote 44 of the recently released and much-discussed OLC Awlaki memorandum is heavily redacted, but what’s left reads, in part: Nor would the fact that CIA personnel would be involved in the operation itself cause the operation to violate the laws of war. It is true that CIA personnel, by virtue of their not being part of . . .
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Report of the Stimson Center Task Force on Drone Policy

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Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 3:27 PM

The Stimson Center released today the report of its Task Force on US Drone Policy.  The ten-member task force, of which I was a member, was chaired by General John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks.   The report makes eight recommendations for overhauling US drone strategy; improving oversight, accountability, transparency and clarifying the international legal framework applicable . . .
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Why Imminence? The Assassinations Ban and that OLC Al-Aulaqi Memo

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Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 1:44 PM

The other day, I tried to read the tea leaves and figure out where the notion of “imminent threat” comes from in the administration’s legal views of targeted killing. I speculated that the source of the “imminent” threat standard may well be language in the presidential covert action findings authorizing the CIA’s broad campaign against Al Qaeda . . .
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A Clue About the Origins of “Imminence” in the OLC Memo?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 10:37 AM

There’s a lot to discuss about the OLC memo on the al-Aulaqi strike—including, as Ben mentioned yesterday, the origins and significance of “imminence.”  (There’s also excellent analysis over at Just Security, which I recommend to interested readers.) Throughout the OLC memo’s 41 pages, the much-scrutinized term appears several times, often as part of a phrase: “continued and . . .
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Whence Imminence in that Drone Memo? A Puzzle and a Theory

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM

On May 27, a unanimous Supreme Court—to little notice from just about anyone—handed down a case called Plumhoff v. Rickard, which dealt with a police shooting and a claim of excessive force during a high-speed car chase. Donald Rickard had led police in Arkansas on a highway chase, at the end of which officers shot him and . . .
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The Al-Aulaqi OLC Memo: A Quick and Dirty Summary

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Monday, June 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

I have this feeling that a lot of people are going to mischaracterize the just-released OLC memo on the Anwar Al-Aulaqi strike. Just a guess. So before expressing any opinions on the subject or arguing with anyone about it, I thought I would start things out with a straight summary of the memo, which I am writing . . .
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Second Circuit Releases Redacted OLC Drone Memo

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Monday, June 23, 2014 at 3:07 PM

The Second Circuit has just released a redacted version of the OLC Drone Memo–here is the memo; here is the panel’s full, revised April 21, 2014 decision with the memo appended at page 67. You’ll recall that back in April, a three-judge panel (comprising Judges Newman, Cabranes and Pooler) reversed a lower court decision dismissing the ACLU’s suit for release . . .
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Readings: The Diffusion of Drone Warfare: Industrial, Infrastructural and Organizational Constraints by Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 7:27 PM

Political science graduate students Andrea Gilli (European Union Institute, Florence) and Mauro Gilli (Northwestern University, Evanston) have posted a new and provocative paper to SSRN–“The Diffusion of Drone Warfare: Industrial, Infrastructural and Organizational Constraints.” I read this paper when first posted to SSRN some weeks back, but I waited to discuss it in a Readings post . . .
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Mike Lewis on the Lack of an IHL Transparency Requirement for Drone Strikes

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Monday, June 2, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Professor Mike Lewis (Ohio Northern University’s Pettit College of Law) writes in with the following guest post: There Is No Transparency Requirement for Drone Operations Critics of drones have frequently characterized them as being illegal weapons, or at least weapons that were being used in an illegal manner. Much of the initial opposition was driven . . .
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Why Drone Strikes in Pakistan Have Stopped (and Will It Last?)

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Thursday, May 29, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Did you know that we have not carried out drone strikes in Pakistan since 2013?  A story from Ken Dilanian (now at AP) today does a nice job of laying out the many reasons why: 1. Fewer targets  (“Many of the senior al-Qaida figures in Pakistan have been killed”; “Hardcore al-Qaida militants from Pakistan have . . .
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Is JSOC About to Become More Transparent on Drone Strikes?

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Friday, May 23, 2014 at 4:57 PM

One frequently sees the claim that CIA drone operations should be handed over to the military because the military is more transparent. I have frequently disparaged that argument, not because the CIA is in fact transparent but rather because direct action undertaken by JSOC isn’t transparent either. But might that change soon? According to a . . .
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Questions About CIA v. DOD Drone Strikes

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 9:55 AM

Two reasons often given for the need to transfer targeting killing by drone from CIA exclusively to DOD are (i) collateral damage reduction, because DOD supposedly has stricter targeting criteria and better law-of-war compliance, and (ii) more robust oversight.  Neither reason is sound. Taking the second point first, as we have often noted on this blog, . . .
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Drone Strikes and the CIA vs JSOC Quality-Control Comparison

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Monday, May 12, 2014 at 10:15 AM

For those who are still wondering why the Obama administration has not followed through on the idea of shifting all responsibility for drone strikes from CIA to JSOC, this story from Ken Dilanian of the L.A. Times provides some useful context. Building on an account about a CIA-JSOC disagreement regarding the sufficiency of the intelligence . . .
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David Barron, Targeted Killing, and Rand Paul’s Wrongheaded Oped

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Monday, May 12, 2014 at 8:10 AM

“I believe that killing an American citizen without a trial is an extraordinary concept and deserves serious debate,” writes Sen. Rand Paul in an oped in the New York Times this morning. “I can’t imagine appointing someone to the federal bench, one level below the Supreme Court, without fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial . . .
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Yemen Conflict Update: Expanded US Military Role on the Way?

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Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 9:54 AM

An interesting tidbit today regarding US involvement in Yemen, from Politico’s first-rate briefer Morning Defense: MORE MILITARY SUPPORT COULD BE COMING: Shy of putting boots on the ground, the U.S. government is receptive to additional military cooperation with the Yemeni government if requested, a DoD official told Morning D. Currently, the U.S. military and the . . .
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The New York Times on David Barron

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Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 8:36 AM

This was bound to happen eventually, I suppose: the New York Times editorial page has gotten behind the effort to hold up David Barron’s judicial nomination. Sort of. Calling Barron, whom Obama has nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, “The Lawyer Behind the Drone Policy,” the Times notes that: . . .
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