US says drone strikes legal after report shows Obama signs 'Kill list'

Published: May 30, 2012

Pentagon official says drone strikes are legal under US law, policy.

WASHINGTON: Department of Defense spokesperson George Little said on Tuesday that the unmanned drones and its missile strikes operated by the CIA are “lawful and precise” and that they operate within the confines of American law and policy.

In a press briefing at the Pentagon on Tuesday, the DoD spokesperson was asked about the specifics of the drone program, which has drawn condemnation and even lawsuits from different international quarters, that it was currently being deployed in various countries by the US including Pakistan.

Responding to a news item in the New York Times which reported that the drone strikes, which also result in civilian casualties along with some militant deaths, were signed off by the US President per a kill list, Little said that he could not talk about the specifics of the program. But he maintained that the US could provide assurances that they avoid civilian casualties “in both counterterrorism and military operations”.

Meanwhile, at a press briefing at the White House, the WH spokesperson Jay Carney too was repeatedly questioned by reporters about the NYT article and civilian casualties from drone strikes, however he referred the press the speech made by the US chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan earlier this year, who had declared drones to be lawful.

US concerned about Shakil Afridi

Both the Pentagon and White House spokespersons were also asked about Dr Shakil Afridi, who was convicted to 33 years of imprisonment last week for helping the CIA in the hunt for Bin Laden.

George Little, the DoD spokesperson, said that the US are concerned about him. “He was not stealing Pakistani secrets, he was helping the US go after Osama Bin Laden.” He added that the Secretaries of State and Defense have made the US position on Dr Afridi known.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney, in response to the question, said “We believe and know that anyone who assisted the US in bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice was not working against Pakistan.”

He added that they believe that the doctor should not be held, and that they were consulting with the Government of Pakistan on the matter.

Reader Comments (22)

  • Mirza
    May 30, 2012 - 2:31AM

    According to the US laws the president’s orders are the lawful and nobody can challenge them. It is not like Pakistan where the president and PM have no immunity or power against PCO SC judges.
    What does Pakistan have to say that Afridi was not working against Pakistan but against OBL? How can we refute these statements?

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  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    May 30, 2012 - 2:40AM

    “unmanned drones and its missile strikes operated by the CIA are “lawful and precise” and that they operate within the confines of American law and policy.”

    Americans have given themselves the law making authority to cover any or whole part of world. They can impose sanctions, make laws which encroach upon the sovereignty of other nations. This is nothing but declaration of war. If Pakistan too considers this as an act of war, what on Earth are they waiting for? Are your Nuclear bombs only to fight against India and serve no useful purpose when attacked by US, Russia or China? First ingredient to face an enemy is high moral and national unity. Double dealing has brought Pakistan to a very low moral. This is why Pakistan can not face USA and getting bombed day in and day out. Americans know what ails Pakistan and are taking full use of that to strike you.

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  • Bhindian
    May 30, 2012 - 2:56AM

    “It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

    This is from New York Times, so it is clear how they avoid civilian casualties….by labelling civilians as militants!

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  • Aamir
    May 30, 2012 - 3:02AM

    He is the “commander in chief” of US not the entire world, under what international law he has been given leeway to sign someone’s death warrant…….shame on US for making mockery of basic human rights.

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  • May 30, 2012 - 3:30AM

    “the unmanned drones and its missile strikes operated by the CIA are “lawful and precise” and that they operate within the confines of American law and policy”

    What is notable here is the omission of any reference to international law the UN/UNSC Resolutions – the latter forms the basis of the majority of the criticizm directed at the US Drone Strike Program, especially in Pakistan.

    The argument remains that the US has not international legal authority (nor any authority under the UNSC resolutions on Afghanistan and/or the WoT) to conduct drone strikes inside Pakistani territory without the consent of the GoP.

    ‘American Law and Policy’ might as well ‘declare’ that ‘China’s FOREX Reserves are the property of the US’, that does not make ‘American Law and Policy’ consistent with international law and the UN Charter.

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  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    May 30, 2012 - 3:32AM

    “unmanned drones and its missile strikes operated by the CIA are “lawful and precise” and that they operate within the confines of American law and policy.” It may confine of American law and policy but is it lawful internationally killing innocent civilians and call it collateral damage.Bush invaded Iraq and killed thousands of innocent people, was it legal according to US laws, torture was common by the US military to the captured so called terrorists, is it legal according to US laws. US is following what we call it might is right and that is the bottom line.

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  • Tahir
    May 30, 2012 - 3:58AM

    The truth is what the USA wants it to be.

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  • May 30, 2012 - 4:26AM

    ” he referred the press the speech made by the US chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan earlier this year, who had declared drones to be lawful.”

    Indeed, not only is it legal under U.S. laws but under post-9/11 international law: under UNSCR 1373 – a Chapter VII (binding) Security Council Resolution – Pakistan has the sovereign obligation to root out terrorists, terror havens, terror networks, and terror financing from its territory. Failure to do so thus nulls Pakistani sovereignty in this regard, meaning that it is perfectly legal for the U.S. to send soldiers, airmen, warplanes, and weapons into Pakistan to attack terrorists in areas Pakistan demonstrably won’t fight them like North Wazirstan.

    If we haven’t heard more details about such arguments, that may be due to the fact that UNSCR 1373′s investigative arm, the Counter-Terrorism Committee, has classified compliance reports from Pakistan (and other nations, true, but there’s only ONE Pakistan!) for the past six years. Perhaps Pakistanis should yell louder and louder about how drone strikes “violate” their sovereignty, maybe then the Security Council will make public the reports?

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  • Stacey
    May 30, 2012 - 5:17AM

    Senators have now said that America is part of the battlefield. We will have drones monitoring us here in this country. Join SDAA (Stop Drones Across America) to learn more and stop civil liberty violations.
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/334686506601666/

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  • Ali
    May 30, 2012 - 5:40AM

    Drones are legal as long as we have corrupt leaders. The moment a real “ba-ghairat” leader steps in the office, they will become automatically illegal and the US will not be able to do anything about it. I am waiting for that day.

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  • Imran Con
    May 30, 2012 - 5:44AM

    It all comes down to the fact Pakistan is crying about it because they’re not the ones doing it and it makes them look weak. If that wasn’t the case they wouldn’t even be for the idea if the technology was handed over to them. But they are.
    Human rights are nice headlines to make you look like a good guy. But your concern for it is as fake as Pakistan’s claim of being an ally.

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  • The original bhindian
    May 30, 2012 - 6:43AM

    What a shame. All that collateral damage!

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  • Imran Con
    May 30, 2012 - 7:20AM

    @Stacey:
    Ha. No we won’t. Some senators may talk but that would never work out. They’d lose more on US soil than anywhere else in the world.

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  • Mirza
    May 30, 2012 - 7:47AM

    @Aamir:
    You have a point there. Who is stopping Pakistan to go to the UN or International court of justice? It has been a set up right after 9/11, and this noise is for public consumption. American public does not care as long as no US law is broken or it is not serving national interest. Regards,
    Mirza

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  • May 30, 2012 - 7:56AM

    Its astonishing how all Pakistanis talk about US stoping Drone attacks, when all they have to do is ask the Pakistani Air force to shoot them down.

    Not one word against the Military, even though it has usurped power and is primarily responsible for the state that Pakistan is in today. Is this some kind of martial-oriented mentality?

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  • kaalchakra
    May 30, 2012 - 7:59AM

    Drones must be shot down using the missiles. Period.

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  • swapnil
    May 30, 2012 - 8:53AM

    For me,it is too shocking and funny at the same time when someone from USA declares killing someone in pakistan is legal and has the backing of president of USA. Even after this noone in pakistani political elite has the power to even say it otherwise let alone act against it. It’s official now pakistan and its people has fallen so low in their own standards of self-respect to even point a finger at USA. Come on my friends in pakistan don’t put yourself in this position.You are better than this. you have the right to self defend and you are nuclear power. prove it to the world that they are not for nothing.

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  • Basit
    May 30, 2012 - 10:13AM

    How many more drone strikes before taliban and al qaeda are defeated? 100, 500, 1,000, 1,000,0000?

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  • Javaad Ali
    May 30, 2012 - 10:48AM

    The US has declared the drone strikes “Legal” per US law ……… and the rest of the world, to my knowledge, has NOT.
    In such a situation I will be grateful if the the non-violent, peace-loving US Government and Congress use their drones within the US only. Imagine, how effective drone strikes will be in taking out criminal elements within the US and that too without ANY collateral damage

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  • Salman Sheikh
    May 30, 2012 - 1:00PM

    As i understood it that killing Muslims with drones are legal..

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  • Qalandar Khan
    May 30, 2012 - 2:03PM

    This is bizarre. Does authorization by the US president make everything legal?

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  • Super Star
    May 30, 2012 - 3:18PM

    Drones are good for Muslim population control! Keep it up Uncle Sam

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