The Common Good

DRONE WATCH: Drones Hit Front Page

The publication on Monday of a previously secret Justice Department memo attempting to legally justify the killing of American citizens has opened the door for front-page questions about the entire drone program.    

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- The Washington Post revealed the existence of a previously secret drone base in Saudi Arabia, established two years ago when the campaign against al Qaeda in Yemen was Intensified. The story notes that John Brennan, a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, played a key role in negotiations for the base.

- In London, the Guardian headlines the secret base, and notes that “Iranian state media highlighted the story, which is also likely to be seized upon by jihadi groups. Saudi Arabia has previously publicly denied co-operating with the US to target al-Qaida in Yemen.”

- The Associated Press notes a growing number of a growing number of Members of Congress seeking to limit the claimed authority for drone killings and predicts it will be a hot topic in the confirmation hearing tomorrow of John Brennan for CIA Director.

- Bloomberg reports remarks by Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S. Sherry Rehman at a Christian Science Monitor news breakfast in Washington. Rehman called the continuing drone strikes in Pakistan a “direct violation of our sovereignty” and international law as well as a red line that Pakistani authorities are constantly urging the U.S. not to cross.

- The New York Times, noting that Brennan “has taken a particular interest in Yemen,” devotes a long lead story to the drone strikes in that country. It raises the questions about the program: Why are both the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA carrying out drone campaigns in Yemen? Are the strikes creating more militants than they are killing?

- At the White House press briefing Tuesday afternoon, the first question to Press Secretary Jay Carney was about the drone memo. The money quote of his answer, from the official transcript, was “We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing actual threats, to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and, again, save American lives.  These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.”

- And, for the last word, NBC News has Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and an authority on international law and the use of force, saying about the leaked memo: “Anyone should be concerned when the president and his lawyers make up their own interpretation of the law or their own rules. This is a very, very dangerous thing that the president has done.” 

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