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April 17, 2013

Pressure Mounting for White House Transparency on Drones

Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today postponed a vote on whether to subpoena the Department of Justice for the Office of Legal Counsel memoranda on targeted killing after the administration agreed to provide documents to the committee.  It is not immediately known what documents will be provided, but reports indicate that the deal is identical to ones made earlier this year with the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which allowed all committee members and two staffers to see  the documents.  Those memos allegedly focus only on the targeted killing of American citizens, not the full program where foreigners are targeted.  Only four of the 4,700 killed by drone operations have been Americans.  Human Rights First welcomes the continued efforts at oversight, but cautions that the administration has not been fully forthcoming.

“The president pledged in his State of the Union address to provide transparency regarding the targeted killing program, but months later, has not followed through.  The American people deserve to know whether our country is abiding by the law and whether the program is keeping Americans safe,” said Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn. “It’s a shame that it has to come down to placing holds on nominations, filibusters and threats of subpoena to cudgel the administration into providing a bare minimum of information.  The administration has a responsibility to provide all of the legal memoranda requested by Congress and make those public with as few redactions as possible. The administration should also provide a witness to the upcoming hearing on April 23 by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights subcommittee for its hearing next week on the drone program.”

Osburn notes that an increasing number of military leaders, including General Stanley McChrystal and Admiral Dennis Blair, have expressed concerns that the drone program is generating “blowback” and radicalizing enemies, which ultimately undermines U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

For more information on U.S. targeted killing practice, see Human Rights First’s blueprint, How to Ensure That the U.S. Drone Program Does Not Undermine Human Rights. To speak with Osburn, please contact Brenda Bowser Soder at bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.