Senators Press Increased Transparency on U.S. Drone Policy

From left, Senators Ron Wyden, Martin Heinrich and Mark Udall


U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo. pressed the Obama administration today for additional transparency on U.S. drone policy, including its interpretations of when it can take lethal action outside of declared war zones and against Americans.

The senators – all members of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – also said the American people have a right to know the “limits and boundaries” of the president’s power to take lethal action against them.

“We believe that the executive branch needs to more clearly define its interpretation of the laws and rules that govern lethal operations outside of declared war zones, and in particular lethal operations against American citizens,” Senators Heinrich, Wyden and Mark Udall wrote in the letter. “Specific details regarding lethal counter-terrorism actions will sometimes need to be kept secret to ensure that the U.S. government can act effectively against very real threats to our country, but we firmly believe that the laws and rules that govern the executive branch’s actions should always be public. … We believe that every American has the right to know when their government believes it is allowed to kill them.”

To read the senators’ letter, click HERE.

Senators Heinrich, Wyden and Mark Udall have led efforts in Congress to press the White House and U.S. Department of Justice to be more transparent regarding the lethal targeting of Americans, the limits of executive power and the rules for preventing harm to civilians. In November of last year, after reviewing the legal opinions on “targeted killings,” the senators stated that the lethal action against American citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi was a “legitimate use of the authority granted to the President” but also urged President Obama to make the rules governing targeted killings available to the American people. 

Their pressure paid off last month when the Obama administration agreed not to fight the release by U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit of a U.S. Justice Department memo analyzing the lawfulness of a targeted killing operation aimed at an American. That memo was made publicly available earlier this week.

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