I particularly liked this Real News Network segment, in which Paul Jay and Michael Rattner, the President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights who brought the first case opposing detentions at Guantanamo Bay, went through Obama’s speech late last week on drone policy and Gitmo, focusing on key statements and teasing out what they really meant.
There’ a lot of good analysis here, and I wanted to highlight one particularly important section. Rattner described how, despite the claims to the contrary in other media outlets, that Obama’s latest statement on drone policy has increased the number of targets:
I mean, we’ve seen a lot of this in the white paper that was leaked a few weeks ago about what the standards were for killing people with drones. This is really a repeat of those standards. They’re not the legal standards. When you’re outside a war zone, it has to be imminent, concrete, and specific, the threat. There has to be no other way to stop it. It’s not a question of is it feasible to arrest them. The question is: is it possible to arrest them?
The U.S. in that white paper said, we’re broadening the concept of imminence. Imminence usually meant, you know, the person’s about to push the button and a rocket’s about to launch on our country. They’ve broadened that. It could be someone continually planning or something. So they’ve broadened it. We no longer have a concept of imminence. He didn’t add anything good in that speech about that concept at all. In fact, he reaffirmed the concept of killing people outside a war zone that we’re already familiar with.
This is consistent with McClatchy’s reading. From its article Obama speech suggests possible expansion of drone killings (hat tip Lambert):
But Obama’s speech appeared to expand those who are targeted in drone strikes and other undisclosed “lethal actions” in apparent anticipation of an overhaul of the 2001 congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against al Qaida and allied groups that supported the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
In every previous speech, interview and congressional testimony, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed “senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces” plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States.
But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from “those who want to kill us” and “terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat” to “all potential terrorist targets.”
I hope you’ll watch the video in full, or read the transcript.