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THE PUBLIC EDITOR Questions on Drones, Unanswered Still By MARGARET SULLIVAN Published: October 13, 2012 64 Comments UNDERSTANDING American drone strikes is like a deadly version of the old telephone game: I whisper to you and you whisper to someone else, and eventually all meaning is lost. More Public Editor Columns The Public Editor's Journal E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: twitter.com/sulliview Phone: (212) 556-7652 Address: Public Editor The New York Times 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018 Related Times Topic:Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Related in Opinion Room for Debate: Do Drone Attacks Do More Harm Than Good?(September 25, 2012) Readers’ Comments Share your thoughts. Post a Comment » Read All Comments (64) » You start with uncertain information from dubious sources. Pass it along, run it through the media blender, add pundits, and you’ve got something that may or may not be close to the truth. How many people have been killed by these unmanned aircraft in the Central Intelligence Agency’s strikes in Yemen and Pakistan? How many of the dead identified as “militants” are really civilians? How many are children? The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain has estimated that, in the first three years after President Obama took office, between 282 and 535 civilians were credibly reported killed by drone strikes — including more than 60 children. The United States government says the number of civilians killed has been far lower. Accurate information is hard to come by. The Obama administration and the C.I.A. are secretive about the fast-growing drone program. The strikes in Pakistan are taking place in areas where reporters can’t go, or would be in extreme danger if they did. And it is all happening at a time when the American public seems tired of hearing about this part of the world anyway. How does The New York Times fit into this hazy picture? Some of the most important reporting on drone strikes has been done at The Times, particularly the “kill list” article by Scott Shane and Jo Becker last May. Those stories, based on administration leaks, detailed President Obama’s personal role in approving whom drones should set out to kill. Groundbreaking as that article was, it left a host of unanswered questions. The Times and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed Freedom of Information requests to learn more about the drone program, so far in vain. The Times and the A.C.L.U. also want to know more about the drone killing of an American teenager in Yemen, Abdulrahman al- Awlaki, also shrouded in secrecy. But The Times has not been without fault. Since the article in May, its reporting has not aggressively challenged the administration’s description of those killed as “militants” — itself an undefined term. And it has been criticized for giving administration officials the cover of anonymity when they suggest that critics of drones are terrorist sympathizers. Americans, according to polls, have a positive view of drones, but critics say that’s because the news media have not informed them well. The use of drones is deepening the resentment of the United States in volatile parts of the world and potentially undermining fragile democracies, said Naureen Shah, who directs the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia University’s law school. “It’s portrayed as picking off the bad guys from a plane,” she said. “But it’s actually surveilling entire communities, locating behavior that might be suspicious and striking groups of unknown individuals based on video data that may or may not be corroborated by eyeballing it on the ground.” On Sunday, Ms. Shah’s organization will release a report that raises important questions about media accuracy on drone strikes. But accuracy is only one of the concerns that have been raised about coverage of the issue. “It’s very narrow,” said David Rohde, a columnist for Reuters who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 when he was a Times reporter. “What’s missing is the human cost and the big strategic picture.” Glenn Greenwald, a lawyer who has written extensively on this subject for Salon and now for The Guardian, told me he sees “a Western media aversion to focusing on the victims of U.S. militarism. As long as you keep the victims dehumanized it’s somehow all right.” Mr. Rohde raised another objection: “If a Republican president had been carrying out this many drone strikes in such a secretive way, it would get much more scrutiny,” he said. Scott Shane, the Times reporter, finds the topic knotty and the secrecy hard to penetrate. “This is a category of public yet classified information,” he told me. “It’s impossible to keep the strikes themselves secret, but you’ve never had a serious public debate by Congress on it.” Last month, ProPublica admirably framed the issue in an article titled “How the Government Talks About a Drone Problem It Won’t Acknowledge Exists.” As for the human cost, Sarah Knuckey, a veteran human rights investigator now at New York University School of Law, says she got a strong sense of everyday fear while spending 10 days in Pakistan last spring. “I was struck by how afraid people are of the constant presence of drones,” said Ms. Knuckey, a co-author of a recent Stanford/N.Y.U. report on the drone campaign’s impact on Pakistanis. “They had the sense that they could be struck as collateral damage at any time.” She is also troubled by the government’s lack of transparency. “The U.S. is creating a precedent by carrying out strikes in secrecy without accountability to anyone,” Ms. Knuckey said. “What if all countries did what the U.S. is doing?” The Taliban and Al Qaeda are much worse problems for the Pakistani and Yemeni people than American drone strikes are. But acknowledging that doesn’t answer the moral and ethical questions of this push-button combat conducted without public accountability. With its vast talent and resources, The Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing. Follow the public editor on Twitter at twitter.com/sulliview and read her blog at publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com. The public editor can also be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this op-ed appeared in print on October 14, 2012, on page SR12 of the New York edition with the headline: Questions on Drones, Unanswered Still. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/public-editor/questions-on-drones-unanswered-still.html?_r=1 Predator Drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Tom Tschida/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Updated: Sept. 26, 2012 From blimps to bugs, aerial drones are transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. United States intelligence officials call unmanned aerial vehicles, often referred to as drones, their most effective weapon against Al Qaeda. The remotely piloted planes are used to transmit live video from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to American forces, and to carry out air strikes. More Central Intelligence Agency drone attacks have been conducted under President Obama than under President George W. Bush. Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and sometimes killing innocents. With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies including, in at least a few cases, its own citizens. The Obama administration has argued that the drone strikes against Al Qaeda and its allies are lawful as part of the military action authorized by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as well as under the general principle of self-defense. By those rules, such targeted killing is not assassination, which is banned by executive order. The Pentagon now has about 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago, and asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones in the 2012 budget. Drones have become crucial in fighting terrorism. The C.I.A. spied on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan by video transmitted from a drone. One of Pakistan’s most wanted militants, Ilyas Kashmiri, was reported dead in a June 2011 C.I.A. drone strike, part of an aggressive drone campaign that administration officials say has helped paralyze Al Qaeda in the region. More than 1,900 insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas have been killed by American drones since 2006, according to the Web site longwarjournal.com, which closely tracks the strikes as part of its focus on the war on terror. In September 2011, a drone missile killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric, using live video on Yemeni tribal turf where it is too dangerous for American troops to go. It was another sign that, disillusioned by huge costs and uncertain outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration has decisively embraced the drone as the future of the fight against terrorist networks. President Obama authorized the use of drones early in the NATO-led air campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces in Libya. In October 2011, an American Predator drone and a French warplane hit two vehicles in a convoy fleeing his hometown of Surt. Though neither vehicle carried Colonel Qaddafi, the rest of the convoy detoured and scattered; Mr. Qaddafi was soon caught by rebels and killed. Report Cites High Civilian Toll in Pakistan In December 2009, the Obama administration authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. The program has been quietly hailed by counterterrorism officials as a resounding success, eliminating key terrorists and throwing their operations into disarray. But it has generated public anger in Pakistan, and some counterinsurgency experts wonder whether it does more harm than good. In September 2012, a new report on targeted killing by C.I.A. drones in tribal areas concluded that the strikes have killed more civilians than American officials have acknowledged, alienated Pakistani public opinion and set a dangerous precedent under international law. The report, by human rights researchers at the Stanford and New York University law schools, urged the United States to “conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices” including “short- and long-term costs and benefits.” It also called on the administration to make public still-secret legal opinions justifying the strikes. Human rights groups have previously reached similar conclusions, and the report drew heavily on previous reporting, notably by the Bureau for Investigative Journalism in London. But the study was among the most thorough on the subject to date and was based on interviews with people injured by drone-fired missiles, their family members, Pakistani officials, lawyers and journalists. Background Predator spy planes were first used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s. The Air Force’s fleet has grown quickly in recent years. But despite their popularity, the drones have many shortcomings that have resulted from the rush to deploy them. Air Force officials acknowledge that more than a third of their Predators have crashed. Complaints about civilian casualties have also stirred concern among human rights advocates. Though the political consensus is in support of the drone program, its antiseptic, high-tech appeal and its secrecy have obscured just how radical it is; for the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for killing in a country where the United States is not officially at war. The Recruiting Tool of Choice The administration’s success at killing terrorism suspects has been shadowed by a suspicion: that Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo. Mr. Obama’s aides deny such a policy, arguing that capture is often impossible in the rugged tribal areas of Pakistan and Yemen and that many terrorist suspects are in foreign prisons because of American tips. Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants; in his 2010 guilty plea, Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square, justified targeting civilians by telling the judge, “When the drones hit, they don’t see children.” The very first strike under Mr. Obama’s watch on Dec. 17, 2009, in Yemen, not only killed its intended target, but also two neighboring families, and left behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents. It was hardly the kind of precise operation that Mr. Obama favored. Videos of children’s bodies and angry tribesmen holding up American missile parts flooded YouTube, fueling a ferocious backlash that Yemeni officials said bolstered Al Qaeda. In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a “near certainty” that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, Mr. Obama believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America’s image and derail diplomacy. Campaign in Pakistan Deeply Unpopular The C.I.A. drone strikes in tribal regions of Pakistan have cast a pall of fear over North Waziristan, an area that was once a free zone for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, forcing militants to abandon satellite phones and large gatherings in favor of communicating by courier and moving stealthily in small groups. The Pakistan military has done its best to shut down the drone campaign as relations with the United States soured after the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011 by American commandos operating deep inside Pakistan. In October 2011, drone-fired missiles were used to kill Janbaz Zadran, a ranking member of the militant Haqqani network in northwestern Pakistan, and two other militants, according to a senior U.S. official. The Haqqani network is a top threat in Afghanistan and is widely believed to have been behind the siege of the American Embassy and NATO’s headquarters in Kabul in September 2011. According to top-ranking American officials, the Haqqani network is supported by Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Relations between the two countries took another turn for the worse in November 2011 when a NATO air attack killed 26 Pakistani soldiers in strikes against two military posts at the country’s northwestern border with Afghanistan. Diplomatic relations broke off entirely until, in March 2012, both Pakistan and the United States decided to try to restart their troubled relationship. But in mainstream Pakistan, where the talk was of breached sovereignty and civilian casualties, the C.I.A. campaign remained deeply unpopular. In late March, a major parliamentary review of relations with the United States opened with calls for an end to drone strikes and an unconditional apology for an American attack on Pakistani soldiers in November 2011. The demands set a tough tone for a long-awaited debate that the United States hopes will set off a resumption of full diplomatic relations and the reopening of NATO supply lines through Pakistan. Stressing that the United States should respect Pakistani “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” the committee called on the C.I.A. to halt its drone strike campaign in the tribal belt, which has resulted in at least 265 attacks since January 2008. Unarmed Drones to Shield Diplomats In January 2012, Iraqi officials expressed outrage about the use of small fleet of surveillance drones to help protect the United States Embassy and consulates, as well as American personnel. The program foreshadows a possible expansion of unmanned drone operations into the diplomatic arm of the American government; until now they have been mainly the province of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. American contractors say they have been told that the State Department is considering fielding unarmed surveillance drones in the future in a handful of other potentially “high-threat” countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan, and in Afghanistan after the bulk of American troops leave. The State Department began operating some drones in Iraq in 2011 on a trial basis, and stepped up their use after the last American troops left Iraq taking the military drones with them. The State Department drones carry no weapons and are meant to provide data and images of possible hazards, like public protests or roadblocks, to security personnel on the ground. They are much smaller than armed drones, with wingspans as short as 18 inches, compared with 55 feet for the Predators. Commercial Drones in U.S. Skies A federal law, signed by President Obama on Feb. 14, 2012, compelled the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors — from selling real estate and dusting crops, to monitoring oil spills and wildlife, even shooting Hollywood films. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones. But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below — and what will be done with that information. Safety concerns like midair collisions and property damage on the ground are also an issue. American courts have generally permitted surveillance of private property from public airspace. But scholars of privacy law expect that the likely proliferation of drones will force Americans to re-examine how much surveillance they are comfortable with. The new law, part of a broader financing bill for the F.A.A., came after intense lobbying by drone makers and potential customers. The market for drones is valued at $5.9 billion and is expected to double in the next decade, according to industry figures. Drones can cost millions of dollars for the most sophisticated varieties to as little as $300 for one that can be piloted from an iPhone. The Obama Policy and a Legal Challenge In early March 2012, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. spoke at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago describing the Obama administration’s view that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda and if capturing them alive is not feasible. While Mr. Holder was not the first administration official to address the targeted killing of citizens, it was notable for the nation’s top law enforcement official to declare that it is constitutional for the government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances. Mr. Holder’s speech had been planned since fall 2011, when questions were first raised about the Obama administration’s legal justification for the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki a New Mexico-born radical Muslim cleric who died in an American drone strike in Yemen, along with another American citizen, Samir Khan. That policy was challenged in a lawsuit filed in July 2012 by relatives of Mr. Awlaki, Mr. Khan, and Mr. Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, also an American citizen, who was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in October 2011; the younger Mr. Awlaki was not the target of the drone. “The killings violated fundamental rights afforded to all U.S. citizens, including the right not to be deprived of life without due process of law,” the complaint said. But the new lawsuit may face other procedural impediments before it would reach any substantive ruling on whether the strikes violated the Constitution — or even a public acknowledgment that the United States government did carry them out and an explanation of the evidence and decision-making behind them. The Justice Department, which is likely to provide lawyers for the defendants, may ask a judge to dismiss the case by asserting that the evidence necessary to litigate it would disclose state secrets, or that decisions about whom to kill are “political questions” not fit for judicial review. The government asserted both arguments in the 2010 case, and the judge who dismissed that lawsuit also cited the “political question” doctrine. Even if a judge declined to dismiss the case on those grounds, the officials could assert that “qualified immunity” protected them from lawsuits alleging that they violated someone’s constitutional rights while performing official actions that did not violate “clearly established law” at the time. Method for Counting Civilian Casualties Mr. Obama has embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties. 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. Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties. His focus on strikes has made it impossible to forge, for now, the new relationship with the Muslim world that he had envisioned. Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president. Growing Need for Drone Pilots The Air Force has more than 1,300 drone pilots, about 300 less than it needs, stationed at 13 or more bases across the United States. They fly the unmanned aircraft mostly in Afghanistan. (The numbers do not include the classified program of the C.I.A., which conducts drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.) Although the Afghan war is winding down, the military expects drones to help compensate for fewer troops on the ground. By 2015, the Pentagon projects that the Air Force will need more than 2,000 drone pilots for combat air patrols operating 24 hours a day worldwide. The Air Force is already training more drone pilots — 350 last year — than fighter and bomber pilots combined. Until 2012, drone pilots went through traditional flight training before learning how to operate Predators, Reapers and unarmed Global Hawks. Now the pilots are on a fast track and spend only 40 hours in a basic Cessna-type plane before starting their drone training. Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, said it was “conceivable” that drone pilots in the Air Force would outnumber those in cockpits in the foreseeable future, although he predicted that the Air Force would have traditional pilots for at least 30 more years http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/u/unmanned_aerial_vehicles/index.html Covert War on Terror Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals February 4th, 2012 | by Chris Woods and Christina Lamb | Published in All Stories, Covert War on Terror, Drones carousel Please support our work - share this article Missiles being loaded onto a military Reaper drone in Afghanistan. The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed. The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a ‘targeted, focused effort’ that ‘has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.’ Speaking publicly for the first time on the controversial CIA drone strikes, Obama claimed last week they are used strictly to target terrorists, rejecting what he called ‘this perception we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly’. ‘Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties’, he told a questioner at an on-line forum. ‘This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans’. But research by the Bureau has found that since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts. Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama. There have been 260 attacks by unmanned Predators or Reapers in Pakistan by Obama’s administration – averaging one every four days. Because the attacks are carried out by the CIA, no information is given on the numbers killed. Administration officials insist that these covert attacks are legal. John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser, argues that the US has the right to unilaterally strike terrorists anywhere in the world, not just what he called ‘hot battlefields’. ‘Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al- Qaeda, the United States takes the legal position that, in accordance with international law, we have the authority to take action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces,’ he told a conference at Harvard Law School last year. ‘The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to”hot” battlefields like Afghanistan.’ State-sanctioned extra-judicial executions But some international law specialists fiercely disagree, arguing that the strikes amount to little more than state-sanctioned extra-judicial executions and questioning how the US government would react if another state such as China or Russia started taking such action against those they declare as enemies. Related article: A question of legality The first confirmed attack on rescuers took place in North Waziristan on May 16 2009. According to Mushtaq Yusufzai, a local journalist, Taliban militants had gathered in the village of Khaisor. After praying at the local mosque, they were preparing to cross the nearby border into Afghanistan to launch an attack on US forces. But the US struck first. Not to mince words here, if it is not in a situation of armed conflict, unless it falls into the very narrow area of imminent threat then it is an extra-judicial execution. Naz Modirzadeh, Harvard University A CIA drone fired its missiles into the Taliban group, killing at least a dozen people. Villagers joined surviving Taliban as they tried to retrieve the dead and injured. But as rescuers clambered through the demolished house the drones struck again. Two missiles slammed into the rubble, killing many more. At least 29 people died in total. ‘We lost very trained and sincere friends‘, a local Taliban commander told The News, a Pakistani newspaper. ‘Some of them were very senior Taliban commanders and had taken part in successful actions in Afghanistan. Bodies of most of them were beyond recognition.’ Related article: Witnesses speak out For the Americans the attack was a success. A surprise tactic had resulted in the deaths of many Taliban. But locals say that six ordinary villagers also died that day, identified by Bureau field researchers as Sabir, Ikram, Mohib, Zahid, Mashal and Syed Noor (most people in the area use only one name). Yusufzai, who reported on the attack, says those killed in the follow-up strike ‘were trying to pull out the bodies, to help clear the rubble, and take people to hospital.’ The impact of drone attacks on rescuers has been to scare people off, he says: ‘They’ve learnt that something will happen. No one wants to go close to these damaged building anymore.’ The legal view Naz Modirzadeh, Associate Director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University, said killing people at a rescue site may have no legal justification. ‘Not to mince words here, if it is not in a situation of armed conflict, unless it falls into the very narrow area of imminent threat then it is an extra-judicial execution’, she said. ‘We don’t even need to get to the nuance of who’s who, and are people there for rescue or not. Because each death is illegal. Each death is a murder in that case.’ Waziristan residents hold up missile fragments from drone strikes in October 2010 / Noor Behram The Khaisoor incident was not a one-off. Between May 2009 and June 2011, at least fifteen attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN, Associated Press, ABC News and Al Jazeera. It is notoriously difficult for the media to operate safely in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Both militants and the military routinely threaten journalists. Yet for three months a team of local researchers has been seeking independent confirmation of these strikes. Eyewitness accounts The researchers have found credible, independently sourced evidence of civilians killed in ten of the reported attacks on rescuers. In five other reported attacks, the researchers found no evidence of any rescuers – civilians or otherwise – killed. Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al- Qaeda, the United States takes the legal position that, in accordance with international law, we have the authority to take action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces. John Brennan, counterterrorism adviser to Obama The researchers were told by villagers that strikes on rescuers began as early as March 2008, although no media carried reports at the time. The Bureau is seeking testimony relating to nine additional incidents. Often when the US attacks militants in Pakistan, the Taliban seals off the site and retrieves the dead. But an examination of thousands of credible reports relating to CIA drone strikes also shows frequent references to civilian rescuers. Mosques often exhort villagers to come forward and help, for example – particularly following attacks that mistakenly kill civilians. Other tactics are also raising concerns. On June 23 2009 the CIA killed Khwaz Wali Mehsud, a mid-ranking Pakistan Taliban commander. They planned to use his body as bait to hook a larger fish – Baitullah Mehsud, then the notorious leader of the Pakistan Taliban. ‘A plan was quickly hatched to strike Baitullah Mehsud when he attended the man’s funeral,’ according to Washington Post national security correspondent Joby Warrick, in his recent book The Triple Agent. ‘True, the commander… happened to be very much alive as the plan took shape. But he would not be for long.’ The CIA duly killed Khwaz Wali Mehsud in a drone strike that killed at least five others. Speaking with the Bureau, Pulitzer Prize-winner Warrick confirmed what his US intelligence sources had told him: ‘The initial target was no doubt a target anyway, as it was described to me, as someone that they were interested in. And as they were planning this attack, a possible windfall from that is that it would shake Mehsud himself out of his hiding place.’ Up to 5,000 people attended Khwaz Wali Mehsud’s funeral that afternoon, including not only Taliban fighters but many civilians. US drones struck again, killing up to 83 people. As many as 45 were civilians, among them reportedly ten children and four tribal leaders. Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud escaped unharmed, dying six weeks later along with his wife in a fresh CIA attack. A funeral for victims of a US drone strike. Clive Stafford-Smith, the lawyer who heads the Anglo-US legal charity Reprieve, believes that such strikes ‘are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant.’ Christof Heyns, a South African law professor who is United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra- judicial Executions, agrees. ‘Allegations of repeat strikes coming back after half an hour when medical personnel are on the ground are very worrying’, he said. ‘To target civilians would be crimes of war.’ Heyns is calling for an investigation into the Bureau’s findings. One of the most devastating attacks took place on March 17 last year, the day after Pakistan had released American CIA contractor Raymond Davis, jailed for shooting dead two men in Lahore. Davis had been held for two months and was released after the payment of blood money said to be around $2.3m. A case of retaliation? The Agency was said to be furious at the affair. The following day when a massive drone strike killed up to 42 people gathered at a meeting in North Waziristan, Pakistani officials believed it to be retaliation. Such strikes ‘are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant. Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve The commander of Pakistan forces in the area at the time was Brigadier Abdullah Dogar. He admits that in drone attacks in general ‘people invariably get reported as innocent bystanders’. But in that case he has no doubt. ‘I was sitting there where our friends say they were targeting terrorists and I know they were innocent people’, he said. Related article: Get the Data: Obama’s terror drones The mountains in the area contain chromite mines and the ownership was disputed between two tribes, so a Jirga or tribal meeting had been called to resolve the issue. ‘We in the Pakistan military knew about the meeting’, he said, ‘we’d got the request ten days earlier.’ ‘It was held in broad daylight, people were sitting out in Nomada bus depot when the missile strikes came. Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that Jirga – they have their people attending – but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?’ ‘Drones may make tactical gains but I don’t see how there’s any strategic advantage’, he added. ‘When innocent people die, then you’re creating a whole lot more people with an issue.’ Growing tensions Drone attacks have long been a source of tension between the US and Pakistan despite the fact that the Pakistan government gave tacit agreement, even allowing them to fly from Shamsi airbase in the western province of Baluchistan, while publicly denouncing the attacks. In return the US made sure that some of the terrorists killed were those targeting Pakistan. However the relationship has been stretched to breaking point, first with the raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May and subsequent US accusations of Pakistani complicity, then the NATO bombing of a Pakistani post in November, killing 24 soldiers. In December Pakistan ordered the CIA to vacate the Shamsi base. For a while drone attacks stopped but they resumed two weeks ago. I was sitting there where our friends say they were targeting terrorists and I know they were innocent people. Brigadier Abdullah Dogar, former commander Pakistan forces The US claims the drones are a vital tool that have helped them almost wipe out the leadership of al Qaeda in Pakistan. But others point out they have stoked enormous anti-American sentiment in a country with an arsenal of 200 nuclear weapons. Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Initiative at the Brookings Institution, points out the operation has never been debated in Congress which has to approve sending US forces to war. So dramatic is the switch to unmanned war that he says the US now has 7,000 drones operating and 12,000 more on the ground, while not a single new manned combat aircraft is under research or development at any western aerospace company. After a remarkable lack of debate, there is starting to be unease in the US at the lack of transparency and accountability in the use of drones particularly as the campaign has expanded to hit targets in Libya, Yemen and Somalia and until recently to patrol the skies in Iraq. Three US citizens were killed by missiles fired from drones in Yemen last September. Anwar al Awlaqi, an alleged al Qaeda operative, was deliberately targeted in what some have described as the US government’s first ever execution of one of its own citizens without trial. His colleague and fellow citizen Samir Khan also died in the attack. Two weeks later Awlaqi’s 16 year old son Abdulrahman died in a strike on alleged al Qaeda militants. Such unmanned war is a politician’s dream, avoiding the inconvenience of sending someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, into harm’s way. The fact that the operations are carried out by the CIA rather than the US military enables the administration to evade questions. The Agency press office responds to media inquiries on the subject with no comment and refusal to give names of those killed or who are on the target list. Until Obama’s comments last week, the White House would not even confirm the programme existed. ‘We don’t discuss classified programs or comment on alleged strikes’, said a senior administration official in response to the findings presented by the Sunday Times. Lawsuit The ACLU filed a lawsuit last week demanding the Obama administration release legal and intelligence records on the killing of the three US citizens in in Yemen. Privately some senior US military officers say they are extremely uncomfortable at the way the administration is carrying out these operations using the CIA which is not covered by laws of war or the Geneva Convention. The use of drones outside a declared war zone is seen by many legal experts as setting a dangerous precedent. Aside from allies such as Israel, Britain and France, other countries have drone technology including China, Russia and Pakistan. Iran recently captured a downed US drone. Heyns, the UN rapporteur, said an international legal framework is urgently needed to govern their use. ‘Our concern is how far does it go – will the whole world be a theatre of war?’ he asked. ‘Drones in principle allow collateral damage to be minimised but because they can be used without danger to a country’s own troops they tend to be used more widely. One doesn’t want to use the term ticking bomb but it’s extremely seductive.’ Additional reporting by Rahimullah Yusufzai in Peshawar, Pakistan Christina Lamb is the Washington Bureau Chief of the Sunday Times Sign up for email alerts from the Bureau here. http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/02/04/obama-terror-drones-cia-tactics-in-pakistan- include-targeting-rescuers-and-funerals/ Text of John Brennan’s Speech on Drone Strikes Today at the Wilson Center By Robert Chesney Monday, April 30, 2012 at 12:50 PM THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary ______________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________ __________ EMBARGOED UNTIL DELIVERY April 30, 2012 Remarks of John O. Brennan – As Prepared for Delivery Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Washington, DC Monday, April 30, 2012 “The Ethics and Efficacy of the President’s Counterterrorism Strategy” As Prepared for Delivery – Thank you, Jane, for your very kind introduction and for your leadership, here at the Woodrow Wilson Center and in your decades of public service. Few individuals can match the range of Jane Harman’s expertise—from the armed services to intelligence to homeland security. And anyone who ever appeared before her committees knew it. So Jane, I’ll just say that I’m finally glad to be sharing the stage with you instead of testifying before you. To you and everyone here at the Woodrow Wilson Center, thank you for your invaluable contributions—your research, your scholarship—which help further our national security every day. I very much appreciate this opportunity to discuss President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy, in particular, its ethics and efficacy. It is fitting that we have this discussion here at the Woodrow Wilson Center. It was here in August 2007 that then-Senator Obama described how he would bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end and refocus our efforts on “the war that has to be won”—the war against al- Qa’ida, particularly in the tribal regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said that we would carry on this fight while upholding our laws and our values and that he would work with allies and partners whenever possible. But he also made it clear that he would not hesitate to use military force against terrorists who pose a direct threat to America. And he said that if he had actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets, including in Pakistan, he would act to protect the American people. So it is especially fitting that we have this discussion today. One year ago today, President Obama faced the scenario that he discussed here at the Wilson Center five years ago, and he did not hesitate to act. Soon thereafter, our Special Operations Forces were moving toward that compound in Pakistan where we believed Usama bin Laden might be hiding. By the end of the next day, President Obama could confirm that justice had finally been delivered to the terrorist responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001, and for so many other deaths around the world. The death of bin Laden was our most strategic blow yet against al-Qa’ida. Credit for that success belongs to the courageous forces who carried out that mission, at extraordinary risk to their lives; to the many intelligence professionals who pieced together the clues that led to bin Laden’s hideout; and to President Obama, who gave the order to go in. One year later, it’s appropriate to assess where we stand in this fight. We’ve always been clear that the end of bin Laden would neither mark the end of al-Qa’ida, nor our resolve to destroy it. So along with allies and partners, we’ve been unrelenting. And when we assess the al-Qa’ida of 2012, I think it is fair to say that, as a result of our efforts, the United States is more secure and the American people are safer. Here’s why. In Pakistan, al-Qa’ida’s leadership ranks have continued to suffer heavy losses. This includes Ilyas Kashmiri, one of al-Qa’ida’s top operational planners, killed a month after bin Laden. It includes Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, killed when he succeeded Ayman al-Zawahiri as al-Qa’ida’s deputy leader. It includes Younis al-Mauritani, a planner of attacks against the United States and Europe—until he was captured by Pakistani forces. With its most skilled and experienced commanders being lost so quickly, al-Qa’ida has had trouble replacing them. This is one of the many conclusions we have been able to draw from documents seized at bin Laden’s compound, some of which will be published online, for the first time, this week by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center. For example, bin Laden worried about—and I quote—“the rise of lower leaders who are not as experienced and this would lead to the repeat of mistakes.” Al-Qa’ida leaders continue to struggle to communicate with subordinates and affiliates. Under intense pressure in the tribal regions of Pakistan, they have fewer places to train and groom the next generation of operatives. They’re struggling to attract new recruits. Morale is low, with intelligence indicating that some members are giving up and returning home, no doubt aware that this is a fight they will never win. In short, al-Qa’ida is losing, badly. And bin Laden knew it. In documents we seized, he confessed to “disaster after disaster.” He even urged his leaders to flee the tribal regions, and go to places, “away from aircraft photography and bombardment.” For all these reasons, it is harder than ever for the al-Qa’ida core in Pakistan to plan and execute large-scale, potentially catastrophic attacks against our homeland. Today, it is increasingly clear that—compared to 9/11—the core al-Qa’ida leadership is a shadow of its former self. Al-Qa’ida has been left with just a handful of capable leaders and operatives, and with continued pressure is on the path to its destruction. And for the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al-Qa’ida core is simply no longer relevant. Nevertheless, the dangerous threat from al-Qa’ida has not disappeared. As the al-Qa’ida core falters, it continues to look to its affiliates and adherents to carry on its murderous cause. Yet these affiliates continue to lose key commanders and capabilities as well. In Somalia, it is indeed worrying to witness al-Qa’ida’s merger with al-Shabaab, whose ranks include foreign fighters, some with U.S. passports. At the same time, al-Shabaab continues to focus primarily on launching regional attacks, and ultimately, this is a merger between two organizations in decline. In Yemen, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, continues to feel the effects of the death last year of Anwar al-Awlaki, its leader of external operations who was responsible for planning and directing terrorist attacks against the United States. Nevertheless, AQAP continues to be al-Qa’ida’s most active affiliate, and it continues to seek the opportunity to strike our homeland. We therefore continue to support the government of Yemen in its efforts against AQAP, which is being forced to fight for the territory it needs to plan attacks beyond Yemen. In North and West Africa, another al-Qa’ida affiliate, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, continues its efforts to destabilize regional governments and engages in kidnapping of Western citizens for ransom activities designed to fund its terrorist agenda. And in Nigeria, we are monitoring closely the emergence of Boko Haram, a group that appears to be aligning itself with al-Qa’ida’s violent agenda and is increasingly looking to attack Western interests in Nigeria in addition to Nigerian government targets. More broadly, al-Qa’ida’s killing of innocents—mostly Muslim men, women and children—has badly tarnished its image and appeal in the eyes of Muslims around the world. Even bin Laden and his lieutenants knew this. His propagandist, Adam Gadahn, admitted that they were now seen “as a group that does not hesitate to take people’s money by falsehood, detonating mosques, [and] spilling the blood of scores of people.” Bin Laden agreed that “a large portion” of Muslims around the world “have lost their trust” in al-Qa’ida. So damaged is al-Qa’ida’s image that bin Laden even considered changing its name. And one of the reasons? As bin Laden said himself, U.S. officials “have largely stopped using the phrase ‘the war on terror’ in the context of not wanting to provoke Muslims.” Simply calling them al-Qa’ida, bin Laden said, “reduces the feeling of Muslims that we belong to them.” To which I would add, that is because al-Qa’ida does not belong to Muslims. Al-Qa’ida is the antithesis of the peace, tolerance and humanity that is at the heart of Islam. Despite the great progress we’ve made against al-Qa’ida, it would be a mistake to believe this threat has passed. Al-Qa’ida and its associated forces still have the intent to attack the United States. And we have seen lone individuals, including American citizens—often inspired by al- Qa’ida’s murderous ideology—kill innocent Americans and seek to do us harm. Still, the damage that has been inflicted on the leadership core in Pakistan, combined with how al-Qa’ida has alienated itself from so much of the world, allows us to look forward. Indeed, if the decade before 9/11 was the time of al-Qa’ida’s rise, and the decade after 9/11 was the time of its decline, then I believe this decade will be the one that sees its demise. This progress is no accident. It is a direct result of intense efforts over more than a decade, across two administrations, across the U.S. government and in concert with allies and partners. This includes the comprehensive counterterrorism strategy being directed by President Obama, a strategy guided by the President’s highest responsibility—to protect the safety and security of the American people. In this fight, we are harnessing every element of American power—intelligence, military, diplomatic, development, economic, financial, law enforcement, homeland security and the power of our values, including our commitment to the rule of law. That’s why, for instance, in his first days in office, President Obama banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which are not needed to keep our country safe. Staying true to our values as a nation also includes upholding the transparency upon which our democracy depends. A few months after taking office, the President travelled to the National Archives where he discussed how national security requires a delicate balance between secrecy and transparency. He pledged to share as much information as possible with the American people “so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable.” He has consistently encouraged those of us on his national security team to be as open and candid as possible as well. Earlier this year, Attorney General Holder discussed how our counterterrorism efforts are rooted in, and are strengthened by, adherence to the law, including the legal authorities that allow us to pursue members of al-Qa’ida—including U.S. citizens—and to do so using “technologically advanced weapons.” In addition, Jeh Johnson, the general counsel at the Department of Defense, has addressed the legal basis for our military efforts against al-Qa’ida. Stephen Preston, the general counsel at the CIA, has discussed how the Agency operates under U.S. law. These speeches build on a lecture two years ago by Harold Koh, the State Department Legal Adviser, who noted that “U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.” Given these efforts, I venture to say that the United States government has never been so open regarding its counterterrorism policies and their legal justification. Still, there continues to be considerable public and legal debate surrounding these technologies and how they are sometimes used in our fight against al-Qa’ida. Now, I want to be very clear. In the course of the war in Afghanistan and the fight against al- Qa’ida, I think the American people expect us to use advanced technologies, for example, to prevent attacks on U.S. forces and to remove terrorists from the battlefield. We do, and it has saved the lives of our men and women in uniform. What has clearly captured the attention of many, however, is a different practice, beyond hot battlefields like Afghanistan—identifying specific members of al-Qa’ida and then targeting them with lethal force, often using aircraft remotely operated by pilots who can be hundreds if not thousands of miles away. This is what I want to focus on today. Jack Goldsmith—a former assistant attorney general in the administration of George W. Bush and now a professor at Harvard Law School—captured the situation well. He wrote: The government needs a way to credibly convey to the public that its decisions about who is being targeted — especially when the target is a U.S. citizen — are sound…. First, the government can and should tell us more about the process by which it reaches its high-value targeting decisions…The more the government tells us about the eyeballs on the issue and the robustness of the process, the more credible will be its claims about the accuracy of its factual determinations and the soundness of its legal ones. All of this information can be disclosed in some form without endangering critical intelligence. Well, President Obama agrees. And that is why I am here today. I stand here as someone who has been involved with our nation’s security for more than thirty years. I have a profound appreciation for the truly remarkable capabilities of our counterterrorism professionals—and our relationships with other nations—and we must never compromise them. I will not discuss the sensitive details of any specific operation today. I will not, nor will I ever, publicly divulge sensitive intelligence sources and methods. For when that happens, our national security is endangered and lives can be lost. At the same time, we reject the notion that any discussion of these matters is to step onto a slippery slope that inevitably endangers our national security. Too often, that fear can become an excuse for saying nothing at all—which creates a void that is then filled with myths and falsehoods. That, in turn, can erode our credibility with the American people and with foreign partners, and it can undermine the public’s understanding and support for our efforts. In contrast, President Obama believes that—done carefully, deliberately and responsibly—we can be more transparent and still ensure our nation’s security. So let me say it as simply as I can. Yes, in full accordance with the law—and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives—the United States Government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qa’ida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. And I’m here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts. Broadly speaking, the debate over strikes targeted at individual members of al-Qa’ida has centered on their legality, their ethics, the wisdom of using them, and the standards by which they are approved. With the remainder of my time today, I would like to address each of these in turn. First, these targeted strikes are legal. Attorney General Holder, Harold Koh and Jeh Johnson have all addressed this question at length. To briefly recap, as a matter of domestic law, the Constitution empowers the President to protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack. The Authorization for Use of Military Force—the AUMF—passed by Congress after the September 11th attacks authorizes the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against those nations, organizations and individuals responsible for 9/11. There is nothing in the AUMF that restricts the use of military force against al-Qa’ida to Afghanistan. As a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces, in response to the 9/11 attacks, and we may also use force consistent with our inherent right of national self-defense. There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat. Second, targeted strikes are ethical. Without question, the ability to target a specific individual— from hundreds or thousands of miles away—raises profound questions. Here, I think it’s useful to consider such strikes against the basic principles of the law of war that govern the use of force. Targeted strikes conform to the principle of necessity—the requirement that the target have definite military value. In this armed conflict, individuals who are part of al-Qa’ida or its associated forces are legitimate military targets. We have the authority to target them with lethal force just as we targeted enemy leaders in past conflicts, such as German and Japanese commanders during World War II. Targeted strikes conform to the principle of distinction—the idea that only military objectives may be intentionally targeted and that civilians are protected from being intentionally targeted. With the unprecedented ability of remotely piloted aircraft to precisely target a military objective while minimizing collateral damage, one could argue that never before has there been a weapon that allows us to distinguish more effectively between an al-Qa’ida terrorist and innocent civilians. Targeted strikes conform to the principle of proportionality—the notion that the anticipated collateral damage of an action cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage. By targeting an individual terrorist or small numbers of terrorists with ordnance that can be adapted to avoid harming others in the immediate vicinity, it is hard to imagine a tool that can better minimize the risk to civilians than remotely piloted aircraft. For the same reason, targeted strikes conform to the principle of humanity which requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering. For all these reasons, I suggest to you that these targeted strikes against al-Qa’ida terrorists are indeed ethical and just. Of course, even if a tool is legal and ethical, that doesn’t necessarily make it appropriate or advisable in a given circumstance. This brings me to my next point. Targeted strikes are wise. Remotely piloted aircraft in particular can be a wise choice because of geography, with their ability to fly hundreds of miles over the most treacherous terrain, strike their targets with astonishing precision, and then return to base. They can be a wise choice because of time, when windows of opportunity can close quickly and there may be just minutes to act. They can be a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to U.S. personnel, even eliminating the danger altogether. Yet they are also a wise choice because they dramatically reduce the danger to innocent civilians, especially considered against massive ordinance that can cause injury and death far beyond its intended target. In addition, compared against other options, a pilot operating this aircraft remotely —with the benefit of technology and with the safety of distance—might actually have a clearer picture of the target and its surroundings, including the presence of innocent civilians. It’s this surgical precision—the ability, with laser-like focus, to eliminate the cancerous tumor called an al-Qa’ida terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it—that makes this counterterrorism tool so essential. There’s another reason that targeted strikes can be a wise choice—the strategic consequences that inevitably come with the use of force. As we’ve seen, deploying large armies abroad won’t always be our best offense. Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns. In fact, large, intrusive military deployments risk playing into al-Qa’ida’s strategy of trying to draw us into long, costly wars that drain us financially, inflame anti-American resentment and inspire the next generation of terrorists. In comparison, there is the precision of targeted strikes. I acknowledge that we—as a government—along with our foreign partners, can and must do a better job of addressing the mistaken belief among some foreign publics that we engage in these strikes casually, as if we are simply unwilling to expose U.S forces to the dangers faced every day by people in those regions. For, as I’ll describe today, there is absolutely nothing casual about the extraordinary care we take in making the decision to pursue an al-Qa’ida terrorist, and the lengths to which we go to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life. Still, there is no more consequential a decision than deciding whether to use lethal force against another human being—even a terrorist dedicated to killing American citizens. So in order to ensure that our counterterrorism operations involving the use of lethal force are legal, ethical and wise, President Obama has demanded that we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards and processes. This reflects his approach to broader questions regarding the use of force. In his speech in Oslo accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said that “all nations, strong and weak alike, must adhere to standards that govern the use of force.” And he added: Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. The United States is the first nation to regularly conduct strikes using remotely piloted aircraft in an armed conflict. Other nations also possess this technology. Many more nations are seeking it, and more will succeed in acquiring it. President Obama and those of us on his national security team are very mindful that as our nation uses this technology, we are establishing precedents that other nations may follow, and not all of them will be nations that share our interests or the premium we put on protecting human life, including innocent civilians. If we want other nations to use these technologies responsibly, we must use them responsibly. If we want other nations to adhere to high and rigorous standards for their use, then we must do so as well. We cannot expect of others what we will not do ourselves. President Obama has therefore demanded that we hold ourselves to the highest possible standards—that, at every step, we be as thorough and deliberate as possible. This leads me to the final point I want to discuss today — the rigorous standards and process of review to which we hold ourselves today when considering and authorizing strikes against a specific member of al-Qa’ida outside the “hot” battlefield of Afghanistan. What I hope to do is to give you a general sense, in broad terms, of the high bar we require ourselves to meet when making these profound decisions today. That includes not only whether a specific member of al- Qa’ida can legally be pursued with lethal force, but also whether he should be. Over time, we’ve worked to refine, clarify, and strengthen this process and our standards, and we continue to do so. If our counterterrorism professionals assess, for example, that a suspected member of al-Qa’ida poses such a threat to the United States as to warrant lethal action, they may raise that individual’s name for consideration. The proposal will go through a careful review and, as appropriate, will be evaluated by the very most senior officials in our government for decision. First and foremost, the individual must be a legitimate target under the law. Earlier, I described how the use of force against members of al-Qa’ida is authorized under both international and U.S. law, including both the inherent right of national self-defense and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which courts have held extends to those who are part of al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces. If, after a legal review, we determine that the individual is not a lawful target, end of discussion. We are a nation of laws, and we will always act within the bounds of the law. Of course, the law only establishes the outer limits of the authority in which counterterrorism professionals can operate. Even if we determine that it is lawful to pursue the terrorist in question with lethal force, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should. There are, after all, literally thousands of individuals who are part of al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, or associated forces—thousands. Even if it were possible, going after every single one of these individuals with lethal force would neither be wise nor an effective use of our intelligence and counterterrorism resources. As a result, we have to be strategic. Even if it is lawful to pursue a specific member of al-Qa’ida, we ask ourselves whether that individual’s activities rise to a certain threshold for action, and whether taking action will, in fact, enhance our security. For example, when considering lethal force we ask ourselves whether the individual poses a significant threat to U.S. interests. This is absolutely critical, and it goes to the very essence of why we take this kind of exceptional action. We do not engage in lethal action in order to eliminate every single member of al-Qa’ida in the world. Most times, and as we have done for more than a decade, we rely on cooperation with other countries that are also interested in removing these terrorists with their own capabilities and within their own laws. Nor is lethal action about punishing terrorists for past crimes; we are not seeking vengeance. Rather, we conduct targeted strikes because they are necessary to mitigate an actual ongoing threat — to stop plots, prevent future attacks, and save American lives. And what do we mean by a significant threat? I am not referring to some hypothetical threat— the mere possibility that a member of al-Qa’ida might try to attack us at some point in the future. A significant threat might be posed by an individual who is an operational leader of al-Qa’ida or one of its associated forces. Or perhaps the individual is himself an operative—in the midst of actually training for or planning to carry out attacks against U.S. interests. Or perhaps the individual possesses unique operational skills that are being leveraged in a planned attack. The purpose of a strike against a particular individual is to stop him before he can carry out his attack and kill innocents. The purpose is to disrupt his plots and plans before they come to fruition. In addition, our unqualified preference is to only undertake lethal force when we believe that capturing the individual is not feasible. I have heard it suggested that the Obama Administration somehow prefers killing al-Qa’ida members rather than capturing them. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is our preference to capture suspected terrorists whenever feasible. For one reason, this allows us to gather valuable intelligence that we might not be able to obtain any other way. In fact, the members of al-Qa’ida that we or other nations have captured have been one of our greatest sources of information about al-Qa’ida, its plans, and its intentions. And once in U.S. custody, we often can prosecute them in our federal courts or reformed military commissions—both of which are used for gathering intelligence and preventing terrorist attacks. You see our preference for capture in the case of Ahmed Warsame, a member of al-Shabaab who had significant ties to al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula. Last year, when we learned that he would be traveling from Yemen to Somalia, U.S. forces captured him in route and we subsequently charged him in federal court. The reality, however, is that since 2001 such unilateral captures by U.S. forces outside of “hot” battlefields, like Afghanistan, have been exceedingly rare. This is due in part to the fact that in many parts of the world our counterterrorism partners have been able to capture or kill dangerous individuals themselves. Moreover, after being subjected to more than a decade of relentless pressure, al-Qa’ida’s ranks have dwindled and scattered. These terrorists are skilled at seeking remote, inhospitable terrain— places where the United States and our partners simply do not have the ability to arrest or capture them. At other times, our forces might have the ability to attempt capture, but only by putting the lives of our personnel at too great a risk. Often times, attempting capture could subject civilians to unacceptable risks. There are many reasons why capture might not be feasible, in which case lethal force might be the only remaining option to address the threat and prevent an attack. Finally, when considering lethal force we are of course mindful that there are important checks on our ability to act unilaterally in foreign territories. We do not use force whenever we want, wherever we want. International legal principles, including respect for a state’s sovereignty and the laws of war, impose constraints. The United States of America respects national sovereignty and international law. Those are some of the questions we consider; the high standards we strive to meet. And in the end, we make a decision—we decide whether a particular member of al-Qa’ida warrants being pursued in this manner. Given the stakes involved and the consequence of our decision, we consider all the information available to us, carefully, responsibly. We review the most up-to-date intelligence, drawing on the full range of our intelligence capabilities. And we do what sound intelligence demands—we challenge it, we question it, including any assumptions on which it might be based. If we want to know more, we may ask the Intelligence Community to go back and collect additional intelligence or refine its analysis so that a more informed decision can be made. We listen to departments and agencies across our national security team. We don’t just hear out differing views, we ask for them and encourage them. We discuss. We debate. We disagree. We consider the advantages and disadvantages of taking action. We also carefully consider the costs of inaction and whether a decision not to carry out a strike could allow a terrorist attack to proceed and potentially kill scores of innocents. Nor do we limit ourselves narrowly to counterterrorism considerations. We consider the broader strategic implications of any action, including what effect, if any, an action might have on our relationships with other countries. And we don’t simply make a decision and never revisit it again. Quite the opposite. Over time, we refresh the intelligence and continue to consider whether lethal force is still warranted. In some cases—such as senior al-Qa’ida leaders who are directing and planning attacks against the United States—the individual clearly meets our standards for taking action. In other cases, individuals have not met our standards. Indeed, there have been numerous occasions where, after careful review, we have, working on a consensus basis, concluded that lethal force was not justified in a given case. Finally, as the President’s counterterrorism advisor, I feel that it is important for the American people to know that these efforts are overseen with extraordinary care and thoughtfulness. The President expects us to address all of the tough questions I have discussed today. Is capture really not feasible? Is this individual a significant threat to U.S. interests? Is this really the best option? Have we thought through the consequences, especially any unintended ones? Is this really going to help protect our country from further attacks? Is it going to save lives? Our commitment to upholding the ethics and efficacy of this counterterrorism tool continues even after we decide to pursue a specific terrorist in this way. For example, we only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing. This is a very high bar. Of course, how we identify an individual naturally involves intelligence sources and methods, which I will not discuss. Suffice it to say, our Intelligence Community has multiple ways to determine, with a high degree of confidence, that the individual being targeted is indeed the al-Qa’ida terrorist we are seeking. In addition, we only authorize a strike if we have a high degree of confidence that innocent civilians will not be injured or killed, except in the rarest of circumstances. The unprecedented advances we have made in technology provide us greater proximity to targets for a longer period of time, and as a result allow us to better understand what is happening in real time on the ground in ways that were previously impossible. We can be much more discriminating and we can make more informed judgments about factors that might contribute to collateral damage. I can tell you today that there have indeed been occasions when we have decided against conducting a strike in order to avoid the injury or death of innocent civilians. This reflects our commitment to doing everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties—even if it means having to come back another day to take out that terrorist, as we have done. And I would note that these standards—for identifying a target and avoiding the loss of innocent civilians—exceed what is required as a matter of international law on a typical battlefield. That’s another example of the high standards to which we hold ourselves. Our commitment to ensuring accuracy and effectiveness continues even after a strike. In the wake of a strike, we harness the full range of our intelligence capabilities to assess whether the mission in fact achieved its objective. We try to determine whether there was any collateral damage, including civilian deaths. There is, of course, no such thing as a perfect weapon, and remotely piloted aircraft are no exception. As the President and others have acknowledged, there have indeed been instances when—despite the extraordinary precautions we take—civilians have been accidently injured, or worse, killed in these strikes. It is exceedingly rare, but it has happened. When it does, it pains us and we regret it deeply, as we do any time innocents are killed in war. And when this happens we take it seriously. We go back and review our actions. We examine our practices. And we constantly work to improve and refine our efforts so that we are doing everything in our power to prevent the loss of innocent life. This too is a reflection of our values as Americans. Ensuring the ethics and efficacy of these strikes also includes regularly informing appropriate members of Congress and the committees who have oversight of our counterterrorism programs. Indeed, our counterterrorism programs—including the use of lethal force—have grown more effective over time because of congressional oversight and our ongoing dialogue with Members and staff. This is the seriousness, the extraordinary care, that President Obama and those of us on his national security team bring to this weightiest of questions—whether to pursue lethal force against a terrorist who is plotting to attack our country. When that person is a U.S. citizen, we ask ourselves additional questions. Attorney General Holder has already described the legal authorities that clearly allow us to use lethal force against an American citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida. He has discussed the thorough and careful review, including all relevant constitutional considerations, that is to be undertaken by the U.S. government when determining whether the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States. To recap, the standards and processes I’ve described today—which we have refined and strengthened over time—reflect our commitment to: ensuring the individual is a legitimate target under the law; determining whether the individual poses a significant threat to U.S. interests; determining that capture is not feasible; being mindful of the important checks on our ability to act unilaterally in foreign territories; having that high degree of confidence, both in the identity of the target and that innocent civilians will not be harmed; and, of course, engaging in additional review if the al-Qa’ida terrorist is a U.S. citizen. Going forward, we’ll continue to strengthen and refine these standards and processes. As we do, we’ll look to institutionalize our approach more formally so that the high standards we set for ourselves endure over time, including as an example for other nations that pursue these capabilities. As the President said at Oslo, in the conduct of war, America must be the standard bearer. This includes our continuing commitment to greater transparency. With that in mind, I have made a sincere effort today to address some of the main questions that citizens and scholars have raised regarding the use of targeted lethal force against al-Qa’ida. I suspect there are those, perhaps some in this audience, who feel we have not been transparent enough. I suspect there are those—both inside and outside our government—who feel I have been perhaps too open. If both groups feel a little unsatisfied, then I’ve probably struck the right balance. Again, there are some lines we simply will not and cannot cross because, at times, our national security demands secrecy. But we are a democracy. The people are sovereign. And our counterterrorism tools do not exist in a vacuum. They are stronger and more sustainable when the American people understand and support them. They are weaker and less sustainable when the American people do not. As a result of my remarks today, I hope the American people have a better understanding of this critical tool—why we use it, what we do, how carefully we use it, and why it is absolutely essential to protecting our country and our citizens. I would just like to close on a personal note. I know that for many people—in our government and across the country—the issue of targeted strikes raised profound moral questions. It forces us to confront deeply held personal beliefs and our values as a nation. If anyone in government who works in this area tells you they haven’t struggled with this, then they haven’t spent much time thinking about it. I know I have, and I will continue to struggle with it as long as I remain involved in counterterrorism. But I am certain about one thing. We are at war. We are at war against a terrorist organization called al-Qa’ida that has brutally murdered thousands of Americans—men, women and children—as well as thousands of other innocent people around the world. In recent years, with the help of targeted strikes we have turned al-Qa’ida into a shadow of what it once was. They are on the road to destruction. Until that finally happens, however, there are still terrorists in hard-to-reach places who are actively planning attacks against us. If given the chance, they will gladly strike again and kill more of our citizens. And the President has a Constitutional and solemn obligation to do everything in his power to protect the safety and security of the American people. Yes, war is hell. It is awful. It involves human beings killing other human beings, sometimes innocent civilians. That is why we despise war. That is why we want this war against al-Qa’ida to be over as soon as possible, and not a moment longer. And over time, as al-Qa’ida fades into history and as our partners grow stronger, I’d hope that the United States would have to rely less on lethal force to keep our country safe. Until that happens, as President Obama said here five years ago, if another nation cannot or will not take action, we will. And it is an unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives—the lives of terrorists who seek to murder our fellow citizens. On behalf of President Obama and his administration, I am here to say to the American people that we will continue to work to safeguard this Nation and its citizens responsibly, adhering to the laws of this land and staying true to the values that define us as Americans. Thank you very much. ### http://www.lawfareblog.com/2012/04/brennanspeech/ C.I.A. to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan By SCOTT SHANE Published: December 3, 2009 WASHINGTON — Two weeks ago in Pakistan, Central Intelligence Agency sharpshooters killed eight people suspected of being militants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and wounded two others in a compound that was said to be used for terrorist training. Enlarge This Image Dawn Newspaper, via Reuters Baitullah Mehsud, right, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in 2005. He was killed by a remotely piloted drone aircraft. Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era. Go to the Blog » Multimedia Graphic Missile Strikes Inside the Tribal Areas Related Clinton to Press NATO Allies on Afghanistan Effort (December 4, 2009) Italy May Add 1,000 Extra Troops in Afghanistan (December 4, 2009) Afghans See Sharp Shift in U.S. Tone (December 4, 2009) Gates Says Afghan Drawdown Timing Is Flexible (December 4, 2009) At War: The More Things Change.... Enlarge This Image Fareed Khan/Associated Press Internally displaced people from Pakistan’s troubled Swat valley read about the death of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in Karachi, Pakistan. Then, the job in North Waziristan done, the C.I.A. officers could head home from the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters, facing only the hazards of the area’s famously snarled suburban traffic. It was only the latest strike by the agency’s covert program to kill operatives of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their allies using Hellfire missiles fired from Predator aircraft controlled from half a world away. The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide. By increasing covert pressure on Al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan, while ground forces push back the Taliban’s advances in Afghanistan, American officials hope to eliminate any haven for militants in the region. One of Washington’s worst-kept secrets, the drone program is quietly hailed by counterterrorism officials as a resounding success, eliminating key terrorists and throwing their operations into disarray. But despite close cooperation from Pakistani intelligence, the program has generated public anger in Pakistan, and some counterinsurgency experts wonder whether it does more harm than good. Assessments of the drone campaign have relied largely on sketchy reports in the Pakistani press, and some have estimated several hundred civilian casualties. Saying that such numbers are wrong, one government official agreed to speak about the program on the condition of anonymity. About 80 missile attacks from drones in less than two years have killed “more than 400” enemy fighters, the official said, offering a number lower than most estimates but in the same range. His account of collateral damage, however, was strikingly lower than many unofficial counts: “We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists.” That claim, which the official said reflected the Predators’ ability to loiter over a target feeding video images for hours before and after a strike, is likely to come under scrutiny from human rights advocates. Tom Parker, policy director for counterterrorism at Amnesty International, said he found the estimate “unlikely,” noting that reassessments of strikes in past wars had usually found civilian deaths undercounted. Mr. Parker said his group was uneasy about drone attacks anyway: “Anything that dehumanizes the process makes it easier to pull the trigger.” Yet with few other tools to use against Al Qaeda, the drone program has enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress and was escalated by the Obama administration in January. More C.I.A. drone attacks have been conducted under President Obama than under President George W. Bush. The political consensus in support of the drone program, its antiseptic, high- tech appeal and its secrecy have obscured just how radical it is. For the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for killing in a country where the United States is not officially at war. In the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, C.I.A. officials were not eager to embrace killing terrorists from afar with video-game controls, said one former intelligence official. “There was also a lot of reluctance at Langley to get into a lethal program like this,” the official said. But officers grew comfortable with the program as they checked off their hit list more than a dozen notorious figures, including Abu Khabab al-Masri, a Qaeda expert on explosives; Rashid Rauf, accused of being the planner of the 2006 trans-Atlantic airliner plot; and Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The drone warfare pioneered by the C.I.A. in Pakistan and the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan is the leading edge of a wave of push-button combat that will raise legal, moral and political questions around the world, said P. W. Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and author of the book “Wired for War.” Forty-four countries have unmanned aircraft for surveillance, Mr. Singer said. So far, only the United States and Israel have used the planes for strikes, but that number will grow. “We’re talking about a technology that’s not going away,” he said. There is little doubt that “warheads on foreheads,” in the macho lingo of intelligence officers, have been disruptive to the militants in Pakistan, removing leaders and fighters, slowing movement and sowing dissension as survivors hunt for spies who may be tipping off the Americans. Yet the drones are unpopular with many Pakistanis, who see them as a violation of their country’s sovereignty — one reason the United States refuses to officially acknowledge the attacks. A poll by Gallup Pakistan last summer found only 9 percent of Pakistanis in favor of the attacks and 67 percent against, with a majority ranking the United States as a greater threat to Pakistan than its archrival, India, or the Pakistani Taliban. Interestingly, residents of the tribal areas where the attacks actually occur, who bitterly resent the militants’ brutal rule, are far less critical of the drones, said Farhat Taj, an anthropologist with the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. A study of 550 professional people living in the tribal areas was conducted late last year by the institute, a Pakistani research group. About half of those interviewed called the drone strikes “accurate,” 6 in 10 said they damaged militant organizations, and almost as many denied they increased anti-Americanism. Dr. Taj, who lived at the edge of the tribal areas until 2002, said residents would prefer to be protected by the Pakistani Army. “But they feel powerless toward the militants and they see the drones as their liberator,” she said. In an interview this week with the German magazine Der Spiegel, the Pakistani prime minister, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, said the drone strikes “do no good, because they boost anti-American resentment throughout the country.” American officials say that despite such public comments, Pakistan privately supplies crucial intelligence, proposes targets and allows the Predators to take off from a base in Baluchistan. Pakistan’s public criticism of the drone attacks has muddied the legal status of the strikes, which United States officials say are justified as defensive measures against groups that have vowed to attack Americans. Philip Alston, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions and a prominent critic of the program, has said it is impossible to judge whether the program violates international law without knowing whether Pakistan permits the incursions, how targets are selected and what is done to minimize civilian casualties. A spokesman for the C.I.A., Paul Gimigliano, defended the program without quite acknowledging its existence. “While the C.I.A. does not comment on reports of Predator operations, the tools we use in the fight against Al Qaeda and its violent allies are exceptionally accurate, precise and effective,” he said. “Press reports suggesting that hundreds of Pakistani civilians have somehow been killed as a result of alleged or supposed U.S. activities are — to state what should be obvious under any circumstances — flat-out false.” From 2004 to 2007, the C.I.A. carried out only a handful of strikes. But pressure from the Congressional intelligence committees, greater confidence in the technology and reduced resistance from Pakistan led to a sharp increase starting in the summer of 2008. Former C.I.A. officials say there is a rigorous protocol for identifying militants, using video from the Predators, intercepted cellphone calls and tips from Pakistani intelligence, often originating with militants’ resentful neighbors. Operators at C.I.A. headquarters can use the drones’ video feed to study a militant’s identity and follow fighters to training areas or weapons caches, officials say. Targeters often can see where wives and children are located in a compound or wait until fighters drive away from a house or village before they are hit. Mr. Mehsud’s wife and parents-in-law were killed with him, but that was an exceptional decision prompted by the rare chance to attack him, the official said. The New America Foundation, a policy group in Washington, studied press reports and estimated that since 2006 at least 500 militants and 250 civilians had been killed in the drone strikes. A separate count, by The Long War Journal, found 885 militants’ deaths and 94 civilians’. But the government official insisted on the accuracy of his far lower figure of approximately 20 civilian deaths, noting that the Pakistani press rarely reported local protests about civilian deaths, routine occurrences when bombs in Afghanistan have gone astray. Daniel S. Markey, who studies South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the comments of two anti-Taliban tribal leaders he spoke with on a recent trip to Pakistan seemed to capture the paradox of the drones. The tribal leaders told him that the strikes were eliminating dangerous militants while causing few civilian deaths. But they pleaded for a halt to the attacks, saying the strikes stirred up anger toward the United States and the Pakistani Army, and “made them look like puppets,” he said. “It gave the lie,” Mr. Markey said, “to the argument we’ve made for a long time: that this fight is theirs, too.” More Articles in World »A version of this article appeared in print on December 4, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/world/asia/04drones.html?pagewanted=all A MEASURE OF CHANGE Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will Pete Souza/The White House President Obama in the Oval Office with Thomas E. Donilon, left, the national security adviser, and John O. Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser. By JO BECKER and SCOTT SHANE Published: May 29, 2012 1208 Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ E-mail Share Print Reprints WASHINGTON — This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years. A Measure of Change The Shadow War This is the third article in a series assessing President Obama’s record. Previous Articles in This Series » Multimedia Graphic Striking Al Qaeda Assessing Obama’s Counterterrorism Record Excerpts of remarks from some of nearly 40 current and former officials who had direct knowledge about the United States’ classified counterterrorism efforts. Interview Excerpts » Related Top U.S. Security Official Says ‘Rigorous Standards’ Are Used for Drone Strikes(May 1, 2012) Assessing Obama’s Counterterrorism Record(May 29, 2012) U.S. Relaxes Limits on Use of Data in Terror Analysis(March 23, 2012) U.S. Law May Allow Killings, Holder Says(March 6, 2012) Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen(October 9, 2011) C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks on Taliban in Pakistan(September 28, 2010) Drones Batter Al Qaeda and Its Allies Within Pakistan(April 5, 2010) Related in Opinion Editorial: Too Much Power for a President(May 31, 2012) Taking Note: President Obama’s Kill List(May 29, 2012) Connect With Us on Twitter Follow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines. Twitter List: Reporters and Editors Enlarge This Image Pool photo by Brennan Linsley picture of President eor e ush is replaced with one of President bama at uant namo ay uba Enlarge This Image Ishtiaq Mehsud/Associated Press A house destroyed by authorities in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan. Enlarge This Image Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press Tribesmen protested in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, against ties with the United States, just days after President Obama took office in January 2009. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press Gen. James L. Jones Doug Mills/The New York Times Dennis C. Blair, former director of national intelligence. Site Intelligence, via European Pressphoto Agency The cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who coached Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his plot to blow up an American airliner over Detroit. United States Marshals Service Mr. Abdulmutallab Enlarge This Image Moises Saman for The New York Times Iraqis listened to Mr bama’s speech from airo in June 2009 intended to reach out to the Muslim world Readers’ Comments "Would it be o.k. for this hit list to exist if it prevented you and your immediate loved ones from a certain terrorist attack?" K. Yates, CT Read Full Comment » President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them. “How old are these people?” he asked, according to two officials present. “If they are starting to use children,” he said of Al Qaeda, “we are moving into a whole different phase.” It was not a theoretical question: Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical. He had vowed to align the fight against Al Qaeda with American values; the chart, introducing people whose deaths he might soon be asked to order, underscored just what a moral and legal conundrum this could be. Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation. “He is determined that he will make these decisions about how far and wide these operations will go,” said Thomas E. Donilon, his national security adviser. “His view is that he’s responsible for the position of the United States in the world.” He added, “He’s determined to keep the tether pretty short.” Nothing else in Mr. Obama’s first term has baffled liberal supporters and confounded conservative critics alike as his aggressive counterterrorism record. His actions have often remained inscrutable, obscured by awkward secrecy rules, polarized political commentary and the president’s own deep reserve. In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda. They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.” His first term has seen private warnings from top officials about a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counterterrorism; the invention of a new category of aerial attack following complaints of careless targeting; and presidential acquiescence in a formula for counting civilian deaths that some officials think is skewed to produce low numbers. The administration’s failure to forge a clear detention policy has created the impression among some members of Congress of a take-no-prisoners policy. And Mr. Obama’s ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron P. Munter, has complained to colleagues that the C.I.A.’s strikes drive American policy there, saying “he didn’t realize his main job was to kill people,” a colleague said. Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict. But the strikes that have eviscerated Al Qaeda — just since April, there have been 14 in Yemen, and 6 in Pakistan — have also tested both men’s commitment to the principles they have repeatedly said are necessary to defeat the enemy in the long term. Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants; in his 2010 guilty plea, Faisal Shahzad, who had tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square, justified targeting civilians by telling the judge, “When the drones hit, they don’t see children.” Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence until he was fired in May 2010, said that discussions inside the White House of long-term strategy against Al Qaeda were sidelined by the intense focus on strikes. “The steady refrain in the White House was, ‘This is the only game in town’ — reminded me of body counts in Vietnam,” said Mr. Blair, a retired admiral who began his Navy service during that war. Mr. Blair’s criticism, dismissed by White House officials as personal pique, nonetheless resonates inside the government. William M. Daley, Mr. Obama’s chief of staff in 2011, said the president and his advisers understood that they could not keep adding new names to a kill list, from ever lower on the Qaeda totem pole. What remains unanswered is how much killing will be enough. “One guy gets knocked off, and the guy’s driver, who’s No. 21, becomes 20?” Mr. Daley said, describing the internal discussion. “At what point are you just filling the bucket with numbers?” ‘Maintain My Options’ A phalanx of retired generals and admirals stood behind Mr. Obama on the second day of his presidency, providing martial cover as he signed several executive orders to make good on campaign pledges. Brutal interrogation techniques were banned, he declared. And the prison at Guantánamo Bay would be closed. What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes. They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric. Instead, he was already putting his lawyerly mind to carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight terrorism as he saw fit. It was a pattern that would be seen repeatedly, from his response to Republican complaints that he wanted to read terrorists their rights, to his acceptance of the C.I.A.’s method for counting civilian casualties in drone strikes. The day before the executive orders were issued, the C.I.A.’s top lawyer, John A. Rizzo, had called the White House in a panic. The order prohibited the agency from operating detention facilities, closing once and for all the secret overseas “black sites” where interrogators had brutalized terrorist suspects. “The way this is written, you are going to take us out of the rendition business,” Mr. Rizzo told Gregory B. Craig, Mr. Obama’s White House counsel, referring to the much-criticized practice of grabbing a terrorist suspect abroad and delivering him to another country for interrogation or trial. The problem, Mr. Rizzo explained, was that the C.I.A. sometimes held such suspects for a day or two while awaiting a flight. The order appeared to outlaw that. Mr. Craig assured him that the new president had no intention of ending rendition — only its abuse, which could lead to American complicity in torture abroad. So a new definition of “detention facility” was inserted, excluding places used to hold people “on a short-term, transitory basis.” Problem solved — and no messy public explanation damped Mr. Obama’s celebration. “Pragmatism over ideology,” his campaign national security team had advised in a memo in March 2008. It was counsel that only reinforced the president’s instincts. Even before he was sworn in, Mr. Obama’s advisers had warned him against taking a categorical position on what would be done with Guantánamo detainees. The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president’s order showed that the advice was followed. Some detainees would be transferred to prisons in other countries, or released, it said. Some would be prosecuted — if “feasible” — in criminal courts. Military commissions, which Mr. Obama had criticized, were not mentioned — and thus not ruled out. As for those who could not be transferred or tried but were judged too dangerous for release? Their “disposition” would be handled by “lawful means, consistent with the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.” A few sharp-eyed observers inside and outside the government understood what the public did not. Without showing his hand, Mr. Obama had preserved three major policies — rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention — that have been targets of human rights groups since the 2001 terrorist attacks. But a year later, with Congress trying to force him to try all terrorism suspects using revamped military commissions, he deployed his legal skills differently — to preserve trials in civilian courts. It was shortly after Dec. 25, 2009, following a close call in which a Qaeda-trained operative named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had boarded a Detroit-bound airliner with a bomb sewn into his underwear. Mr. Obama was taking a drubbing from Republicans over the government’s decision to read the suspect his rights, a prerequisite for bringing criminal charges against him in civilian court. The president “seems to think that if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war,” former Vice President Dick Cheney charged. Sensing vulnerability on both a practical and political level, the president summoned his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., to the White House. F.B.I. agents had questioned Mr. Abdulmutallab for 50 minutes and gained valuable intelligence before giving him the warning. They had relied on a 1984 case called New York v. Quarles, in which the Supreme Court ruled that statements made by a suspect in response to urgent public safety questions — the case involved the location of a gun — could be introduced into evidence even if the suspect had not been advised of the right to remain silent. Mr. Obama, who Mr. Holder said misses the legal profession, got into a colloquy with the attorney general. How far, he asked, could Quarles be stretched? Mr. Holder felt that in terrorism cases, the court would allow indefinite questioning on a fairly broad range of subjects. Satisfied with the edgy new interpretation, Mr. Obama gave his blessing, Mr. Holder recalled. “Barack Obama believes in options: ‘Maintain my options,’ “ said Jeh C. Johnson, a campaign adviser and now general counsel of the Defense Department. ‘They Must All Be Militants’ That same mind-set would be brought to bear as the president intensified what would become a withering campaign to use unmanned aircraft to kill Qaeda terrorists. Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. “The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, ‘I want to know how this happened,’ “ a top White House adviser recounted. In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a “near certainty” that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead. The president’s directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program. In part, that is because “the protection of innocent life was always a critical consideration,” said Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush. 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. Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program. This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants. But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties. “It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.” ‘A No-Brainer’ About four months into his presidency, as Republicans accused him of reckless naïveté on terrorism, Mr. Obama quickly pulled together a speech defending his policies. Standing before the Constitution at the National Archives in Washington, he mentioned Guantánamo 28 times, repeating his campaign pledge to close the prison. But it was too late, and his defensive tone suggested that Mr. Obama knew it. Though President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate, had supported closing the Guantánamo prison, Republicans in Congress had reversed course and discovered they could use the issue to portray Mr. Obama as soft on terrorism. Walking out of the Archives, the president turned to his national security adviser at the time, Gen. James L. Jones, and admitted that he had never devised a plan to persuade Congress to shut down the prison. “We’re never going to make that mistake again,” Mr. Obama told the retired Marine general. General Jones said the president and his aides had assumed that closing the prison was “a no-brainer — the United States will look good around the world.” The trouble was, he added, “nobody asked, ‘O.K., let’s assume it’s a good idea, how are you going to do this?’ “ It was not only Mr. Obama’s distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting, but also part of a deeper pattern, said an administration official who has watched him closely: the president seemed to have “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.” In fact, both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the attorney general, Mr. Holder, had warned that the plan to close the Guantánamo prison was in peril, and they volunteered to fight for it on Capitol Hill, according to officials. But with Mr. Obama’s backing, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, blocked them, saying health care reform had to go first. When the administration floated a plan to transfer from Guantánamo to Northern Virginia two Uighurs, members of a largely Muslim ethnic minority from China who are considered no threat to the United States, Virginia Republicans led by Representative Frank R. Wolf denounced the idea. The administration backed down. That show of weakness doomed the effort to close Guantánamo, the same administration official said. “Lyndon Johnson would have steamrolled the guy,” he said. “That’s not what happened. It’s like a boxing match where a cut opens over a guy’s eye.” The Use of Force It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die. This secret “nominations” process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia. The video conferences are run by the Pentagon, which oversees strikes in those countries, and participants do not hesitate to call out a challenge, pressing for the evidence behind accusations of ties to Al Qaeda. “What’s a Qaeda facilitator?” asked one participant, illustrating the spirit of the exchanges. “If I open a gate and you drive through it, am I a facilitator?” Given the contentious discussions, it can take five or six sessions for a name to be approved, and names go off the list if a suspect no longer appears to pose an imminent threat, the official said. A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan, where that agency conducts strikes. The nominations go to the White House, where by his own insistence and guided by Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama must approve any name. He signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and also on the more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan — about a third of the total. Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counterterrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions. And he knows that bad strikes can tarnish America’s image and derail diplomacy. “He realizes this isn’t science, this is judgments made off of, most of the time, human intelligence,” said Mr. Daley, the former chief of staff. “The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.” But the control he exercises also appears to reflect Mr. Obama’s striking self-confidence: he believes, according to several people who have worked closely with him, that his own judgment should be brought to bear on strikes. Asked what surprised him most about Mr. Obama, Mr. Donilon, the national security adviser, answered immediately: “He’s a president who is quite comfortable with the use of force on behalf of the United States.” In fact, in a 2007 campaign speech in which he vowed to pull the United States out of Iraq and refocus on Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama had trumpeted his plan to go after terrorist bases in Pakistan — even if Pakistani leaders objected. His rivals at the time, including Mitt Romney, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton, had all pounced on what they considered a greenhorn’s campaign bluster. (Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had become “Dr. Strangelove.”) In office, however, Mr. Obama has done exactly what he had promised, coming quickly to rely on the judgment of Mr. Brennan. Mr. Brennan, a son of Irish immigrants, is a grizzled 25-year veteran of the C.I.A. whose work as a top agency official during the brutal interrogations of the Bush administration made him a target of fierce criticism from the left. He had been forced, under fire, to withdraw his name from consideration to lead the C.I.A. under Mr. Obama, becoming counterterrorism chief instead. Some critics of the drone strategy still vilify Mr. Brennan, suggesting that he is the C.I.A.’s agent in the White House, steering Mr. Obama to a targeted killing strategy. But in office, Mr. Brennan has surprised many former detractors by speaking forcefully for closing Guantánamo and respecting civil liberties. Harold H. Koh, for instance, as dean of Yale Law School was a leading liberal critic of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies. But since becoming the State Department’s top lawyer, Mr. Koh said, he has found in Mr. Brennan a principled ally. “If John Brennan is the last guy in the room with the president, I’m comfortable, because Brennan is a person of genuine moral rectitude,” Mr. Koh said. “It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war.” The president values Mr. Brennan’s experience in assessing intelligence, from his own agency or others, and for the sobriety with which he approaches lethal operations, other aides say. “The purpose of these actions is to mitigate threats to U.S. persons’ lives,” Mr. Brennan said in an interview. “It is the option of last recourse. So the president, and I think all of us here, don’t like the fact that people have to die. And so he wants to make sure that we go through a rigorous checklist: The infeasibility of capture, the certainty of the intelligence base, the imminence of the threat, all of these things.” Yet the administration’s very success at killing terrorism suspects has been shadowed by a suspicion: that Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo. “Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets,” said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the intelligence committee. “They are not going to advertise that, but that’s what they are doing.” Mr. Obama’s aides deny such a policy, arguing that capture is often impossible in the rugged tribal areas of Pakistan and Yemen and that many terrorist suspects are in foreign prisons because of American tips. Still, senior officials at the Justice Department and the Pentagon acknowledge that they worry about the public perception. “We have to be vigilant to avoid a no-quarter, or take-no-prisoners policy,” said Mr. Johnson, the Pentagon’s chief lawyer. Trade-Offs The care that Mr. Obama and his counterterrorism chief take in choosing targets, and their reliance on a precision weapon, the drone, reflect his pledge at the outset of his presidency to reject what he called the Bush administration’s “false choice between our safety and our ideals.” But he has found that war is a messy business, and his actions show that pursuing an enemy unbound by rules has required moral, legal and practical trade-offs that his speeches did not envision. One early test involved Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban. The case was problematic on two fronts, according to interviews with both administration and Pakistani sources. The C.I.A. worried that Mr. Mehsud, whose group then mainly targeted the Pakistan government, did not meet the Obama administration’s criteria for targeted killing: he was not an imminent threat to the United States. But Pakistani officials wanted him dead, and the American drone program rested on their tacit approval. The issue was resolved after the president and his advisers found that he represented a threat, if not to the homeland, to American personnel in Pakistan. Then, in August 2009, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, told Mr. Brennan that the agency had Mr. Mehsud in its sights. But taking out the Pakistani Taliban leader, Mr. Panetta warned, did not meet Mr. Obama’s standard of “near certainty” of no innocents being killed. In fact, a strike would certainly result in such deaths: he was with his wife at his in-laws’ home. “Many times,” General Jones said, in similar circumstances, “at the 11th hour we waved off a mission simply because the target had people around them and we were able to loiter on station until they didn’t.” But not this time. Mr. Obama, through Mr. Brennan, told the C.I.A. to take the shot, and Mr. Mehsud was killed, along with his wife and, by some reports, other family members as well, said a senior intelligence official. The attempted bombing of an airliner a few months later, on Dec. 25, stiffened the president’s resolve, aides say. It was the culmination of a series of plots, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex. by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam. Mr. Obama is a good poker player, but he has a tell when he is angry. His questions become rapid-fire, said his attorney general, Mr. Holder. “He’ll inject the phrase, ‘I just want to make sure you understand that.’ “ And it was clear to everyone, Mr. Holder said, that he was simmering about how a 23-year-old bomber had penetrated billions of dollars worth of American security measures. When a few officials tentatively offered a defense, noting that the attack had failed because the terrorists were forced to rely on a novice bomber and an untested formula because of stepped-up airport security, Mr. Obama cut them short. “Well, he could have gotten it right and we’d all be sitting here with an airplane that blew up and killed over a hundred people,” he said, according to a participant. He asked them to use the close call to imagine in detail the consequences if the bomb had detonated. In characteristic fashion, he went around the room, asking each official to explain what had gone wrong and what needed to be done about it. “After that, as president, it seemed like he felt in his gut the threat to the United States,” said Michael E. Leiter, then director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “Even John Brennan, someone who was already a hardened veteran of counterterrorism, tightened the straps on his rucksack after that.” David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements. In the most dramatic possible way, the Fort Hood shootings in November and the attempted Christmas Day bombing had shown the new danger from Yemen. Mr. Obama, who had rejected the Bush-era concept of a global war on terrorism and had promised to narrow the American focus to Al Qaeda’s core, suddenly found himself directing strikes in another complicated Muslim country. The very first strike under his watch in Yemen, on Dec. 17, 2009, offered a stark example of the difficulties of operating in what General Jones described as an “embryonic theater that we weren’t really familiar with.” It killed not only its intended target, but also two neighboring families, and left behind a trail of cluster bombs that subsequently killed more innocents. It was hardly the kind of precise operation that Mr. Obama favored. Videos of children’s bodies and angry tribesmen holding up American missile parts flooded You Tube, fueling a ferocious backlash that Yemeni officials said bolstered Al Qaeda. The sloppy strike shook Mr. Obama and Mr. Brennan, officials said, and once again they tried to impose some discipline. In Pakistan, Mr. Obama had approved not only “personality” strikes aimed at named, high- value terrorists, but “signature” strikes that targeted training camps and suspicious compounds in areas controlled by militants. But some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist “signature” were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees “three guys doing jumping jacks,” the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued. Now, in the wake of the bad first strike in Yemen, Mr. Obama overruled military and intelligence commanders who were pushing to use signature strikes there as well. “We are not going to war with Yemen,” he admonished in one meeting, according to participants. His guidance was formalized in a memo by General Jones, who called it a “governor, if you will, on the throttle,” intended to remind everyone that “one should not assume that it’s just O.K. to do these things because we spot a bad guy somewhere in the world.” Mr. Obama had drawn a line. But within two years, he stepped across it. Signature strikes in Pakistan were killing a large number of terrorist suspects, even when C.I.A. analysts were not certain beforehand of their presence. And in Yemen, roiled by the Arab Spring unrest, the Qaeda affiliate was seizing territory. Today, the Defense Department can target suspects in Yemen whose names they do not know. Officials say the criteria are tighter than those for signature strikes, requiring evidence of a threat to the United States, and they have even given them a new name — TADS, for Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes. But the details are a closely guarded secret — part of a pattern for a president who came into office promising transparency. The Ultimate Test On that front, perhaps no case would test Mr. Obama’s principles as starkly as that of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and Qaeda propagandist hiding in Yemen, who had recently risen to prominence and had taunted the president by name in some of his online screeds. The president “was very interested in obviously trying to understand how a guy like Awlaki developed,” said General Jones. The cleric’s fiery sermons had helped inspire a dozen plots, including the shootings at Fort Hood. Then he had gone “operational,” plotting with Mr. Abdulmutallab and coaching him to ignite his explosives only after the airliner was over the United States. That record, and Mr. Awlaki’s calls for more attacks, presented Mr. Obama with an urgent question: Could he order the targeted killing of an American citizen, in a country with which the United States was not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial? The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel prepared a lengthy memo justifying that extraordinary step, asserting that while the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process applied, it could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch. Mr. Obama gave his approval, and Mr. Awlaki was killed in September 2011, along with a fellow propagandist, Samir Khan, an American citizen who was not on the target list but was traveling with him. If the president had qualms about this momentous step, aides said he did not share them. Mr. Obama focused instead on the weight of the evidence showing that the cleric had joined the enemy and was plotting more terrorist attacks. “This is an easy one,” Mr. Daley recalled him saying, though the president warned that in future cases, the evidence might well not be so clear. In the wake of Mr. Awlaki’s death, some administration officials, including the attorney general, argued that the Justice Department’s legal memo should be made public. In 2009, after all, Mr. Obama had released Bush administration legal opinions on interrogation over the vociferous objections of six former C.I.A. directors. This time, contemplating his own secrets, he chose to keep the Awlaki opinion secret. “Once it’s your pop stand, you look at things a little differently,” said Mr. Rizzo, the C.I.A.’s former general counsel. Mr. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director and now an adviser to Mr. Obama’s Republican challenger, Mr. Romney, commended the president’s aggressive counterterrorism record, which he said had a “Nixon to China” quality. But, he said, “secrecy has its costs” and Mr. Obama should open the strike strategy up to public scrutiny. “This program rests on the personal legitimacy of the president, and that’s not sustainable,” Mr. Hayden said. “I have lived the life of someone taking action on the basis of secret O.L.C. memos, and it ain’t a good life. Democracies do not make war on the basis of legal memos locked in a D.O.J. safe.” Tactics Over Strategy In his June 2009 speech in Cairo, aimed at resetting relations with the Muslim world, Mr. Obama had spoken eloquently of his childhood years in Indonesia, hearing the call to prayer “at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk.” “The United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” he declared. But in the months that followed, some officials felt the urgency of counterterrorism strikes was crowding out consideration of a broader strategy against radicalization. Though Mrs. Clinton strongly supported the strikes, she complained to colleagues about the drones-only approach at Situation Room meetings, in which discussion would focus exclusively on the pros, cons and timing of particular strikes. At their weekly lunch, Mrs. Clinton told the president she thought there should be more attention paid to the root causes of radicalization, and Mr. Obama agreed. But it was September 2011 before he issued an executive order setting up a sophisticated, interagency war room at the State Department to counter the jihadi narrative on an hour-by-hour basis, posting messages and video online and providing talking points to embassies. Mr. Obama was heartened, aides say, by a letter discovered in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. It complained that the American president had undermined Al Qaeda’s support by repeatedly declaring that the United States was at war not with Islam, but with the terrorist network. “We must be doing a good job,” Mr. Obama told his secretary of state. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s record has not drawn anything like the sweeping criticism from allies that his predecessor faced. John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration, said that was because Mr. Obama’s liberal reputation and “softer packaging” have protected him. “After the global outrage over Guantánamo, it’s remarkable that the rest of the world has looked the other way while the Obama administration has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in several different countries, including killing at least some civilians,” said Mr. Bellinger, who supports the strikes. By withdrawing from Iraq and preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan, Mr. Obama has refocused the fight on Al Qaeda and hugely reduced the death toll both of American soldiers and Muslim civilians. But in moments of reflection, Mr. Obama may have reason to wonder about unfinished business and unintended consequences. His focus on strikes has made it impossible to forge, for now, the new relationship with the Muslim world that he had envisioned. Both Pakistan and Yemen are arguably less stable and more hostile to the United States than when Mr. Obama became president. Justly or not, drones have become a provocative symbol of American power, running roughshod over national sovereignty and killing innocents. With China and Russia watching, the United States has set an international precedent for sending drones over borders to kill enemies. Mr. Blair, the former director of national intelligence, said the strike campaign was dangerously seductive. “It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no U.S. casualties, gives the appearance of toughness,” he said. “It plays well domestically, and it is unpopular only in other countries. Any damage it does to the national interest only shows up over the long term.” But Mr. Blair’s dissent puts him in a small minority of security experts. Mr. Obama’s record has eroded the political perception that Democrats are weak on national security. No one would have imagined four years ago that his counterterrorism policies would come under far more fierce attack from the American Civil Liberties Union than from Mr. Romney. Aides say that Mr. Obama’s choices, though, are not surprising. The president’s reliance on strikes, said Mr. Leiter, the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center, “is far from a lurid fascination with covert action and special forces. It’s much more practical. He’s the president. He faces a post-Abdulmutallab situation, where he’s being told people might attack the United States tomorrow.” “You can pass a lot of laws,” Mr. Leiter said, “Those laws are not going to get Bin Laden dead.” A version of this article appeared in print on May 29, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test f bama’s Principles and ill http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al- qaeda.html?pagewanted=all Times Wants Info on 'Killing as a Policy Tool' By MARIMER MATOS ShareThis MANHATTAN (CN) - The New York Times sued the Department of Justice for "at least one legal memorandum" government lawyers are believed to have written detailing "the scope of the circumstances in which it is lawful for government officials to employ targeted killing as a policy tool." Times reporters Charlie Savage and Scott Shane particularly want to see what the Washington Post reported on Sept. 30 as "a 'secret memorandum authorizing the legal targeting' of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who had been killed earlier that day in Yemen." "Questions surrounding the legality of targeted killing - especially the extrajudicial use of lethal force away from any so-called 'hot' battlefield where United States forces are engaged in active combat - have generated extensive public debate since October 2001, when the Bush Administration first contemplated whether covert lethal force could be used against people deemed to be al-Qaeda operatives," the federal complaint states. "Most recently, the death of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in September, has kindled widespread interest in - and controversy over - the scope of the circumstances in which it is lawful for government officials to employ targeted killing as a policy tool. "Given the questions surrounding the legality of the practice under both U.S. and international law, notable legal scholars, human rights activists, and current and former government officials have called for the government to disclose its legal analysis justifying the use of targeted lethal force, especially as it applies to American citizens." NYT claims, "Both before and after the death of al-Awlaki, NYT duly filed FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests seeking memoranda that detail the legal analysis behind the government's use of targeted lethal force. To date, DOJ has refused to release any such memoranda or any segregable portions, claiming them to be properly classified and privileged and in respect to certain memoranda has declined to say whether they in fact exist." The complaint adds: "Upon information and belief, there exists at least one legal memorandum detailing the legal analysis justifying the government's use of targeted killing." A Feb. 11 Newsweek story about "targeted killing operations by the Central Intelligence Agency" quoted "an anonymous government official as saying such actions were 'governed by legal guidance provided by the Department of Justice,'" the Times says. Awlaki, born in the United States, was "perhaps the most prominent English-speaking advocate of violent jihad against the United States, with his message carried extensively over the Internet. His online lectures and sermons had been linked to more than a dozen terrorist investigations in the United States, Britain and Canada," the Times reported on Oct. 10. According to the FOIA complaint: "To date, the government has not offered a thorough and transparent legal analysis of the issue of targeted killing. Instead, several government officials have made statements broadly asserting the legality of such actions in a conc1usory fashion. ... "On February 3, 2010, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that 'we take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community. If we think that direct action will involve killing an American citizen, we get specific permission to do that.' "A number of senators, representatives, and government officials - including both supporters and opponents of the practice - have since urged the Department of Justice to make public its legal justification for the targeted killing of individuals. "For example, on October 2, 2011, Jane Harman, a former United States representative and a former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, argued that 'targeted killing of anyone should give us pause, and there has to be a legal framework around doing that. Reports say there is a lengthy memo that the Office of Legal Counsel and the Department of Justice has prepared making the case. I believe there is a good case. But I think the Justice Department should release that memo.' "Similarly, on October 7, 2011, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called on the administration to 'make public its legal analysis on its counterterrorism authorities' because 'for transparency and to maintain public support of secret operations, it is important to explain the general framework for counterterrorism actions.' "Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said: 'I would urge them to release the memo. I don't see any reason why they shouldn't.' "Other officials have complained that much of the publicly available information on targeted killing results from off-the-record comments by government officials reported in the media. As a former United States representative and a former chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Peter Hoekstra, has noted: 'The targeting of Americans - it is a very sensitive issue, but again there's been more information in the public domain than what has been shared with this committee. There is no clarity. Where is the legal framework?' "Former attorneys for the OLC have also recommended the release of memoranda detailing the legality of targeted killing. "Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general who headed the OLC, has argued that 'a legal analysis of the U.S. ability to target and kill enemy combatants (including U.S. citizens) outside Afghanistan can be disclosed without revealing means or methods of intelligence-gathering or jeopardizing technical covertness. The public legal explanation need not say anything about the means of fire (e.g. drones or something else), or particular countries, or which agencies of the U.S. government are involved, or the intelligence basis for the attacks ... A full legal analysis, as opposed to conclusory explanations in government speeches and leaks, would permit a robust debate about targeted killings - especially of U.S. citizens - that is troubling to many people.' "Only extremely limited legal analysis has been made available by government officials with knowledge of the program. "For example, in a speech on March 10, 2010, Harold Koh, legal adviser of the United States Department of State, assured members of the American Society of International Law that 'it is the considered view of this administration - and it has certainly been in my experience during my time as legal adviser - that U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.' "On September 16, 2011, John O. Brennan, a senior adviser to President Obama on homeland security and counterterrorism, provided similar reassurance: 'We will uphold the core values that define us as Americans, and that includes adhering to the rule of law. And when I say 'all our actions,' that includes covert actions, which we undertake under the authorities provided to us by Congress. President Obama has directed that all our actions - even when conducted out of public view - remain consistent with our laws and values.' "Upon information and belief, there exists at least one official OLC memorandum that details the legal argument justifying targeted killing," the complaint states. (Ellipsis and parentheses as in complaint.) The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel assists the attorney general as legal adviser to the president and all executive branch agencies. The Justice Department refused to produce documents responsive to Shane's and Savage's FOIA requests, and appeals. The Office of Legal Counsel wrote that it "neither confirms nor denies the existence of the documents described in your request," according to the complaint. The Times wants to see the memo. It is represented by David McCraw. http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/12/22/42474.htm 09/20/2012 Print Email RSS Facebook Twitter Share Bookmark & ShareX Google Delicious Digg Reddit StumbleUpon Technorati Current Permalink Targeted Killings In Court Today: Fighting the CIA's Secrecy Claims on Drones By Brett Kaufman, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project at 7:41am This morning the ACLU will appear before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about the I ’s use of drone aircraft to carry out targeted killings around the world. We will argue that the court should put an end to the overnment’s double ame of selectively disclosin information about the pro ram in public while obstinately refusin to confirm or deny the very existence of the program in federal court. The central legal issue before the appellate court today is whether the government, through its officials—including President Obama and former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta—has officially and publicly acknowled ed the existence of the I ’s use of drone airstrikes. Under FOIA, once the government has acknowledged a fact in public, it is prohibited from refusing to confirm the same fact in court. This rule ensures that the government cannot make self-serving claims about its actions when convenient, but then deny the public access to the full and accurate information about those actions to which the public is entitled under FOIA. In our two briefs to the appeals court we have hi hli hted statements by bama administration officials that belie the overnment’s incredible position that it has not, continuously and repeatedly, officially acknowledged the existence of the program. For example, in response to a question about drone strikes at a public forum in 2009, then-Director Panetta called such strikes “the only ame in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the al-Qaeda leadership ” (The statement is even published on the I ’s own website ) More recently, Panetta revealed to 60 Minutes that, as CIA director, he made recommendations to the president regarding the lethal targeting of U.S. citizens. President Obama has also repeatedly discussed the drone program, including by taking credit for the drone strike that killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen last year. (In another FOIA lawsuit, the ACLU is seeking the legal and factual justifications for that killing, and those of two other U.S. citizens, including 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.) Today we will argue that, as these statements make clear, government officials have acknowledged the CIA's drone program. That conclusion is inescapable, particularly when the statements are read against the ever-accumulating, voluminous background of on-the-record accounts provided by unnamed administration officials trumpeting the program to the American public. Indeed, last week, we highlighted a ProPublica interactive web feature that starkly compared more than three years of administration officials’ public statements about I drones with the I ’s blanket refusals to acknowled e the matter in court As ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, who will argue the case today, said: The notion that the I ’s tar eted killin pro ram is a secret is nothin short of absurd For more than two years senior officials have been makin claims about the pro ram both on the record and off They’ve claimed that the pro ram is effective lawful and closely supervised. If they can make these claims, there is no reason why they should not be required to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Learn more about targeted killing: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook. We intend the comments portion of this blog to be a forum where you can freely express your views on blog postings and on comments made by other people. Given that, please understand that you are responsible for the material you post on the comments portion of this blog. The only postings that we ask that you refrain from posting and that we cannot permit on our website are requests for legal assistance and postings that could cause ACLU to incur legal liability. One important law in that regard is the prohibition on politically partisan activity. Given our nonprofit status, we may not endorse or oppose candidates for elective office. That means we cannot host comments on our site that show a preference for one candidate or party. 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Requests for legal assistance left in the blog comments will not receive a response or be published. Finally, the ACLU cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information in the comment section and expressly disclaims any liability for any information in this section. 09/20/2012 Targeted Killings http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/court-today-fighting-cias-secrecy-claims-drones Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen By CHARLIE SAVAGE Published: October 8, 2011 WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s secret legal memorandum that opened the door to the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born radical Muslim cleric hiding in Yemen, found that it would be lawful only if it were not feasible to take him alive, according to people who have read the document. Site Intelligence, via European Pressphoto Agency Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant cleric who was an American citizen, was killed in Yemen. Multimedia Interactive Feature Killing of Awlaki Is Latest in Campaign Against Qaeda Leaders Related News Analysis: Coming Soon: The Drone Arms Race(October 9, 2011) Two-Year Manhunt Led to Killing of Awlaki in Yemen(October 1, 2011) News Analysis: Judging a Long, Deadly Reach(October 1, 2011) Times Topic:Anwar al-Awlaki Connect With Us on Twitter Follow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines. Twitter List: Reporters and Editors Readers’ Comments Readers shared their thoughts on this article. Read All Comments (561) » The memo, written last year, followed months of extensive interagency deliberations and offers a glimpse into the legal debate that led to one of the most significant decisions made by President Obama — to move ahead with the killing of an American citizen without a trial. The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis. The memo, however, was narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr. Awlaki’s case and did not establish a broad new legal doctrine to permit the targeted killing of any Americans believed to pose a terrorist threat. The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge or discuss its role in the drone strike that killed Mr. Awlaki last month and that technically remains a covert operation. The government has also resisted growing calls that it provide a detailed public explanation of why officials deemed it lawful to kill an American citizen, setting a precedent that scholars, rights activists and others say has raised concerns about the rule of law and civil liberties. But the document that laid out the administration’s justification — a roughly 50-page memorandum by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, completed around June 2010 — was described on the condition of anonymity by people who have read it. The legal analysis, in essence, concluded that Mr. Awlaki could be legally killed, if it was not feasible to capture him, because intelligence agencies said he was taking part in the war between the United States and Al Qaeda and posed a significant threat to Americans, as well as because Yemeni authorities were unable or unwilling to stop him. The memorandum, which was written more than a year before Mr. Awlaki was killed, does not independently analyze the quality of the evidence against him. The administration did not respond to requests for comment on this article. The deliberations to craft the memo included meetings in the White House Situation Room involving top lawyers for the Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council and intelligence agencies. It was principally drafted by David Barron and Martin Lederman, who were both lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel at the time, and was signed by Mr. Barron. The office may have given oral approval for an attack on Mr. Awlaki before completing its detailed memorandum. Several news reports before June 2010 quoted anonymous counterterrorism officials as saying that Mr. Awlaki had been placed on a kill-or-capture list around the time of the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25, 2009. Mr. Awlaki was accused of helping to recruit the attacker for that operation. Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was also accused of playing a role in a failed plot to bomb two cargo planes last year, part of a pattern of activities that counterterrorism officials have said showed that he had evolved from merely being a propagandist — in sermons justifying violence by Muslims against the United States — to playing an operational role in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s continuing efforts to carry out terrorist attacks. Other assertions about Mr. Awlaki included that he was a leader of the group, which had become a “cobelligerent” with Al Qaeda, and he was pushing it to focus on trying to attack the United States again. The lawyers were also told that capturing him alive among hostile armed allies might not be feasible if and when he were located. Based on those premises, the Justice Department concluded that Mr. Awlaki was covered by the authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda that Congress enacted shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — meaning that he was a lawful target in the armed conflict unless some other legal prohibition trumped that authority. It then considered possible obstacles and rejected each in turn. Among them was an executive order that bans assassinations. That order, the lawyers found, blocked unlawful killings of political leaders outside of war, but not the killing of a lawful target in an armed conflict. A federal statute that prohibits Americans from murdering other Americans abroad, the lawyers wrote, did not apply either, because it is not “murder” to kill a wartime enemy in compliance with the laws of war. But that raised another pressing question: would it comply with the laws of war if the drone operator who fired the missile was a Central Intelligence Agency official, who, unlike a soldier, wore no uniform? The memorandum concluded that such a case would not be a war crime, although the operator might be in theoretical jeopardy of being prosecuted in a Yemeni court for violating Yemen’s domestic laws against murder, a highly unlikely possibility. Then there was the Bill of Rights: the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee that a “person” cannot be seized by the government unreasonably, and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that the government may not deprive a person of life “without due process of law.” The memo concluded that what was reasonable, and the process that was due, was different for Mr. Awlaki than for an ordinary criminal. It cited court cases allowing American citizens who had joined an enemy’s forces to be detained or prosecuted in a military court just like noncitizen enemies. It also cited several other Supreme Court precedents, like a 2007 case involving a high- speed chase and a 1985 case involving the shooting of a fleeing suspect, finding that it was constitutional for the police to take actions that put a suspect in serious risk of death in order to curtail an imminent risk to innocent people. The document’s authors argued that “imminent” risks could include those by an enemy leader who is in the business of attacking the United States whenever possible, even if he is not in the midst of launching an attack at the precise moment he is located. There remained, however, the question of whether — when the target is known to be a citizen — it was permissible to kill him if capturing him instead were a feasible way of suppressing the threat. Killed in the strike alongside Mr. Awlaki was another American citizen, Samir Khan, who had produced a magazine for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula promoting terrorism. He was apparently not on the targeting list, making his death collateral damage. His family has issued a statement citing the Fifth Amendment and asking whether it was necessary for the government to have “assassinated two of its citizens.” “Was this style of execution the only solution?” the Khan family asked in its statement. “Why couldn’t there have been a capture and trial?” Last month, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, delivered a speech in which he strongly denied the accusation that the administration had sometimes chosen to kill militants when capturing them was possible, saying the policy preference is to interrogate them for intelligence. The memorandum is said to declare that in the case of a citizen, it is legally required to capture the militant if feasible — raising a question: was capturing Mr. Awlaki in fact feasible? It is possible that officials decided last month that it was not feasible to attempt to capture him because of factors like the risk it could pose to American commandos and the diplomatic problems that could arise from putting ground forces on Yemeni soil. Still, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan demonstrates that officials have deemed such operations feasible at times. Last year, Yemeni commandos surrounded a village in which Mr. Awlaki was believed to be hiding, but he managed to slip away. The administration had already expressed in public some of the arguments about issues of international law addressed by the memo, in a speech delivered in March 2010 by Harold Hongju Koh, the top State Department lawyer. The memorandum examined whether it was relevant that Mr. Awlaki was in Yemen, far from Afghanistan. It concluded that Mr. Awlaki’s geographical distance from the so-called hot battlefield did not preclude him from the armed conflict; given his presumed circumstances, the United States still had a right to use force to defend itself against him. As to whether it would violate Yemen’s sovereignty to fire a missile at someone on Yemeni soil, Yemen’s president secretly granted the United States that permission, as secret diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks have revealed. The memorandum did assert that other limitations on the use of force under the laws of war — like avoiding the use of disproportionate force that would increase the possibility of civilian deaths — would constrain any operation against Mr. Awlaki. That apparently constrained the attack when it finally came. Details about Mr. Awlaki’s location surfaced about a month ago, American officials have said, but his hunters delayed the strike until he left a village and was on a road away from populated areas. A version of this article appeared in print on October 9, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/world/middleeast/secret-us-memo-made-legal-case-to-kill-a- citizen.html?pagewanted=all 15 Killed in U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan By SALMAN MASOOD and IHSANULLAH TIPU MEHSUD Published: July 6, 2012 ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At least 15 people suspected of being Taliban militants were killed by an American drone strike late Friday in northwestern Pakistan, according to a Pakistani intelligence official and local residents. Connect With Us on Twitter Follow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines. Twitter List: Reporters and Editors The strike, the first since Pakistan reopened NATO supply routes this week, took place in the village of Zoi Narai of the Datta Khel subdivision, the third-largest town in North Waziristan. A drone fired four missiles at a compound owned by a Taliban commander named Rahimullah, said a local resident who was reached by telephone. The commander, who apparently was not present at the time of the strike, is thought to be a close aide of a local warlord, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who controls a vast part of North Waziristan, a restive tribal region used as a haven by many local and foreign militants. Mr. Rahimullah, who uses one name, helps recruit militants to take part in offensives against Western troops across the border in Afghanistan, according to local residents. A Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that all of those killed by the drone’s missiles were loyalists of Mr. Bahadur. Local residents said that soon after the strike Taliban militants cordoned off the area around the compound and searched for bodies in the debris. American drone strikes are extremely unpopular in Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment has been growing. A survey released in June by the Pew Research Center showed that 74 percent of respondents considered the United States an enemy, compared with 69 percent last year and 64 percent three years ago. While the United States views the remotely piloted aircraft as vital in the fight against militants, in Pakistan the drones are seen as a breach of national sovereignty that also cause civilian deaths. Also on Friday, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, visited the northwestern border district of Dir, which has recently endured a spate of attacks by Taliban militants from across the border in Afghanistan. In another development on Friday, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at a roadside restaurant in southwestern Pakistan, killing 18 people, officials said. Pakistanis who were trying to travel to Europe with smugglers were the target of the attack in the remote town of Turbat in Baluchistan Province, said Abdul Razzaq, a government official in the area. The motive for the killings was unclear. A version of this article appeared in print on July 7, 2012, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: 15 Killed in U.S. Drone Strike in Pakistan. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/07/world/asia/15-killed-in-us-drone-strike-in-pakistan-aimed-at- taliban.html Yemen Sets Terms of a War on Al Qaeda European Pressphoto Agency SEPT. 4, 2010 | LAHJ, YEMEN | The aftermath of a clash between troops and gunmen. Poverty, illicit arms and tribal conflicts could make Yemen “worse than Somalia ” a cable said in 2009 By SCOTT SHANE Published: December 3, 2010 WASHINGTON — One Obama administration security official after another was visiting to talk about terrorism, and Yemen’s redoubtable president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, seemed to be savoring his newfound leverage. State's Secrets Day 6 Articles in this series will examine American diplomatic cables as a window on relations with the rest of the world in an age of war and terrorism. Other Articles in the Series » Related Documents Americans Arrested in Yemen for Militant Ties Yemeni President on U.S. Missile Strikes Yemeni President Gives U.S. Free Reign Hunting for Dangerous Weapons in Yemen Yemeni President on Guantánamo Prisoners The Lede Updates on the reaction to the leak of diplomatic cables. Talk to the Newsroom Editors and reporters are answering questions. Send Questions The Americans are “hot-blooded and hasty when you need us,” Mr. Saleh chided one visitor, Daniel Benjamin, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, but “cold-blooded and British when we need you.” It was Jan. 31, just a few weeks after a young Nigerian trained and equipped in Yemen had tried to blow up an airliner as it approached Detroit. The wave of attention to Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch and its American-born propagandist, Anwar al-Awlaki, might not do much for tourism, but paradoxically it did give the Yemeni leader more influence. Mr. Saleh said coyly that while he was “satisfied” with the military equipment the United States was supplying, he “would like to be more satisfied in the future,” according to an account of the meeting sent to Washington. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations offer the most intimate view to date of the wily, irreverent and sometimes erratic Yemeni autocrat, who over the past year has become steadily more aggressive against Al Qaeda. But he appears determined to join the fight on his own terms, sometimes accommodating and other times rebuffing American requests on counterterrrorism. The cables do not substantially alter the public picture of Mr. Saleh (pronounced SAH-leh), 68, a former military officer who has led Yemen for three decades. But with direct quotations from private meetings, the cables are like crisp color photographs of what was previously in fuzzy black and white. Yemen, long an arid, impoverished afterthought for the United States, now draws high-level American attention far out of proportion to its size. In October, militants in Yemen sent off printer cartridges packed with explosives to Chicago addresses. The bombs were intercepted, but the plot set off a furor and prompted the latest in a series of phone calls between President Obama and his Yemeni counterpart about counterterrorism and aid. At times, the cables show, Mr. Saleh has not hesitated to use his country’s daunting problems as a kind of threat. “Referencing the high poverty rate and illicit arms flows into both Yemen and Somalia, Saleh concluded by saying, ‘If you don’t help, this country will become worse than Somalia,’ ” said a September 2009 cable from the American ambassador, Stephen A. Seche, describing Mr. Saleh as being in “vintage form.” The cables portray Yemen, a land of 23 million people that is nearly the size of Texas, as a beleaguered, often baffling place, bristling with arms and riven by tribal conflict, where shoulder-launched missiles go missing and the jihad-curious arrive from all over the world. The Americans are seen coaxing the Yemenis to go after Al Qaeda, working out the rules for American missile strikes, seeking a safe way to send Yemeni prisoners home from the Guantánamo Bay prison and sizing up Americans caught in Yemeni security sweeps. Always at the center of the diplomatic traffic is Mr. Saleh, who first appears seeking a half- million tons of wheat in a 1990 meeting with James A. Baker III, then the secretary of state. These days, his most pressing requests are for heavy weapons and military training. But he also has become more cooperative with the American campaign against Al Qaeda. In a 2009 meeting with John O. Brennan, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, Mr. Saleh offered an unusual bargain. He “insisted that Yemen’s national territory is available for unilateral CT operations by the U.S.” — but with a catch. If there were to be an attack on a Western target, Mr. Saleh said, it would not be his fault. “I have given you an open door on terrorism,” he said, “so I am not responsible.” In fact, despite such rhetoric, Mr. Saleh has imposed strict limits over American operations in his country, even as he has helped disguise them as his own. When the first two American missile strikes against Qaeda camps in Yemen took place in December 2009, Mr. Saleh publicly claimed that they were Yemeni strikes to avert any anti- American backlash. Gen. David H. Petraeus flew to Yemen to thank the president, who promised to keep up the ruse. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Mr. Saleh said, according to a cable. A deputy prime minister, Rashad al-Alimi, had already assured the Americans that “U.S. munitions found at the sites” of strikes “could be explained away as equipment purchased from the U.S.” Moreover, Mr. Alimi implied that Yemeni officials accepted as inevitable that the missiles had killed civilians along with militants. They were Bedouin families — “poor people selling food and supplies to the terrorists” and thus “acting in collusion with the terrorists and benefiting financially,” he said. Still, Mr. Saleh told General Petraeus that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians. He agreed to the American commander’s proposal that to improve accuracy, future strikes would be carried out by American aircraft rather than by cruise missiles fired from distant ships. But he firmly denied General Petraeus’s request to send American advisers along on Yemeni counterterrorism operations. For his part, General Petraeus put off Mr. Saleh’s request for 12 armed helicopters, even though the president promised to use them “only against Al Qaeda.” The United States has been wary of fueling the Yemeni government’s long-running conflicts with the so-called Houthi rebels in the north and secessionists in the south. State's Secrets Day 6 Articles in this series will examine American diplomatic cables as a window on relations with the rest of the world in an age of war and terrorism. Other Articles in the Series » Related Documents Americans Arrested in Yemen for Militant Ties Yemeni President on U.S. Missile Strikes Yemeni President Gives U.S. Free Reign Hunting for Dangerous Weapons in Yemen Yemeni President on Guantánamo Prisoners The Lede Updates on the reaction to the leak of diplomatic cables. Talk to the Newsroom Editors and reporters are answering questions. Send Questions The two sides also sparred over Yemen’s restrictions on material the United States shipped to its embassy in the diplomatic pouch, which the Yemenis evidently suspected was being used to import eavesdropping equipment. The Americans have complained about poor security at the airport in Sana, Yemen’s capital, including X-ray screeners who do not watch their monitors, and also security officers who “harass” American diplomats. Beyond such testy bargaining, emptying the Guantánamo Bay prison, where Yemenis are the single largest group remaining, has been a regular source of tension. When Mr. Saleh rejected an American plan to send the Yemenis to a Saudi rehabilitation program in March 2009, a cable described him as “dismissive, bored and impatient” and said he had “missed a good chance to engage the new administration on one of its key foreign policy priorities.” At the same time, the embassy was tracking the growing number of Yemeni arrests of expatriate Americans suspected of having links to militants. By last February, such arrests were occurring about once a week, and Mr. Seche wrote to Washington that the embassy’s “sharply increased workload” urgently required more personnel. “In the past two years, the Muslim convert community of Amcits living in Yemen,” Mr. Seche wrote, using shorthand for American citizens, “has been increasingly linked to extremist activities.” Sorting out such cases was difficult, a February cable said, citing an American woman who had reported the midnight arrest of her husband but appeared to be “omitting or manipulating critical details.” Yemen had become a magnet for would-be jihadists from around the globe, and a January cable listed 23 Australian citizens and residents to be added to terrorism watch lists because of activities in Yemen or connections to Mr. Awlaki, the radical cleric hiding there. Many of the Australians were women, and Qaeda operatives in Yemen were seeking “to identify a female for a future attack,” the cable said. The cables report on American and Yemeni attempts to track down and destroy stocks of the shoulder-fired missiles known as “manpads,” for man-portable air-defense systems. Their lethality against aircraft make them a major counterterrorism concern. Yemen’s Defense Ministry insisted that it had no stocks of such missiles, but Yemen’s National Security Bureau — a newer agency that works closely with the United States — told the Americans that the Defense Ministry “does indeed have MANPADS, but would never speak of them because they are considered a state secret.” A close ally in the counterterrorism efforts, the cables make clear, is Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, the deputy interior minister in neighboring Saudi Arabia, who in October tipped off American officials about the parcel bomb plot. Shortly after the attempted bombing of the airliner bound for Detroit, Prince Nayef told Gen. James L. Jones, then President Obama’s national security adviser, that the only way to combat Al Qaeda in Yemen was to “keep them on the run” and that Yemeni and American strikes on Al Qaeda were proving effective. Saudi authorities “have been monitoring conversations of Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen very closely, and whereas before the attack they were hearing relaxed 20-minute phone conversations over cellphones, after the attack the phones went virtually silent,” Prince Nayef said, according to a cable. That showed that Qaeda operatives “are more focused on their own security rather than on planning operations,” he said. Andrew W. Lehren contributed reporting from New York. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/04/world/middleeast/04wikileaks-yemen.html WikiLeaks Fareed Khan/Associated Press Updated: Aug. 16, 2012 WikiLeaks is a whistle-blowing Web site that became the focus of a global debate over its role in the release of thousands of confidential messages about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conduct of American diplomacy around the world. The once-fringe Web site, which aims to bring to light secret information about governments and corporations, was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange, an Australian activist and journalist, along with a group of like-minded activists and computer experts. Wikileaks made its initial reputation by publishing material as diverse as documents about toxic dumping in Africa, protocols from Guantánamo Bay, e-mail messages from Sarah Palin’s personal account and 9/11 pager messages. In 2010, WikiLeaks posted 391,832 secret documents on the Iraqi war and 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict. It also made available about 250,000 individual cables — the daily traffic between the State Department and more than 270 American diplomatic outposts around the world. The Web site made the material on Iraq and Afghanistan available to a number of news organizations, including The New York Times, in advance. The Guardian shared the diplomatic cable collection with The New York Times. Assange: Legal Battles; Political Asylum WikiLeaks has foundered since Mr. Assange was arrested in December 2010, in Britain, on a Swedish warrant issued in connection with accusations of rape and molestation involving two Swedish women. He was at first denied bail, but a week later was granted bail of $315,000 and placed under house arrest at the country mansion of a wealthy friend. He has consistently denied the accusations and suggested that they are part of a global conspiracy to silence him. A British court ruled in November 2011 that he could be extradited, and on June 14, 2012, the Supreme Court denied his final appeal and said that barring a last- minute intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, he would be on a plane to face his accusers by midnight on July 7. On June 19, Mr. Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. According to statements from the embassy and officials in Quito, Mr. Assange wanted “protective asylum” from the Swedish and American governments. Two months later, on Aug. 16, Ecuador said that it had decided to grant Mr. Assange political asylum. The announcement was made by the Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, at a news conference in Quito, where the government set a defiant tone over pressure from Britain. Just before the announcement, President Rafael Correa said: “No one is going to terrorize us!” Mr. Patiño said he hoped Britain would permit Mr. Assange to leave the embassy in London for Ecuador — a request Britain has rejected, saying it has a legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden, where is wanted to face questioning about allegations of sexual misbehavior. The minister said his government had taken the decision after the authorities in Britain, Sweden and the United States had refused to give guarantees that, if Mr. Assange were extradited to Sweden, he would not then be sent on to America to face other charges. The British Foreign Office said it was disappointed by the Ecuadorean announcement but remained committed to a negotiated outcome to the standoff. Those close to Mr. Assange have said one reason he does not want to be sent to Sweden is that he fears being charged with crimes in the United States for the release in 2010 of thousands of secret documents and diplomatic cables relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to American relations with other governments. An Ecuadorean official said that the British government had made it clear it would not allow Mr. Assange to leave the country to travel to Ecuador, so even with a grant of asylum or similar protection, he would probably remain stuck in the embassy. Mr. Patiño, the foreign minister, said that the British authorities had threatened to barge into the country’s embassy in London if officials did not hand over Mr. Assange. “Today we have received from the United Kingdom an explicit threat in writing that they could assault our embassy in London if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange,” Mr. Patiño said at a news conference in Quito, adding defiantly, “We are not a British colony.” Military Court for Suspected Source Bradley Manning, the United States Army intelligence analyst accused of giving hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, underwent a military hearing in December 2011. The evidentiary proceeding at Fort Meade, Md., known as an Article 32 hearing, was to determine whether the charges, which include aiding the enemy, should proceed to a court martial or be dismissed. The presiding officer, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, concluded that there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that Private Manning committed the crimes he is accused of, including aiding the enemy, theft of public records and computer fraud. Colonel Almanza’s recommendation went to senior military officers, who can dismiss the charges or permit them to proceed to a full military trial. If convicted on all charges, Private Manning could be sentenced to life in prison. During the hearing, the prosecutors showed what they described as a Qaeda propaganda video in which terrorist operatives talked about the ways they had been able to exploit the leaks, with one of them saying that Private Manning “aided in the publication of those files, knowing that our enemies would use those files.” The defense lawyers portrayed Private Manning as a man struggling with myriad emotional problems, stemming primarily from years of having to hide that he is gay. His lawyers said he reached out to his commanding officers for help and emotional support, but they ignored his problems. And, the lawyers said, Private Manning saw himself as a whistle-blower, not a traitor. The Web Site WikiLeaks has had a core group of five full-time volunteers and 800 to 1,000 people whom the group could call on for expertise in areas like encryption, programming and writing news releases. Mr. Assange used years of computer hacking and what friends call a near genius I.Q. to establish WikiLeaks, redefining whistle-blowing by gathering secrets in bulk, storing them beyond the reach of governments and others determined to retrieve them, then releasing them instantly, and globally. WikiLeaks publishes its material on its own site, which is housed on a few dozen servers around the globe, including places like Sweden, Belgium and the United States that the organization considers friendly to journalists and document leakers. By being everywhere, yet in no exact place, WikiLeaks is, in effect, beyond the reach of any institution or government that hopes to silence it. WikiLeaks has been severely weakened since Mr. Assange’s arrest by a spate of defections from its core of specialist computer-programmer volunteers, insiders have said. Many, tired of what they described as Mr. Assange’s eccentricity and imperiousness, have formed their own document leaking sites. Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a German computer scientist and former staff member, wrote a tell-all book titled “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website,” which was released in 2011. Mr. Domscheit-Berg and the other defectors have started another leaking site, OpenLeaks. Cyberattacks Hundreds of Internet activists mounted retaliatory attacks in early December 2010 on the Web sites of multinational companies and other organizations they deemed hostile to WikiLeaks and its jailed founder. Targets of the attacks, in which activists overwhelmed the sites with traffic, included the Web site of MasterCard, which had stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks; Amazon.com, which revoked the use of its computer servers; and PayPal, which stopped accepting donations for Mr. Assange’s group. Visa.com was also affected by the attacks, as were the Web sites of the Swedish prosecutor’s office and the lawyer representing the two women whose allegations of sexual misconduct were the basis of Sweden’s extradition bid. The cyberattacks in Mr. Assange’s defense seem to have been coordinated by Anonymous, a loosely affiliated group of activist computer hackers. Anonymous claimed responsibility for the MasterCard attack in Web messages and, according to one activist associated with the group, conducted waves of attacks on other companies. The group said the actions were part of an effort called Operation Payback, which began as a way of punishing companies that attempted to stop Internet file-sharing and movie downloads. The cyberattacks on corporations were seen by many supporters as a counterstrike against the United States. Mr. Assange’s online supporters have widely condemned the Obama administration as the unseen hand coordinating efforts to choke off WikiLeaks by denying it financing and suppressing its network of computer servers. Trove of Syria Documents In July 2012, WikiLeaks announced that it would begin releasing a cache of more than 2.4 million e-mails between Syrian politicians, government officials and companies dating from 2006 until March 2012. In a statement announced in London, WikiLeaks said that it aimed to “shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy” and that the disclosures in the e-mails would embarrass not only President Bashar al-Assad of Syria but also adversaries of Mr. Assad and his ruling Baath Party. The statement cited the “violent internal conflict” that has riven that country and led to widespread condemnation of Mr. Assad for ordering a crackdown of the uprising against him, which he has called a war against terrorists. It was not immediately possible to independently authenticate the e-mails, or establish whether the release was related to an earlier leak of internal communications involving Mr. Assad published by the Guardian newspaper. The WikiLeaks statement said the e-mails, totaling 2,434,899, are written in Arabic, Russian and English. “In such a large collection of information, it is not possible to verify every single e- mail at once,” it said, but it is “statistically confident that the vast majority of the data are what they purport to be.” Stirring Fears About Antiterrorist Software In August 2012, a release of stolen corporate e-mails by WikiLeaks set off a flurry of concern and speculation around the world about a counterterrorist software program called TrapWire, which analyzes images from surveillance cameras and other data to try to identify terrorists planning attacks. PC Magazine described TrapWire as “a secret, comprehensive U.S. surveillance effort.” But the reports appeared to be wildly exaggerated. TrapWire was tried out on 15 surveillance cameras in Washington and Seattle by the Homeland Security Department, but officials said it ended the trial in 2011 because it did not seem promising. A claim in the leaked e-mails that 500 cameras in the New York subway were linked to TrapWire is false, said Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman. “We don’t use TrapWire.” TrapWire is discussed in dozens of e-mails from Stratfor Global Intelligence, a private security firm in Austin, Tex., that were posted online earlier in August by WikiLeaks. The e-mails were part of a large cache captured late in 2011 and early 2012 by hackers associated with the loose- knit international collective called Anonymous, which gave the e-mails to WikiLeaks. TrapWire was originally developed in 2004 by the Abraxas Corporation, which was founded by several former C.I.A. employees. TrapWire’s marketing materials say it uses video cameras and observations by security guards to develop a 10-point description of people near a potential terrorist target and an eight-point description of vehicles. If the same person or car is picked up in multiple locations engaging in suspicious behavior, the software is supposed to make the connection. But a privacy statement on the TrapWire Web site says the software does not capture “personal information.” http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/w/wikileaks/index.ht ml?inline=nyt-org Why is the New York Times enabling a U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars? ASK THIS | May 11, 2012 The Times let government officials anonymously attack a group of journalists and a lawyer who have uncovered evidence that belies the White House's claim that drones aren't killing many civilians. Was their rationale for that justified? By John Hanrahan email@example.com A human rights lawyer and a group of investigative journalists who have exposed the extensive civilian casualties from CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are being smeared by anonymous U.S. government officials, who have even accused them of being sympathetic to al Qaeda. Two of the anonymous accusations came in articles in The New York Times, despite the paper's own rules against personal attacks by unnamed sources. Pakistani human rights attorney Shahzad Akbar and the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) say the campaign is intended to deter mainstream news organizations from reporting that the White House is lying about how many innocent people are being killed by the drone strikes. President Obama's top terrorism adviser John O. Brennan recently contended that civilian deaths were "exceedingly rare." The BIJ, though, puts total drone deaths in Pakistan since 2004 at between 2,440 and 3,113, and they say between 479 and 821 of the dead were civilians, including 174 children. Drone attacks in Pakistan have dramatically increased since Obama took office: President Bush was responsible for 52; Obama for 270 and counting. Relying on the BIJ’s comprehensive research and his own investigations in support of a number of clients who are drone victims or families of victims and who are suing the CIA, Akbar has for the last two years sharply challenged U.S. government assertions regarding civilian casualties, most recently by filing two lawsuits in Pakistan, demanding a criminal investigation into the killings by Hellfire missile of some 50 people, including tribal elders in Waziristan in March 2011. (See Niemanwatchdog.org's May 10 story, Civilian drone victims, unrecognized by the U.S. government and public, seek justice.) Akbar's public criticisms of the program, including naming the CIA station chief in Pakistan and calling for his trial on murder charges for drone killings of civilians, has made him a particular thorn in the side of U.S. officials. The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism is a not-for-profit organization made up of former editors and reporters for major U.K. news organizations that undertakes investigations on a variety of subjects for various print and broadcast outlets in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Akbar and BIJ senior reporter Chris Woods both spoke recently at an international drone conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the peace group Code Pink, the U.K.-based human rights group Reprieve, and the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, which Akbar heads. Woods told the conference audience that his organization had been subjected to an anonymous smear campaign by the CIA. The agency, he said, has attacked his organization’s findings aggressively “and has asked our partners” -- newspapers and broadcasters who have collaborated with BIJ -- not to use BIJ’s reports. Two of the anonymous smears came from unnamed U.S. government sources quoted in two separate New York Times articles reporting on Akbar’s and BIJ’s findings. The writer of both stories was the Times's highly regarded national security reporter, Scott Shane. Brennan, in June 2011, asserted that in the preceding 12 months, "there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop." In an August 11, 2011 Times article, Shane reported Akbar and BIJ's evidence to the contrary. But he also wrote: “American officials accuse Mr. Akbar of working to discredit the drone program at the behest of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the Pakistani spy service. Mr. Akbar and others who know him strongly deny the accusation.” Shane quoted another human rights lawyer who worked with Akbar in Pakistan and who described the anonymous charges of ISI connections as “not credible at all.” But the article also allowed unnamed officials to take a shot at BIJ: “American officials said the Bureau of Investigative Journalism report was suspect because it relied in part on information supplied by Mr. Akbar, who publicly named the C.I.A.’s undercover Pakistan station chief in December when announcing his legal campaign against the drones.” More recently, on February 8, the Times reported the BIJ’s findings that the CIA’s drone attacks in Pakistan “have repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of a strike, as well as mourners at subsequent funerals.” But after highlighting BIJ’s report, the article then allowed a “senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity” to not just question the report’s findings, but to state: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions -- there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help al Qaeda succeed.” That latter direct quote essentially allowed the anonymous source to declare critics of the drone program as traitors and dupes. Shane, in written responses to a number of questions that Nieman Watchdog posed to him about the two articles, said he believes this particular quote was not necessarily directed at BIJ, calling it “ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it.” He added: “Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe U.S. government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists.” The Times’ own “Confidential News Sources Policy,” in an effort to stop the overuse or unfair use of anonymous sources, states, among other things: “We do not grant anonymity to people who use it as cover for a personal or partisan attack.” But Shane defended the use of the anonymous quotes in the two articles, saying that he and his editors agreed that the quotes were needed to give “some voice from the other side” -- that is, the government -- in articles reporting allegations of civilian deaths. Until the drone-strike program is made overt and government officials can talk more freely about it, Shane said, “journalists often have a choice of quoting anonymous officials or writing stories about accusations of bad strikes and innocent deaths and including no response at all. I feel it's important to include some voice from the other side, and my editors have agreed. In addition, it seems to me important to citizens to know what the government says, even if some citizens find the statements unpersuasive or worse.” The problem, though, with the U.S. government as the anonymous “voice from the other side,” is that the real unrepresented “voice from the other side” in the mainstream news media is that of the civilian victims. Their voices and names seldom appear in the mainstream media. Shane should be credited for writing the two articles that gave headlines and space to the drone-strike critics. But those government officials are not so oppressed that they should be allowed to anonymously trash their critics’ reputations and motivations. Readers might reasonably assume that the Times wouldn’t run such quotes anonymously and without proof unless there were some truth to them. Because the drone strikes occur in remote, inaccessible areas, Akbar said at the conference, “The CIA is the only source as to what’s happening on the ground in Waziristan,” so U.S. officials always tell western reporters that only armed “militants” were targeted and killed. Relying on that as the truth would be comparable, he said, to reporters relying on only the Taliban’s or other militants’ version of events when they “administer horrible punishment on citizens.” His goal, Akbar said, is to publicize cases of drone killings of civilians, using the names of the civilian dead, to force the “American president to admit that he is klling children and women in your name” and to show that the drone attacks “are not making America safer, because you are only creating more enemies.” *** Since Shane’s response sheds light on what he describes as the dilemma of dealing with government officials on programs that are classified, but nevertheless very public, here is his response in full to our questions: “The drone program, as I have written, is in the strange category of classified but public information, which creates difficulties both for government officials and for journalists. Many outsiders and some government officials think the situation is untenable and that the program should be made overt, so that real debates could take place on Congress and the public on these issues. “In the meantime, journalists often have a choice of quoting anonymous officials or writing stories about accusations of bad strikes and innocent deaths and including no response at all. I feel it's important to include some voice from the other side, and my editors have agreed. In addition, it seems to me important to citizens to know what the government says, even if some citizens find the statements unpersuasive or worse. “In the first [August 11] story you mention, read carefully everything about Shahzad Akbar. The story subjects to scrutiny the claim that he's an ISI tool and presents evidence to the contrary. The quote in the second story is ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it. Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe US government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists. “It's interesting and useful to criticize journalists struggling with such dilemmas -- it's a sport I have often enjoyed myself -- but for a reporter this story poses real challenges without easy choices.” John Hanrahan is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington Post, The Washington Star, UPI, and other news organizations. He is now on special assignment for Nieman Watchdog. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Comments Jump to bottom of list Posted by samarkand 05/11/2012, 03:55 PM It seems that "the other side" --the government-- already has the opportunity to offer its voice on the matter being reported, should it wish to do so on the record. Why in the world should the Times take on the burden of violating its own policy to let government officials make anonymous attacks on the veracity of the information in the report? Would they have equivalently published the BIJ's findings if that organization passed them on anonymously, or had hidden its methodology? Special Correspondent, The News International, Karachi Posted by Shahid Husain 05/12/2012, 11:43 AM Brilliant piece of work! I am a senior journalist based in Karachi and my very first story was a cover story! I guess the "Long War" as was dubbed by an American think tank and used by LATimes has begun. The proponents of the so called "war on terror" have a very simple strategy: Leak some information to NYT, and then go for attack, even if innocent civilians, including children and women become victims. I know my country and there are wonderful stories on our heritage, poetry, prose, environment, people and nationalities that needs to be written but the bulk of foreign correspondents simply confine themselves to write on terrorism in Pakistan, an offspring of the myopic policies of American leaders. Not only the innocent US citizens are been shown a distorted picture of Pakistan but a very large number of Pakistani journalists too are being purchased. The US is no longer the sole super power. We are witnessing the "Great Game" at a higher plane. Posted by DC 05/14/2012, 12:20 AM This is exactly the kind of critique of our anonymous-leak-dependent "national security"/Washington journalists that we need (when whistleblowing's not at issue). THANK YOU, John Hanrahan and NiemanWatchdog. I would vastly prefer it if reporters like Scott Shane, denied a quote from anyone in the government, would simply note that the government refused to speak to the paper on the record. That fact alone would speak volumes, and, importantly, should, over time, help force the government ON the record if it wants 'its side' told. Of course (and probably uppermost in the minds of the media), there will always be competitors who'll carry the anonymous leak if the NYTimes doesn't. But are such momentary "scoops" that much more important than open government? Surely the NYTimes has enough clout and market share to at least TRY a different approach, hopefully joined by some other similarly-sized media outlets. Shane and others who have cultivated anonymous government-insider sources may find themselves at a disadvantage, but the American people and, I think, the truth, would gain from the losses of the anonymous government spinners. There's another case I'm following, regarding the Panjwai Massacre reporting, to which this statement from Hanrahan's piece above compellingly applies, with equal force: "[T]he real unrepresented 'voice from the other side' in the mainstream news media is that of the civilian victims." For some reason, a month after broadcast, the Australian DatelineSBS report about Panjwai - "Anatomy of a Massacre" - came under attack on New Zealand television by a McClatchy reporter. His criticisms were quickly picked up by a media program on Australia's major public broadcaster ABC-TV, whose April 30 broadcast led to a formal complaint and request for an apology from the smaller public broadcaster SBS-TV. See: http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/related/aid/5 ... Last Thursday ABC refused to correct its criticism of SBS, even though ABC had publicly asserted that the McClatchy reporter spoke to three "witnesses" in Panjwai - which, it developed after the ABC broadcast, he had NOT. See: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3492 ... [One of the critical comments following that transcript is from me.] Notably, these new criticisms of SBS seem to be primarily aimed at the accounts and indications from Panjwai civilian victims carried by SBS that reported MULTIPLE soldiers seen on March 11. Posted by taikan 05/16/2012, 06:58 PM According to Shane, "journalists often have a choice of quoting anonymous officials or writing stories about accusations of bad strikes and innocent deaths and including no response at all. I feel it's important to include some voice from the other side." The only reason Shane, other journalists and the newspapers in which their stories are printed are faced with a choice between "quoting anonymous officials" and "including no response at all" is because they continue to print the quotes from "anonymous officials." If they made it clear that the only statements they are willing to print that present the "other side" are quotes that can be attributed to a specific government official identified by name, title or both, the government would soon begin to come forward with identifiable officials to state its case. Of course, that assumes that any government official would be willing to make the same allegedly factual statements knowing that his/her future credibility with the public may be damaged if those statements later are shown to have been false. http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ask_this.view&askthisid=562 Naureen Shah Associate Director, Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project; Lecturer-in-Law & Acting Director, Human Rights Clinic Phone: (212) 854-2795 Email: email@example.com Naureen Shah develops research and advocacy on human rights and counterterrorism policy, including covert drone strikes, investigations and prosecutions of Muslims in the United States for terrorism offenses, and safeguards against torture. Since joining the Human Rights Institute in 2009, Naureen has produced major reports on on drone strikes, diplomatic assurances against torture and Afghan detention practices. Prior to joining Columbia, Naureen was a Leonard H. Sandler Fellow at Human Rights Watch, based in London. Prior to Human Rights Watch, Naureen worked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on refugee appeals cases. Naureen holds a B.S. from Northwestern University in Journalism and Gender Studies, cum laude. She holds a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a James Kent Scholar and Harlan Fiske Stone scholar, and received the Lowenstein Fellowship awarded to outstanding graduates pursuing public interest law. She served as articles editor on the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Her recent articles include President Obama's Dangerous Drone Legacy (USA Today, Oct. 1, 2012); The CIA’s Unchecked Quasi-Military Role (Politico, May 10, 2012); Drone Attacks and the Brennan Doctrine (Guardian, May 2, 2012); They Can't Go Home Again (Jurist, Feb. 15, 2011); Don’t Deliver Afghans to Torture on a Promise Alone (The Age/Sydney Morning Herald/National Times online, Jan. 7, 2011); Growing Up Before Ground Zero (Fort Worth Weekly, Sept. 8, 2011) and Abusive and Abused (International Herald Tribune, Aug. 3, 2009). Follow on Twitter @naureenshah http://web.law.columbia.edu/human-rights-institute/about/who-we-are/naureen-shah Counting Deaths from Drone Strikes Debate about drone strikes often centers on who is killed: "militants" or civilians. In the absence of official information, casualty estimates provided by media fill the gap; however, the estimates are incomplete and may significantly undercount the extent of reported civilian deaths. The US government owes the public an accounting of who is really being killed. Read the press release. Get the Report Download the summary and recommendations (PDF) Download this report (PDF) Download the Columbia dataset (PDF) View related material Civilian Impact of Drones: Unexamined Costs, Unanswered Questions Follow us: @CLSHumanRights #DroneDeaths Selected Media Coverage Questions on Drones, Unanswered Still, New York Times Counting the bodies in the Pakistani drone campaign, Bureau of Investigative Journalism Columbia Study: Media Drone Strike Reporting Flawed, Huffington Post Apple Rejects Phone App That Tracks Worldwide Drone Strikes, Truthout.org The Brookings Institution Demands Servile Journalism, The Guardian http://web.law.columbia.edu/human-rights-institute/counterterrorism/drone-strikes/counting-drone- strike-deaths Yemen’s Leader Praises U.S. Drone Strikes By SCOTT SHANE Published: September 29, 2012 WASHINGTON — The president of Yemen gave an unqualified endorsement of American drone strikes in his country during a visit here on Friday, cementing his status as a favored counterterrorism partner of the United States. Enlarge This Image Kevin Lamarque/Reuters Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the president of Yemen. Connect With Us on Twitter Follow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines. Twitter List: Reporters and Editors President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, elected in a one-candidate election in February, said at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars that the precision afforded by drones gave them a marked advantage over the aging Soviet aircraft in the Yemeni Air Force. “They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” said Mr. Hadi, a former army officer and the successor to Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after protests against his three-decade rule. The United States “helped with their drones because the Yemeni Air Force cannot carry out missions at night,” he said. “The electronic brain’s precision is unmatched by the human brain.” Mr. Hadi expressed no concerns about any reaction against drone strikes, which critics and some government officials have said can fuel anti-American sentiment and feed militancy. Though Mr. Saleh permitted counterterrorism strikes by American drones, cruise missiles and jets beginning in 2009, American officials have found Mr. Hadi a more reliable partner than his capricious predecessor. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, has mounted several plots against the United States. On Tuesday, President Obama underscored America’s gratitude to Mr. Hadi by dropping by as the Yemeni president met in New York with John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism adviser. While Mr. Obama spoke briefly with several heads of state at a reception during the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Mr. Hadi was the only one singled out for a meeting. Mr. Obama thanked Mr. Hadi for protecting the American Embassy and diplomats in Sana, the Yemeni capital, during the recent wave of protests against a crude American video insulting the Prophet Muhammad. American military strikes in Yemen against those suspected of terrorism began in December 2009 and were suspended for months after May 2010, in part because of concern about civilian casualties and the killing of a deputy provincial governor. The C.I.A. and the United States military later resumed strikes using missiles fired from drone aircraft, including the strike in 2011 that killed the American-born militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and another American. By the count of The Long War Journal, a Web site that tracks counterterrorism operations, there have been 33 American strikes in Yemen this year, compared with 10 last year. The attacks increased as Al Qaeda and its allies seized parts of two provinces, Abyan and Shabwa, amid the chaos related to a power struggle in Sana. Yemeni forces, which Mr. Hadi said were led by paramilitary groups, later ousted Qaeda fighters from several towns. “Now they are scattered all over,” Mr. Hadi said of the Qaeda supporters. “But they will never regain the force they once had.” Mr. Hadi said the deep poverty of Yemen, which is running out of oil and water, “is nurturing Al Qaeda.” He said the $1.5 billion pledged by international donors on Thursday would help Yemen avoid civil war, which he said would be “catastrophic” for the region and the world. A version of this article appeared in print on September 29, 2012, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Drone Strikes Draw Praise From Leader Of Yemen. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/29/world/middleeast/yemens-leader-president-hadi-praises-us- drone-strikes.html?ref=scottshane How the Gov’t Talks About a Drone Program it Won’t Acknowledge Exists An armed MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft sits in a shelter Oct. 15 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, before a mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson) by Cora Currier ProPublica, Sept. 13, 2012, 12:14 p.m. Related Interactive: Stacking Up the Administration's Drone Claims Drones have become the go-to weapon of the U.S.’s counter-terrorism strategy, with strikes in Yemen in particular increasing steadily. U.S. drones reportedly killedtwenty-nine people in Yemen recently, including perhaps ten civilians. Administration officials regularly celebrate the drone war’s apparent successes— often avoiding details or staying anonymous, but claiming tacit credit for the U.S. In June, a day after Abu Yahya Al-Libi was killed in Pakistan, White House spokesman Jay Carney trumpeted the death of “Al Qaeda’s Number-Two.” Unnamed officials confirmed the strike in at least ten media outlets. Similarly, the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki by a CIA drone last September was confirmed in many news outlets by anonymous officials. President Obama called Awlaki’s death “a tribute to our intelligence community." Just last week President Obama spoke about drone warfare on CNN, saying the decision to target individuals for killing rather than capture involves “an extensive process with a lot of checks.” But when it comes to details of that process, the administration clams up. The government refuses to formally acknowledge that the CIA even has a drone program, let alone discuss its thornier elements, like how many civilians have been killed, or how the CIA chooses targets. Officials have given speeches on the legal rationale for targeted killing and the use of drones in broad terms. The administration has alsoacknowledged “military operations”outside the “hot” battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, but again, details have remained under wraps. The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Times have both filed multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for documents relating to the CIA’s drones. The agency has responded by saying that it can“neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.” As part of a lawsuit challenging the CIA’s response, the ACLU collected nearly two hundred on- and off- the-record statements to the media by current and former U.S. officials about the CIA’s use of drones for targeted killing. In a graphic accompanying this story, we’ve laid out many of the statements, alongside the CIA’s legal stances refusing to confirm or deny the program. The statements cover most of Obama’s first term in office. Taken together, they show the extent to which the government keeps disclosures about the CIA’s drone war mostly on its own terms. In court briefs, Justice Department lawyers argue that widespread “unofficial” discussion notwithstanding, revealing the existence of any number of documents relating to the drone program or targeted killing would convey sensitive information about the nature and scope of such a program. They add that quotes from unnamed sources or former CIA officers don’t constitute official acknowledgment. As for public remarks about drones by President Obama and other officials—the government argues that they never explicitly mention the CIA and could be referring to military operations. A federal judge in D.C. already ruled in favor of the CIA in one suit last September, a decision the ACLU is appealing. A hearing is scheduled for next week. A White House spokesman declined to comment to ProPublica on the FOIA suit or on the CIA’s drone program. The CIA did not respond to our requests for comment. Some top administration officials have become well-practiced at coy references to the classified program. In October 2011, Defense Secretary—and former CIA director—Leon Panetta said, “I have a hell of a lot more weapons available to me in this job than I had at the CIA, although the Predators aren't bad.” In the ACLU suit, the government arguesthat Panetta’s comments were too vague to constitute an acknowledgement that the CIA actually had drones, or whether it used them for targeted killing, “as opposed to surveillance and intelligence-gathering.” A year earlier, Panetta said that Al Qaeda in Pakistan had been beaten back in part to due “the most aggressive operation the CIA has been involved in in our history.” The government notes that he never said the word “drone.” Semantics aside, details on the most controversial aspects of the program have been revealed through a patchwork of these unofficial comments. For example, in May the New York Times reported that the CIA counts any military-aged male killed in a drone strike as a “militant,” even if his identity isn’t known. Many outlets had previously reported that the CIA conducted“signature strikes” in Pakistan, and now in Yemen, which target men believed to be militants whose identities aren’t known. But neither the Times story nor subsequent reporting by ProPublica garnered much detail on how the CIA actually assesses casualties after a strike. As usual, neither the White House nor the CIA would comment on the record. It has also been widely reported that mainly the CIA conducts strikes in Pakistan, because the U.S.’s tense diplomatic relationship with the country requires the patina of deniability provided by a covert program. When Obama referred to drone strikes in a public video chat this January, saying that that “obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA,” the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, many assumed he had to be talking about the CIA. The government insists the president’s comments didn’t count as disclosure of anything, saying he could have been talking not about CIA strikes but military (though, as a government brief in the ACLU suit points out, those haven’t been acknowledged in Pakistan either). As the government argues, “It is precisely this sort of unbridled speculation that is insufficient to support a claim of official disclosure.” The same brief framed it another way: “Even if there is speculation about a fact, unless an agency officially confirms that fact, the public does not know whether it is so.” http://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-govt-talks-about-a-drone-program-it-wont-acknowledge Sarah Knuckey Director, Project on Extrajudicial Executions (knuckeys-at-exchange.law.nyu.edu) Sarah Knuckey has worked with non-governmental and international organisations in Australia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, the UK and the USA, leading human rights fact-finding missions, reporting on human rights violations and providing humanitarian and human rights legal and policy advice. Her work has addressed a range of humanitarian and human rights concerns, including refugee rights and detention, indigenous rights, counter-terrorism, torture, rape, the right to life, forced relocation, and the liability of transnational corporations and other non-state actors for human rights abuses. Previously, she was a Clerk to the Hon Justice Michael Kirby at the High Court of Australia, Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar, Lionel Murphy Postgraduate Scholar, Harvard Human Rights Program Summer Fellow, and Everett Public Interest Internship recipient (at Human Rights Watch). She has a BA and LLB (Hons) (University of Western Australia), an LLM (Harvard), and is currently a PhD candidate (University of London). http://www.chrgj.org/about/staff.html#sarah Stanford/N.Y.U. report on the drone campaign’s impact on Pakistanis http://livingunderdrones.org/wp- content/uploads/2012/09/Stanford_NYU_LIVING_UNDER_DRONES.pdf
"Questions on Drones_ Unanswered Still"