Michael Isikoff at NBC News made headlines last night when he revealed a leaked white paper from the Department of Justice outlining the legal case for using drones to kill American citizens if they are “senior operational leaders” in al Qaida or another terrorist organization — even if they have not been convicted of a crime. Isikoff writes:
The 16-page memo, a copy of which was obtained by NBC News, provides new details about the legal reasoning behind one of the Obama administration’s most secretive and controversial polices: its dramatically increased use of drone strikes against al-Qaida suspects abroad, including those aimed at American citizens, such as the September 2011 strike in Yemen that killed alleged al-Qaida operatives Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan. Both were U.S. citizens who had never been indicted by the U.S. government nor charged with any crimes.
On last weekend’s episode of Moyers & Company, Bill spoke with Vicki Divoll and Vincent Warren — two experts on civil liberties during wartime — about the ethics and legality of drone strikes and targeted killings. Divoll, a former general counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and former deputy legal adviser to the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, focused on the legality of the targeted killing of American citizens. She told Bill she finds the attacks very troubling.
“[S]ometimes our enemy doesn’t fight fairly,” Divoll said. “That does not give us the right to do the same. Just because the enemy is ugly and vicious and does awful things does not allow you to do the same.” Divoll explains her work on the targeted killing of Americans in this clip from her interview.
Later today, we’ll post a follow up with Divoll’s reaction to the leaked memo and her analysis of its contents.
In the meantime, check out Bill’s interview with Divoll and Warren, an interactive timeline comparing Bush and Obama on wartime civil liberties, our interactive charts on casualties from covert drone operations and our Q&A on “just war theory” in an age of terrorism.