Obama administration secretly uses Blair's defence to justify drone killings

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 06, 2013 10:30 hrs

To help justify its drone campaign against al-Qaeda, the Obama administration is using the defence Tony Blair's government had given for Britain's role in the war on terrorism after the invasion of Iraq.

In a classified memo arguing that its so-called 'targeted killing' campaign is legal, the US cited remarks made in 2004 by Lord Goldsmith, then Blair's attorney-general, on why Britain's right to defend itself.

According to the Telegraph, Lord Goldsmith at the time, pointing to 'new circumstances and new threats' since September 11, said that 'it must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack'.

His comments to Parliament in April 2004 are now been used by Obama's justice department to build an argument that the US is entitled to assassinate Americans who are 'senior operational leaders' of al-Qaeda or 'an associated force', even when there is no evidence they are actively plotting to attack, the report said.

The document, which was published by NBC News, disclose some of the long-awaited and secret legal reasoning for Obama's use of unmanned drones to kill al-Qaeda terrorist suspects who are also US citizens, such as Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical cleric killed in Yemen in September 2011, the report added.

The 16-page 'white paper' was given to the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees by the Obama administration last summer on the condition that should not be made public, according to NBC.

The committees are investigating the drone campaign, which was only recently acknowledged in public by senior US officials.

The targeting of American citizens, who have constitutional rights to a fair trial of criminal charges, has provoked particular criticism from human rights campaigners.

According to the report, the targeted killing programme is believed to have killed up to 3,000 people.

John Brennan, Obama's nominee for CIA director and the architect of the campaign, is expected to face questions about it during a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, the report added. (ANI)

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