“Civilian casualties” authorized under secret US drone-strike memo

A secret Obama administration memo disclosed Monday outlines the legal justification for the government's drone-targeted killing program, a lethal strategy that authorizes the killing of innocents as collateral damage.

The memo (PDF), released by a US federal appeals court under a Freedom of Information Act request, describes the government's legal underpinnings for its so-called overseas targeted-killing program where drones from afar shoot missiles at buildings, cars, and people. It began under the George W. Bush administration but was broadened under Obama and now includes the killing of Americans.

The Obama administration fought for years to keep the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memo from becoming public. The document says that lethal force is authorized under international war rules and the US war on terror. Rights groups, however, decried the 41-page document, saying that it amounted to a legal blueprint for other nations to follow.

"While today the US, the UK, and Israel are the only countries known to have used killer drones, experts say that within 10 years virtually every country on earth will be able to build or acquire drones capable of firing missiles. The United States loosening and redefining international rules governing the use of force and war is ultimately not going to make anyone any safer," Pardiss Kebriaei, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement...


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