In an extraordinary admission, Attorney General Eric Holder has told Congress that U.S. drone strikes since 2009 have killed four Americans — three of whom were “not specifically targeted.”
For all the effort that the Obama administration has gone to in asserting that its drones only kill the people that the administration intends to kill, Holder wrote in a letter today to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that Samir Khan, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammad were “not specifically targeted by the United States.” The fourth American to die in a drone strike since 2009 was Abdulrahman’s father Anwar Awlaki, a radical propagandist whom the U.S. killed in Yemen in 2011.
The five-page letter, obtained and published by Charlie Savage of The New York Times, does not explain the circumstances that led to the unintentional killings of Khan, Mohammad and the younger Awlaki. Holder does not apologize for the killings, nor explain whether their deaths resulted from errant targeting, mistaken identity or another circumstance.
But after acknowledging that the administration did “not specifically targe[t]” those three Americans, Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaida without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.
Intelligence officials in Pakistan say a suspected U.S. drone strike near the Afghan border has killed at least one militant who is believed to be a foreign national.
Authorities say a missile hit the militant Sunday as he was riding a horse in the North Waziristan tribal belt, known as a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
The nationality of the insurgent was not immediately clear.
Local security officials say the drone strike killed two militants.
I note that even the esteemed Rachael Maddow recognized the significance of the filibuster today. She also rightly added some criticisms of where the rhetoric went off the rails. She points out that finally our legislature begins to rise to the task of actually providing a check against the balance of how our executive branch has chosen to wage the war on terrorism.
Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster will inevitably fail at its immediate objective: derailing John Brennan’s nomination to run the CIA. But as it stretches into its sixth hour, it’s already accomplished something far more significant: raising political alarm over the extraordinary breadth of the legal claims that underground the boundless, 11-plus-year “war on terrorism.”
The Kentucky Republican’s delaying tactic started over one rather narrow slice of that war: the Obama administration’s equivocation on whether it believes it has the legal authority to order a drone strike on an American citizen, in the United States. Paul recognized outright that he would ultimately lose his fight to block Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief and architect of much of the administration’s targeted-killing efforts.
But as his time on the Senate floor went on, Paul went much further. He called into question aspects of the war on terrorism that a typically bellicose Congress rarely questions, and most often defends, often demagogically so. More astonishingly, Paul’s filibuster became such a spectacle that he got hawkish senators to join him.
“When people talk about a ‘battlefield America’,” Paul said, around hour four, Americans should “realize they’re telling you your Bill of Rights don’t apply.” That is a consequence of the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force that did not bound a war against al-Qaida to specific areas of the planet. “We can’t have perpetual war. We can’t have a war with no temporal limits,” Paul said.
At least three suspected al Qaeda militants have been killed by a drone strike in central Yemen, tribal sources and the Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
Yemeni officials will not comment on who exactly carries out such drone attacks or on whose orders, but President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi spoken openly in favor of the strikes during a trip to the United States in September.
However, discontent with the strikes among some Yemenis is growing. Witnesses said armed tribesman, angry at what they said was a drone attack on an area inhabited by civilians, blocked the main road linking the capital of Maarib province with Sanaa.
An American drone strike killed a top Pakistani militant commander in a northwestern tribal region, security officials said on Thursday. The death of Maulvi Nazir was seen as a serious blow to Taliban fighters who attack United States and allied forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
The drone strike took place Wednesday night and targeted Mr. Nazir’s vehicle in the Angoor Adda area in South Waziristan. Five other people were also killed, including one of his key aides, officials said.
“He has been killed. It is confirmed,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The vehicle he was traveling in was hit.
Tribal sources from Pakistan’s northwest said on Saturday a U.S. drone attack had killed a senior al Qaeda commander in the latest blow to the militant Islamist group that has been targeted in many similar attacks.
Abu Zaid was killed, along with 10 other people, in the drone strike on a hideout in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, one of the tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan, early on Thursday, the sources said. Zaid had just moved to the hideout a few days ago, they said.
Pakistani security officials based in North Waziristan said they were aware of the death of a senior al Qaeda commander but could not confirm his identity or rank.
Zaid replaced Abu Yahya al-Libi as one of al Qaeda’s most powerful figures in June after Libi was killed by a U.S. drone strike.
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said Sunday its operatives have confirmed that the son of the founder of the powerful Haqqani militant network was killed in an airstrike in Pakistan, even as the Taliban vowed that he was alive and well.
Shafiquallh Tahriri, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, said Badruddin Haqqani was killed last week. He did not provide any further details, and would not say what information the agency’s operatives were basing their conclusion on.
Tahiri’s account is similar to one provided Saturday by a senior Taliban leader who said Haqqani was killed in a drone strike. It also hews closely to a version provided by Pakistani officials who said they were 90 percent sure the militant commander was killed Tuesday in a missile attack in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.
Haqqani’s death would mark a major blow to the organization founded by his father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, which is viewed by the U.S. as a powerful enemy in Afghanistan. The son is considered the network’s day-to-day operations commander. The Haqqani network has been blamed for a series of high-profile attacks and kidnappings in Afghanistan, and the U.S. considers it one of the most powerful militant groups operating in the country.
The US launched the second drone strike today in the past 24 hour in an area known as a terrorist haven in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more advanced Reapers fired several missiles at a vehicle in the Mana area in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan, according to AFP and Geo News. Five drones were seen circling over the attack site before and after the strike.
Pakistani officials said that between four and six “militants” were killed in the strike, but did not disclose their identities. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were reported killed.
The strike is the second in Shawal in the past 24 hours. On Saturday, the drones hit a compound in the village of Shuwedar in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan, killing six more “militants,” according to Pakistani officials. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry objected to the earlier strike in Shawal, and called the US incursions “a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity and also in contravention of international law,” according to Dawn.
A Jordanian member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was the nephew of former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi was killed in a drone strike earlier this year, according to a martyrdom statement that was released by a jihadist.
A jihadist close to Muhammad Fazi al Harasheh, who was also known as Abu Hammam al Zarqawi, released the martyrdom statement on the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al Mujahideen forum on June 20. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
The date and location of Abu Hammam’s death were not disclosed. He was initially reported to have been killed in a landmine attack, in a statement released on jihadist forums on May 8, according to SITE. The US is known to have conducted 13 drone strikes in southern Yemen between the beginning of April and the date his death was announced. Three of those strikes took place in Abyan province, where Abu Hammam was known to operate.
According to the jihadist, “spies” aided in the killing of Abu Hammam in a drone strike as he traveled in a vehicle.
“They were unable to kill him in the battles, so they sent spies to guide them to him,” the statement said. “A drone came to bomb the car in which he and one of the brother were riding, and so his pure soul went to its maker.”
Abu Yahya al Libi, a Libyan-born top al Qaeda leader, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan earlier this week, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.
U.S. officials said that Abu Yahya had recently been considered by U.S. counter-terrorism experts as the No. 2 in the core al Qaeda group led by Ayman al Zawahiri.