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Lawerence Hurley | Reuters

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pauses during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday that President Barack Obama would not have the authority to order a drone to kill an American citizen on U.S. soil who was “not engaged in combat.”In a two-sentence letter to Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, Holder said he had heard Paul wanted to know if the president could use a drone to kill an American outside of an emergency situation.

“The answer to that question is no,” Holder wrote.

He was responding in part to Paul’s extensive critique of a letter the attorney general sent to the senator, which was made public on Tuesday. Holder said then that drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil were not anticipated, but he did not rule them out in circumstances similar to the September 11 attacks in 2001.

On Wednesday, Paul spent nearly 13 hours speaking on the Senate floor in an attempt to block the confirmation of John Brennan as the next CIA director in protest at the use of drones in targeted killings.

The Obama administration has increasingly used drone strikes to target militants overseas, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen.

David Alexander | Reuters

File photograph of Gen. Stanley McChrystal before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington DC

Aerial reconnaissance and attack drones have had a liberating effect on U.S. military forces, but they are deeply hated by many people and their overuse could jeopardize Washington’s broader objectives, retired General Stanley McChrystal said on Monday.

McChrystal, who authored the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, said use of drones had enabled him to carry out missions with smaller groups of special operations forces because the “eye in the sky” provided backup security.

“What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” he said in an interview. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

McChrystal said the use of drones exacerbates a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.’” Read More

Jennifer Saba and Johnathon Stempel | Reuters

The facade of the New York Times building is seen in New York

Credit: Reuters/ Shannon Stapleton

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected The New York Times’ bid to force the U.S. government to disclose more information about its targeted killing of people it believes have ties to terrorism, including American citizens.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan said the Obama administration did not violate the law by refusing the Times’ request for the legal justifications for targeted killings, a strategy the Times said was first contemplated by the Bush administration soon after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

McMahon appeared reluctant to rule as she did, noting in her decision that disclosure could help the public understand the “vast and seemingly ever-growing exercise in which we have been engaged for well over a decade, at great cost in lives, treasure, and (at least in the minds of some) personal liberty.”

Nonetheless, she said the government was not obligated to turn over materials the Times had sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), even though it had such materials in its possession.

“The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” McMahon said in her 68-page decision. Read More

Jim Wolf | Reuters

Seoul has requested a possible $1.2 billion sale of four remotely piloted aircraft from the United States.  (Picture from Aljazeera.com)

Seoul has requested a possible $1.2 billion sale of four remotely piloted aircraft from the United States. (Picture from Aljazeera.com)

The Obama administration formally proposed a controversial sale of advanced spy drones to help South Korea bear more of its defense from any attack by the heavily armed North.

Seoul has requested a possible $1.2 billion sale of four Northrop Grumman Corp RQ-4 “Global Hawk” remotely piloted aircraft with enhanced surveillance capabilities, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement dated on Monday and distributed on Tuesday.

South Korea needs such systems to assume top responsibility for intelligence-gathering from the U.S.-led Combined Forces Command as scheduled in 2015, the security agency said in releasing a notice to U.S. lawmakers.

“The proposed sale of the RQ-4 will maintain adequate intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and will ensure the alliance is able to monitor and deter regional threats in 2015 and beyond,” the notice said. Read More

Zahra Hosseinian | The Huffington Post

DUBAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Iran believes a U.S. drone  targeted by its forces this month was gathering intelligence on  oil tankers off its shores, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards  commander told the semi-official Mehr news agency on Sunday.

Washington said Iranian warplanes opened fire on an unarmed  U.S. drone over international waters on Nov. 1. Iran said it had  repelled an aircraft violating its airspace.

The incident underlined the risk of escalation in tensions  between the United States and Iran in an ongoing dispute over  Tehran’s nuclear programme. Read More

Brian Ellsworth | Reuters

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez smiles during a meeting with military members in Caracas.

Venezuela is building unmanned drone aircraft as part of military cooperation with Iranand other allies, President Hugo Chavez said, in a move likely to heighten U.S. anxiety over his socialist government’s role in the region.

Referring to a Spanish media report that U.S. prosecutors are investigating drone production in Venezuela, Chavez said late on Wednesday: “Of course we’re doing it, and we have the right to. We are a free and independent country.”

In a televised speech to military officers at Venezuela’s Defense Ministry, Chavez said the aircraft only has a camera and was exclusively for defensive purposes. “We don’t have any plans to harm anyone,” he said.

“We are doing this with the help of different countries including China, Russia, Iran, and other allied countries,” he added, apparently referring both to drone construction and to other projects including a munitions and weapons factory.

Read More

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