U.N. Special Rapporteur Offers Limited Pushback Against CIA Drone Strikes

by Julian Ku

From this NYT story, the upcoming report to the U.N. Human Rights Council on U.S. drone strikes seems fairly restrained.  The main pushback is to end CIA involvement in drone strikes, on the theory that CIA operatives are not privileged belligerents.  This is indeed, the strongest legal argument against drone strike, at least to me, but it seems also pretty easily fixable.  Still, I wonder what the rest of the report says? And whether the Obama Administration will heed the calls to change their policy (or indeed, whether this report makes it harder for the to do so).

A senior United Nations official is expected to call on the United States next week to stop Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes against people suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, complicating the Obama administration’s growing reliance on that tactic in Pakistan.

Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said Thursday that he would deliver a report on June 3 to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva declaring that the “life and death power” of drones should be entrusted to regular armed forces, not intelligence agencies. He contrasted how the military and the C.I.A. responded to allegations that strikes had killed civilians by mistake.


4 Responses

  1. This seems to go back to the original Bush decision to step outside Geneva.  With all the emphasis on uniforms and GCIII 4(A)(2) the CIA is going to have a whole lot of problems. Not just on the uniforms.  How about the CIA torture policy – compliance with the law of wars?  Give me a break.  Some of these bright types might have thought that far down the road as the JAG’s did.  Now it all comes back to bite them in the derriere.

  2. And on accountability at the CIA, I saw a recent report http://www.truthout.org/cries-from-past-tortures-ugly-echoes59738 that said there is a Memorandum of Understanding done in the 1950’s between CIA and DOJ that is still in force which basically is an agreement by DOJ not to prosecute CIA types.

    The relevant quote is:

    “Explained the Agency’s General Counsel, since early 1954, following the death of Army biochemist Frank Olson, a secret agreement between the CIA and the U.S. Department of Justice had been put in place whereby the violation of “criminal statutes” by CIA personnel would not result in Department of Justice prosecutions, if “highly classified and complex covert operations” were threatened with exposure. The agreement had been struck between Houston and Deputy Attorney General William P. Rogers in February 1954, not long after Frank Olson’s death, and still remained solidly in place.”

    The weak structure for CIA oversight demonstrated with regard to torture (can we look at the torture process please – Margolis and the rest) seriously weakens their argument.

    They made their bed.


Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. […] It’s a fascinating discussion on the lawyers’ debate inside the administration.  But let me reach broader than that frame, and offer a few comments on the larger intersection of ways in which one might, and ought to, see CIA drone strikes.  This goes indirectly to Charlie Savage’s exceedingly interesting NYT piece. […]

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