U.S. Releases Procedures For Approving Strikes Against Terror Suspects
The White House has declassified its procedures for approving operations against terror suspects outside of the United States, providing a window into the decision-making process for authorizing drone strikes and other forms of lethal force.
The redacted document, issued by the administration in May 2013, was released in response to a court order resulting from an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit.
According to the 18-page document, these are the conditions that the U.S. military can use lethal force against a terrorism suspect:
The document spells out how a strike against a "high value" terrorism suspect is approved. Perhaps the most salient point is that a large number of senior officials are involved in the decision-making process:
As the ACLU put it, questions remain about where this guidance applies exactly, "whether the president has waived its requirements in particular instances, and how the [document]'s relatively stringent standards can be reconciled with the accounts of eye witnesses, journalists, and human rights researches who have documented large numbers of bystander casualties."
The document allows for less stringent operating procedures during moments of "fleeting opportunity," and "extraordinary cases," including situations where an individual "poses a continuing, imminent threat to another country's persons."
As The Two-Way reported last month, the White House has released its own figures on the casualty toll of 473 airstrikes outside areas of active hostilities between Jan. 20, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2015.
These figures do not include casualties in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The report from the office of the Director of National Intelligence acknowledges that reporting from some monitoring organizations "generally estimates significantly higher figures for non-combatant deaths than is indicated by U.S. government information."
The document released Saturday also outlines guidance on capturing terror suspects, saying that the preferred option is to place them in custody in a third country. If that is not feasible, "the preferred long-term disposition option for suspects captured or otherwise taken into custody by the United States will be prosecution in a civilian court or, where available, a military commission."
It adds: "In no event will additional detainees be brought to the detention facilities at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base."
According to The New York Times, current and former officials had sketched out the process — but "now, with some redactions, the guidance itself has been made public, confirming those accounts and filling in gaps."
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