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About Those Drones

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Marc Thiessen’s Washington Post column on the president’s legal authority to use the drones shouldn’t be missed. Key graphs:

The Obama administration has put the Predator operators at greater risk by dramatically narrowing the legal underpinnings for their actions. State Department legal adviser Harold Koh — a harsh critic of the Bush administration — explained in a March 25 speech that the Obama administration was no longer invoking the president’s Article II authority as commander in chief to justify many of its policies in the war on terrorism. But Koh said that drone attacks were lawful because “Congress authorized the use of all necessary and appropriate force through the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).”

The problem — as Koh’s predecessor, John Bellinger, told The Post last week — is that Congress authorized the use of force against those who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And many of those currently targeted — particularly outside Afghanistan — had nothing to do with those attacks.

The American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi was not involved in Sept. 11 — yet he has reportedly been put on the targeting list. The Pakistani Taliban leaders who sent a terrorist to set off a car bomb in Times Square were also not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks — but they are being targeted with Predators. The president has the authority to strike these individuals under his Article II powers, but Obama refuses to invoke them — a decision he may come to regret. The administration is expanding its use of drones while shrinking the legal ground on which the attacks are based.

Read the whole thing. Most Americans applaud the vigorous use of the drones, but they don’t know that the Obama Administration is increasingly divided against itself on the legal authority for using the weapons.

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