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ACLU Sues Over Legality of "Targeted Killing" By Drones 776

Posted by Soulskill
from the skynet-jokes-are-allowed-and-encouraged dept.
MacAndrew writes "The ACLU has sued the United States Government to enforce a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for 'the release of records relating to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles — commonly known as 'drones' — for the purpose of targeting and killing individuals since September 11, 2001.' (Complaint.) The information sought includes the legal basis for use of the drones, how the program is managed, and the number of civilian deaths in areas of operation such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. The ACLU further claims that 'Recent reports, including public statements from the director of national intelligence, indicate that US citizens have been placed on the list of targets who can be hunted and killed with drones.' Aside from one's view of the wisdom, effectiveness, and morality of these military operations, the inclusion of US citizens suggests that summary remote-control executions are becoming routine. Especially given the difficulty in locating and targeting individuals from aircraft, risks of human and machine error are obvious, and these likely increase as the robots become increasingly autonomous (please no Skynet jokes). This must give pause to anyone who's ever spent time coding or debugging or even driving certain willful late model automobiles, and the US government evidently doesn't want to discuss it."
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ACLU Sues Over Legality of "Targeted Killing" By Drones

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  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @11:50AM (#31509398)
    Well then, lets have some untargeted killing then. Thats much better for everyone.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @11:52AM (#31509436) Journal
    I don't like the government having too much power, but I'm not sure I understand why the ACLU is getting involved in this if it is not being done domestically against American citizens. What's done in war time on foreign soil against non-American citizens doesn't seem to fall within the domain of the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • US Citizens (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @11:54AM (#31509466) Journal

    If US Citizens are employed in the service of enemies of this Republic on foreign soil, then what the hell does the ACLU want? The FBI to paradrop into Afghanistan, slap the cuffs on them and read them their Miranda rights? What the hell?

    Next up: ACLU objects to US Military engaging in warfare, suggests borrowing a page from Steven Spielberg and replacing all issued M-16s with walkie-talkies.

  • by ircmaxell (1117387) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @11:55AM (#31509484) Homepage
    More importantly, does the ACLU have any problem with snipers? Typically they are involved in "execution" style attacks (where the individual is stalked, targeted and terminated)... Sure, the sniper can also be (and is usually used in) a support role for a group of soldiers (Which drones do routinely), but they can and do target individuals. How is that any different from a drone (Which can do the same exact thing, but requires less man-hours of training and has less risk associated with it)? And who cares if they are targeting US citizens? It's not like they are flying over and killing innocents, the citizens they are targeting are consorting with the enemy (Well, I assume, but if they are targeting civilians, I have a feeling they'd cover that up so well (just like they do with every other "questionable" practice)...
  • by Jer (18391) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @11:56AM (#31509488) Homepage

    From the summary:

    'Recent reports, including public statements from the director of national intelligence, indicate that US citizens have been placed on the list of targets who can be hunted and killed with drones.'

    That's part of the reason why the ACLU would be involved.

    Another part is that they're a watchdog group. When the government is keeping secrets from its citizens, watchdog groups make noise. That's what they do. I'm glad for it - too much gets shoved under the label of "national security" and the press is useless if you can't provide them a decent "some say ... while others claim ..." narrative to wrap facts in.

  • Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drexlor (1314419) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @11:58AM (#31509520)
    UAVs allow operators to make intelligent decisions because they are not in the heat of battle, change shifts every hour, have someone behind them helping them make decisions, and have advanced payloads identifying actual threats versus civilians. There is no comparison to other methods in regards to reducing civilian casualties.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @11:59AM (#31509542) Journal

    'Recent reports, including public statements from the director of national intelligence, indicate that US citizens have been placed on the list of targets who can be hunted and killed with drones.'

    Read the summary but somehow totally missed this part. Thanks for the polite response. :-)

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:00PM (#31509568) Journal
    The doctrine regarding the use of lethal force against American civilians can be classified ? That sounds like a real problem...
  • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:02PM (#31509582) Journal
    Not that I completely agree with them, but I thought the articles said that they thought we were targeting US citizens. My rights as a citizen of the US shouldn't expire with respect to the US government if I leave the country. I'd like to hope the US isn't just waiting for me to step into mexico to snipe me.
  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:02PM (#31509588) Journal

    Yeah, because an airplane in a few miles with only thermal vision on has the same accuracy than when a sniper is stalking and on a good opportunity targeting and shooting a target.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:03PM (#31509590)

    Okay, I know reading TFA is verboten, but could you at least read the summary?

    The ACLU further claims that 'Recent reports, including public statements from the director of national intelligence, indicate that US citizens have been placed on the list of targets who can be hunted and killed with drones.'

    So, they're asking about what is being done TO American civilians. And your country's pressed its stance of "Our citizens are our citizens no matter where they go, and are still subject to our law and no other" often enough that just because it's being done on foreign soil doesn't exempt them now.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .nhojovadle.> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:04PM (#31509610) Journal

    And who cares if they are targeting US citizens?

    I seem to recall something about having a right to a fair trial if I'm a US citizen. Also, I was hoping I would be considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of my peers. Yes, I know that's been thrown out the window in some cases but I would still prefer that over "Oh, they killed the Jones' today. Huh, they must have been consorting with terrorists." The ACLU is trying to protect your civil liberties and freedoms whether you want them to or not. Because to them and many other people, things like this are important.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:06PM (#31509652)

    There is supposed to be a legal process where one gets found guilty in a court of law, gets to appeal and then get sentenced to execution. Even then most states have recognized the process has a number of flaws.

    Here we apparently have the US government selecting US citizens for death and then carrying out the killing without the involvement of the courts. The ACLU is asking how such operation is valid under the US constitution. Every US citizen should be worried about a process where the government is able to execute citizens without going through the court system. Because the men in black masks might start making local visits.

  • Re:US Citizens (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bdsesq (515351) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:07PM (#31509666)

    The ALCU is probably looking for "due process of law".

    Somehow I have trouble generating sympathy for anyone who gets hurt standing next to Osama or Im-a-dinner-jacket when they get taken out.

  • by mukund (163654) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:12PM (#31509738) Homepage

    I have always felt this method of targeting individuals illegal at best. It may be legal to use force when there is a declared war happening and this is among soldiers.

    But such targeted killing of individuals has happened in many countries now, without any trial. In several cases, surrounding civilians also become causalities, even though they may just be passers-by. WTF?

    Before al-Zarqawi was killed in Iraq, nobody wanted him alive. But that bombing which caused his death also killed civilians including children in that building, who may have had no choice but to be there.

    How is a government any better than the terrorists then? Like many say, if such things happen where there is no due process and no care about collateral damage, then the terrorists have already won and there's no difference between us and them.

  • Re:US Citizens (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:13PM (#31509778)

    If US Citizens are employed in the service of enemies of this Republic on foreign soil, then what the hell does the ACLU want?

    I don't think the question here is whether it is permissible to attack military enemies, so much as whether it is permissible to engage in the assassination of specific individuals, to say nothing of the accuracy of the intelligence that leads to such assassination missions and the extensive collateral damage that may end up creating more enemies than it destroys. We are, after all, talking about an intelligence community whose failures over the last fifty years would be comical if the consequences weren't so grave.

    The failure of the "let's just trust our leaders" model is what spurred us to form a republic in the first place. To have it come up again in the context of the two biggest military disasters of our nation's history suggests that someone isn't paying attention to the reality on the ground, and it's not the ACLU.

  • by ircmaxell (1117387) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:15PM (#31509804) Homepage
    As far as I can tell, this seems to be about killing a Citizen that has a gun and is presently involved in shooting at American soldiers (Or is somehow presently engaged in other acts of war against the US)... It's not about finding one on the street and saying he's a bad guy, kill him. If you shoot at a police officer (or even raise a gun towards him for that matter), is he/she going to stop and say "Well, he deserves the right to a fair trial, so I'm going to let him shoot at me while I go try to put him in handcuffs"? No, they are going to shoot back. If the suspect survives, then they will be tried by their peers. But once you engage against either the military or the police, you should consider yourself lucky if you do survive...

    I'm not saying that these kinds of things are important, but why the focus on drones? Why not focus on ALL targeted killing? They pick drones, because it's new and scary (They can rally support through sensationalism). Not because it's radically changed the way the military has operated (in terms of who to kill, not in strategy). Don't get me wrong, I think it needs to be looked into, but this appears to me to be a media stunt to try to get the public's interest roused to the point where the military will have to say SOMETHING...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:21PM (#31509896)

    If it was only targeting combatants on a battlefield it wouldn't be a problem. The problem is there is a list of people that the military is trying to hunt down and execute outside of a battlefield, the list includes US citizens that haven't been convicted of anything in any court of law or military tribunal.

    This means that someone in the US government is deciding which US citizens to execute, with no public or judicial oversight. This seems like exactly the sort of thing the ACLU would be interested in, it is just a pity that news organizations aren't.

    I am sure that this secret power to execute US citizens could never be abused and that the people making these decisions would never make a mistake, or cover up that mistake they would never make, but I would feel more comfortable if I knew how the process of deciding who to hunt down and execute worked.

    Killing someone who isn't a member of any nations military and isn't currently on a battlefield or actively trying to kill you at the time is a job for the courts not the military.

  • by greatgreygreengreasy (706454) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:22PM (#31509912)
    Shouldn't they be arrested, charged, and tried then, rather than summarily executed?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:23PM (#31509922)

    Sorry, I have to agree with them on this one, and I used to be a big donor to them. Countries, like the one I live in now, where people can't own guns are safer, period. As for "the criminals have them." No, they don't. Anyone gets caught with a gun, it's to jail with them, end of story.

    And for the Americans who say "But we need guns to defend ourselves against the government!" Riiight. Anyone who starts collecting guns with the stated intention to be prepared to fight the government, just wait and see what happens. First of all, I think that's called "treason". Second... well someone did a test run of that for us, it was called "Wako, TX".

  • by characterZer0 (138196) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:25PM (#31509960)

    If US citizens are working as enemy combatants outside of the US, then they should be eligible as military targets as well.

    Just to make it clear that the US military has no business going after US citizens on US soil. We have other agencies for that.

  • Re:US Citizens (Score:2, Insightful)

    by benjamindees (441808) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:26PM (#31509978) Homepage

    No, actually, if you'd stop doing a half-assed job of "cleaning up" other countries, terrorists might not have flown planes into fucking office buildings and we wouldn't be having this retarded discussion.

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:26PM (#31509980)

    No. We didn't arrest Confederate combatants in the American Civil War, nor did they set out to arrest Plains and Southwest Indian combatants who left the Reservations and treaty lands during the Indian Wars.

  • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:30PM (#31510050)

    I'm sorry but if you leave the US, travel to a foreign battlefield and willingly enlist in the service of those who are fighting our country you've committed treason.

    Treason is a crime. Crimes are dealt with by arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing.

    Responding to purported treason by assassination is a cowardly, banana republic approach.

  • by Rijnzael (1294596) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:31PM (#31510066)
    In the battlefield of the kind US soldiers face in the Middle East, I think it would be a tad cumbersome to verify the combatant down your gun sight isn't a citizen before pulling the trigger. Likewise, if a US citizen defects or otherwise joins the 'enemy' in the fight against US forces, then there is no distinction between the citizen and non-citizens in the target zone. How it differs from an extrajudicial killing is dubious though, I agree.
  • by johnlcallaway (165670) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:33PM (#31510126)
    Yeah .. that's it. We'll just ask for ID cards proving citizenship before we shoot back at someone.

    If they are on US soil, I would agree. A US citizen in a foreign country that is hanging around with enemy combatants that the US military thinks might be doing bad things is fair game. I don't care if they are a news reporter either. Those are the risks one takes in a war zone.

    War sucks ... it's even worse when the enemy doesn't wear uniforms and hides like cowards among the civilian populations, using women and children to hide behind. If someone shoots at American soldiers on foreign soil, then goes into a civilian population center, he just put his family and friends at risk. Whether that person is a US citizen or not, I hope a predator drone puts a missile right up his ass.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:33PM (#31510132)

    We don't have to go to court to kill someone who is actively engaged in warfare against the United States. It doesn't matter whether they are a citizen or not.

    The Constitution is not a suicide pact. We deploy soldiers, not attorneys. Basic training is six weeks, not three years of law school. Soldiers don't have time to do the type of investigation you are demanding. They would be killed before they even got started.

  • Re:US Citizens (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SydShamino (547793) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:38PM (#31510216)

    Or do you believe that the US army should be able to execute any American citizen who are not on US soil if the army feels like it?

    The US Army can't wipe it's own ass without the permission of the Commander-in-Chief. The question is should the President be allowed to order the US Military to kill Americans who are serving with foreign enemies of this Republic?

    I don't think the ACLU is even asking this question. All they want to know is HOW the president was allowed to order the US Military to kill Americans who are serving with foreign enemies of this Republic, via unmanned drones. They'd like to see the legal justification for that decision.

    There's no reason the government should be able to keep the legal justification for that decision private. If it's legal, tell the world why and defend it.

  • by jmalicki (1764) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:38PM (#31510222)
    Once the armed robber puts the gun down, they certainly do have a right to due process. They aren't fair game to be shot by police two weeks later when they're walking to the grocery store unarmed, even if they plan to rob again.
  • by Real1tyCzech (997498) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:39PM (#31510248)

    Damn them for being enemy combatants?

    Sorry, the moment they become EC's, they lose *all* affiliation with the US, including citizenship, and any protections afforded them by such things as the Geneva Convention...unless they become affiliated with another recognized nation.

  • by jav1231 (539129) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:44PM (#31510364)
    There is no indication these are U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. Calm down, people. Frankly, if you're an American training in a jihadist camp then I would hope a drone would take you out. You're no longer a citizen to me.
  • Re:US Citizens (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:44PM (#31510368) Journal

    If these people wanted due process of law they should have remained on American soil and not enlisted in the service of foreign organizations that are trying to murder American soldiers and civilians

    What about the US citizens who are not on American soil, but have not enlisted in the service of foreign organizations that are trying to murder Americans?

  • by Hrvat (307784) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:53PM (#31510574)

    Hey, you're disagreeing with the government, thus you're an EC. Revoke his citizenship! Kill him!

    Slippery slope, friend...

  • by kismet666 (653742) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:56PM (#31510636)
    Sigh... These US citizens and a whole lot of foreigners are being assassinated in non-combat situations. The drones are being used precisely for this scenario: execute someone who isn't actually shooting at US soldiers while minimizing the risk of US soldiers getting injured. And a lot of these drones are being operated by non-military personnel too, so you are ok with the CIA and its contractors executing people, including US citizens? Will you still be ok if the CIA starts executing political extremists in the US simply becuase the president said that the protesters are terrorists who were thinking about violent actions?
  • by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @12:58PM (#31510684) Journal

    I cant really think of many legitimate reasons a US born person should have be wandering around in the tribal regions of Pakistan.

    US Born != US citizen. It might surprise you to learn that there are many Pakistan born US citizens. Should going home to visit your family make you a legitimate target for a UAV?

    There's also missionaries, womens rights workers, etc., etc.

  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@y a h o o . c om> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:00PM (#31510742) Journal

    Are you seriously arguing that someone who:

    1) Goes to another country
    2) Fights on behalf of that country or a splinter group within it
    3) Fights against the US and/or its allies

    deserves protections offered by the Bill of Rights? These people are enemy soldiers, not just criminals. They deserve protections under the Geneva Convention, but that's it.

  • by DaTroof (678806) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:02PM (#31510774)

    How did this get modded insightful? It completely misses the point.

    Obviously, the ACLU is not arguing that untargeted killing is preferable. They want to know, among other things, what rules exist for selecting targets and whether the program complies with international law.

  • by hduff (570443) <hoytduff@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:02PM (#31510782) Homepage Journal
    <quote>No. We didn't arrest Confederate combatants in the American Civil War, nor did they set out to arrest Plains and Southwest Indian combatants who left the Reservations and treaty lands during the Indian Wars.</quote>

    We also sent Americans to concentration camps and performed medical experiments on Americans without their consent. So you position is that if we did or didn't do it before, that's justification and absolution for doing it now? I would think that wrong is wrong, but you must have a much different sense of morality that other people.

    That said, if American citizens are actively engaged in hostilities toward American citizens in war, their citizenship status should not protect them from harm at that time. If they are just sitting around and can be apprehended with minimal risk, then of course arrest, charge and try them. But to put them on a government-sanctioned "hit list" just because you can isn't right. That same government can also put you on that same list for no particular reason. That wouldn't be right either.

  • by jagapen (11417) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:08PM (#31510912)

    Real1tyCzech, you are an enemy combatant and are therefore not to be afforded any Geneva Convention protections.

    No, no, stop, stop! I know what you're going to say, so don't even try to protest that you've never engaged in hostilities toward the United States. It doesn't matter. Nobody cares. There's no due process. You don't get to protest this designation in court. The President says that you're an enemy combatant, and that's that.

    Any plane you hear approaching now could be the last. Enjoy!

  • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:08PM (#31510914) Homepage

    If US citizens are working as enemy combatants, killing a few defectors won't solve the underlying problem that the nation is spiraling into madness.

    Terrorism is not a cause, it's a symptom. People get desperate because they feel wronged and powerless. Whether it's due to religious fanaticism or abusive capitalism, the result is the same: angry people who have nothing left to lose.

  • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:10PM (#31510948)

    Sucks having to follow the law... doesn't it.

  • by Capt_Morgan (579387) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:16PM (#31511080)
    No YOU are the making the assumption that the "target list" only contains people who should be on there.... That's what the entire lawsuit is about. Since this entire iraq/afghan disaster started 10s and possibly 100s of thousands of innocent people have died. Shedding some light on how decisions to kill people are made shouldn't be a problem for anyone
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:17PM (#31511090) Homepage

    I agree with you, but your last sentence is a bit of a stretch.

    i normally cheer for the ACLU, but i think they are defending the wrong people for the wrong reasons. This smells political.

    They aren't defending anyone (yet). They are just asking "what did you mean by that part about US citizens...?"

  • by pandaman9000 (520981) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:17PM (#31511092) Homepage

    Ok.....

    You protect your family and country with phallic jokes and pacifism. I will protect mine with bullets.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:18PM (#31511106)

    And if the cops or military shoot FIRST? (As if that never happens, eh?) Perhaps that 'gun' in the person's hand was a gardening tool, but hey, oh well, he 'attacked' us, so we drilled him first.
    (I seem to recall of wholesale slaughter of innocent, unarmed villagers (including many children) in 'Nam, for example...)

    There are EXCELLENT reasons for the ACLU to be going after this issue.

    This is an indeed very old problem:
    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase from the Roman poet Juvenal, which is literally translated as, "Who will guard the guards themselves?" Sometimes rendered "who watches the watchmen?" the phrase has other idiomatic translations and adaptations.

    It's very interesting to find out who is protecting soldiers and policemen from being held accountable for their actions. BOTH parties, BOTH sides need to be protected, held accountable, etc.
    THAT and only that, will ensure anything remotely resembling a fair, just action.

    Or are you just going to lie down and be tazered/shot/imprisoned, just because someone with a badge has a bad day, doesn't like your accent/race/language/culture/religion/politics? You'd love China, or say, North Korea...go visit and find out why unlimited police/military power is generally a very, very bad thing (oh, heck, just take a look at WWII, for Pete's sake...) Those who do not study history are indeed doomed to repeat it...seems North America is becoming more and more fascist by the day...

  • by yacc143 (975862) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:21PM (#31511192) Homepage

    No, it's just that the US government is executing people without judical review.

    So basically, somebody in the adminstration puts Mr. Smith on the death list, and it's basically that. Wonder what will happen if somebody ever discovers that Mr. Smith was innocent, the only crime that he did commit to have an affair with the wife of the person who put him on the death list?

    You do realize, that the US is clamoring about human rights abuses in China and other places, right?

    Hint: the right to life is probably the most fundamental human right.

    Basically, there is now law allowing this targeted killings, and for some cases (US citizens) the government is clearly violating the constitution.

  • by Unequivocal (155957) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:24PM (#31511280)

    I made this same point a little earlier: the problem is who decides that they have done what you described? Obviously in the heat of combat, the losing side gets killed or captured. But these strikes are strategic - they are killing enemy leaders and disrupting the prosecution of war by the other side. So if a US citizen is determined to be an enemy leader (or similar) who decided? What process was used to decide? And importantly, the person might not even know that such a decision was made so they can't appeal.

    If you think secret military decisions are less prone to mistakes than other parts of gov't and military activity, that's one thing, but I think it's safe to say that mistakes will be made in this area. So in effect they aren't stripping rights from one person they're stripping them from anyone they want, without recourse. That seems like a problem to me.

  • by OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:29PM (#31511398)

    Not on my tax dollar; true the governments is using our tax dollar for the equipments and resources to execute these guys. But in the long run you save by not having to paid to bring these guys to the US, put them on trial and then feed and house them for the remainder of their life state side.

    So how does that saying goes "a bullet cost .20 cents"

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:30PM (#31511402)

    Since the article states that the attacks have been carried out in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen, I think that apprehending them with minimal risk isn't going to be an option.

  • Re:Oddly Enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gnavpot (708731) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:31PM (#31511434)

    The defense's response was merely a motion for discovery of the plaintiff's latitude and longitude.

    Why is this "insightful". Shouldn't this be "funny"? Or, possibly "sickly funny"?

    Probably because this joke sums up the problem very well:
    If remote execution of terrorists without trial or public knowledge is acceptable, then how do we know that only terrorists are executed?

    Or, if I need to spell it out:
    How do we know that people aren't executed, simply because they are a PITA and use the Freedom of Information Act against those in control of the drones?

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @01:44PM (#31511734)

    The US didn't formally declare a state of war in Korea, Vietnam, the Plains Indian Wars, the Southwest Indian Wars and that didn't stop the bombardment, detainment and killing of enemy combatants and leaders.

  • Not This Time! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:00PM (#31512036)

    Although I usually like causes taken up by the ACLU this cause sounds really dumb. Weapons of war always take innocents along with combatants. Make no mistake there were nursing homes and kindergartens at Hiroshima and just about every other city that we have bombed in our various wars.
                The real question is whether drones will kill of unusual numbers of innocents compared to other weapons of war. I suspect that drones are part of the notion of kinder and gentler warfare.
                  As to targeting American citizens in war zones, well sure, if they are aiding the enemy then they are fair game.
                  And keep in mind that using drones keeps our own soldiers and airmen out of harms way. If we are lucky we may be able to create an entirely robotic military in the future.

  • Re:US Citizens (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:07PM (#31512200)

    It's not like John Smith was sitting on his Sofa in Madison Wisconsin and a hellfire missle dropped in on his house.

    Maybe if that did happen more often, Americans might not be so sanguine about the sloppy work being done by the military overseas, where our targets have included wedding parties, schools, and clearly marked tanks commanded by members of allied forces. Perhaps then, they'd get off their capitalized sofas and learn how to spell "missile" correctly.

    Being at war is not an excuse for incompetence, violations of the laws of war, or the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Or so we once argued at Nuremburg. On a purely practical, self-interested level, the wars in which apologists spend the most time defending the indefensible in the name of "doing what's necessary" tend to be the wars we lose. And considering that we've effectively lost most of the wars we've fought in recent years and are in the middle of two more conflicts that have boiled down to desperate searches for a dignified exit strategy, maybe it's time we reevaluated what's necessary.

  • Re:Oddly Enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:14PM (#31512334)

    We're talking about military gear, they aren't going to get a court order for every set of coordinates they hand to the artillery team. When the military needs an enemy dead they'll use what they can, if they have some kind of precision weapon they'll take out the target with a minimum of collateral damage, if they don't then at some point they're going to fall back to carpet bombing. This isn't law enforcement, this is war. There's no judges deciding whether a target is really a terrorist, there's only the soldier and his gun deciding on the battlefield who needs to get shot and who doesn't. Air strikes (and that's really all a drone attack is) are based on recon data, not police investigations.

    Using drones on domestic targets is already against the law and you'll notice that the areas in question are stuff like Afghanistan and Iraq. They won't be shooting at protesters in the US anytime soon and in Iraq they could just as well drop an artillery shell on those same protesters if that's what they wanted.

  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:18PM (#31512434) Journal

    If they are just sitting around and can be apprehended with minimal risk, then of course arrest, charge and try them.

    The majority of the hits thus far (at least those reported in the media) have been in either Taliban-held territory in Afghanistan or in the autonomous regions of Pakistan, in both cases definite no-go for arrest operations. At that point, military action becomes the only way of getting at them. If they can be captured, so much the better, but sometimes a remote-kill switch is the only way to handle them.

  • by zzsmirkzz (974536) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:18PM (#31512448)

    enemy combatant trumps citizenship (and rightly so)

    The part you are missing is who decides (and how do they decide) when an American citizen is an enemy combatant. In some cases, like the ones most parroted in this thread, are cut-and-dried and dead simple. There may be other cases that are less so. A lot of people are assuming it is only the people in the first case that are being targeted while the ACLU doesn't want to assume, it wants to know. What evidence must there be to declare an American citizen an enemy combatant and thus target them for execution? They want the entire, written procedure that is followed and they only want it to ensure American citizens are provided due process of law when there is any reasonable doubt of their guilt as that is their right as citizens. This is something every citizen of this country should not only want but demand.

    Also, keep in mind, you (as well as many others) use Enemy Combatant as a word that has definite meaning and that when used, inherently proves the guilt of the person labeled. When, in fact, a person can labeled an enemy combatant just by the President's (as well as some members of his staff's) say so. No proof, no trial, no accusation, just he's an enemy combatant said by the right person, makes it so. Its just another form of conveying guilt by label and not by proof, like witch, commie and terrorist before it.

  • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:23PM (#31512566) Homepage Journal

    /sarcasm/ Yeah, you're right. The last time I happened to stroll across a battlefield, there were referees out there, taking names, and checking that everyone was shooting at the proper targets, preventing anyone shooting at a civilian. This is the civilized way of running a war, after all. /end sarcasm/

    Seriously, dude. If you're on a battlefield, anyone with a weapon is either "friend" or "foe", and if you ain't sure, then he's "foe".

    As for the ACLU, or anyone else who objects to carefully targetted killing - what do they prefer? Bomb and napalm a village off the face of the earth, and hope that the intended victim died with all the villagers? These drones are a far more humane way to rid yourself of enemies, than using bombers loaded with thousands of tons of bombs.

    Do they really want to go back to the days of Dresden and Hiroshima? "Kill them all, let God sort them out!"

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:31PM (#31512734)

    Excellent post, except I think you miss the point of the ACLU's actions. They aren't criticizing or defending anybody or anything--they are merely seeking information to ensure that what you and I as Intel analysts already know is true--we don't indiscriminately kill US citizens. If they get their information, they'll see that's the case and their goal of transparency will be a success.

  • Re:Oddly Enough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Duradin (1261418) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:48PM (#31513032)

    The problem is that this isn't war. It's a police action. It'd be war once congress declares war.

    This is a state actor (US Military) fighting against a collection of non-state-actors/civilian groups without a formal declaration of war (including all the formalities that come with a declaration of war between state actors).

    So really, this is (foreign) law enforcement. There should be due process. If congress can't be bothered to issue a declaration of war then we should still be bound by civilian conventions.

  • by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @02:50PM (#31513060)
    We are talking about a war zone here. Are you seriously asking the US military to arrest every enemy soldier who is firing on them, find out if they are a US citizen, and then put them on trial?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @03:18PM (#31513558)

    Treason is a crime. Crimes are dealt with by arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing.

    Kind of difficult to do when they're part of a hostile force outside the jurisdiction of our legal system.

    Or do you want to make the claim the our legal system holds sway anywhere in the world. If you do, be prepared to defend yourself from charges of Imperialism.

    And they're deep inside hostile territory.
    Would you have us airdrop in some police and lawyers to make the arrest? How would you expect to get any of them back out, alive?

    War and law enforcement are two different things, you can't fight a war like it is law enforcement and you certainly shouldn't enforce laws like it's a war, despite metaphors to the contrary. When someone has joined up with organizations that are at war with you, you can't make distinctions between your enemies unless you happen to capture them in a military action. And note, being a combatant is not automatically a crime.

  • Re:Oddly Enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus (783565) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @03:22PM (#31513618)

    The key word there is 'generally'.

    I'd say taking up arms with our enemies would revoke my expectation of not being 'assassinated' (not agreeing with your definition though).

    Is every Marine an 'assassin'? They 'target individuals'. They may not know the dudes name but they aren't shooting at the group.

    Seems like your definition only excepts users of area weapons from the label 'assassin'.

    How is targeting the strategic emplacement know to shelter enemy fighters (e.g. a village house being lased by ghosts who followed the pig fuckers there.) different from a strategic emplacement known to shelter a particular high value target (e.g. a village house being lased by ghosts who just 'extracted' the information from the village idiot.)

    Both are perfectly valid military targets, a drone is no less valid a weapon then a mortar or a manned aircraft and 1000lb bomb.

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @03:41PM (#31513916)

    You didn't flip anything on its head because I didn't infer there was a good guy or a bad guy--only the government forces had every right to kill the enemy forces.

    But you are right...the other people's "freedom fighters" (enemy combatants for those of us on the side for human progress) are exactly that--they fight against freedom whenever they can. Sometimes there is a right and a wrong. Killing beard police in the name of fighting terrorism is one of those.

  • by mukund (163654) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @03:43PM (#31513948) Homepage

    Oh jesus christ, get a life. YOU go over there and spend a year on the ground, and see if you come back with that same attitude. Really? You expect us to not shoot at the guy that just shot an RPG at us, run over there and put him in handcuffs, and hope his buddies don't shoot us in the face?

    If you are talking about Iraq, I bet Bush didn't get a bunch of letters from ordinary Iraqi citizens asking him to come and wage war in Iraq. I have a life. I didn't go kill people in Iraq. Nobody asked you to "go over there and spend a year on the ground". But I wasn't talking about wars alone. Killings by drones and missiles launched from helicopters are happening in peace time in many countries, such as Palestine, Somalia and Yemen. These are enough.. they set a precedent.

    Yes, some of these asshats may have been "citizens" at one point, but when you pick up arms against your own fucking country, all bets are off.

    How is using a UAV any different than using an aircraft to drop bombs, other than the fact that it's a more accurate and reliable platform, and the guys running it get a lot more rest, and are a lot more clear headed to make those decisions?

    Both are bad. Both cause extra deaths of civilian passers-by, who are not involved. Take any recent Israeli taretted-killing in Gaza as an example, or recent US strikes in Somalia. In a non-war situation, how do you really know if the target of a strike is guilty? You may have evidence, but there's a reason why we have courts. Plenty of people will claim to have war crimes evidence against Bush, but any action against him would have to start with prosecution in a court of law. Any other course would seem absurd, and rightly so. The same applies to every other person.

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @03:51PM (#31514050) Homepage

    Oh, wait...no such abuse has yet presented.

    Has it? How would you know? That is why the ACLU is filing suit -- to determine whether or not such an abuse has occurred.

    I tend *not* to let emotional rhetoric affect my ability to utilize logic and common sense. :)

    jagapen wasn't using emotional rhetoric. jagapen was personalizing what the powers the ACLU is suing over ultimately means. If you -- either you personally or "you" in the generic way it is often used meaning "some undetermined person" -- are added to a Predator drone hit list, there is no chance to appeal the decision that you should be assassinated because you won't even know you have been targeted until you are in the drone's sights. Honestly, I think the problem is broader than drones. If you are marked for assassination by *any* TLA or the military, then it is a violation of due process (which historically, the court has held is not limited to U.S. citizens). And I question your claim of "common sense", since as I see it, common sense is the reasoning ability that says, "Hey, historically governments that have had the ability and the latitude to off someone whenever they felt like it, with no oversight at all, have not been particularly pleasant for the general population. Maybe we should put measures in place to keep that from happening again." If you don't see the problem with the government being allowed to target and assassinate anyone at any time, anywhere, with no oversight then I question either your education (specifically your knowledge of human history) or your logic and common sense.

    I have no fear of...Black SUVs.

    I do, albeit for reasons entirely unrelated to this article. I ride a motorcycle, and I've noticed that the amount of attention paid by the average driver is inversely proportional to the mass of his or her vehicle. Therefore, I greatly fear SUV's, whether black, or any other color :) They have a great deal of momentum and the driver frequently is engaged in tasks other than driving.

  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @03:53PM (#31514090)

    No, the detainees don't fall under the Geneva Conventions because they are not uniformed combatants (and they have had enough time to settle on a standard uniform is they so desired).

    That is in fact a reasonable arguement. The Geneva Conventions never applied to non-uniformed partisans (or spies as they used to be called).

    Q: Why do you think the Vietcong wore 'black pajamas'?

    A: So the Geneva conventions would apply.

    When they went 'plain clothes' they were on occasion legally, summarily executed. The example that springs to mind was the photographs taken of the dude getting his head blown off during Tet. That was a legal summary execution. Not that anyone will teach you that in US history. Legal, smegal. It was unpopular and helped end the US involvement in Vietnam.

    'They' have rewritten many international treaties in the last 20 years however.

    On the face of it it seams they have outlawed the effective practice war (how can any nation wage ware and respect all the 'rights of children' recently pulled from some idiots backside.)

    Funny how reality routes around the law.

  • Re:Oddly Enough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:01PM (#31514218) Homepage

    > How do we know that people aren't executed, simply because they are a PITA
    > and use the Freedom of Information Act against those in control of the drones?

    How do we know that isn't the case for ANYONE targeted by our Armies using ANY technology.

    This isn't just about drone airplanes. This same sort of warped logic could apply to ever
    other piece of military hardware and method of deployment including those where a grunt
    can watch the light drain out of the eyes of the target.

  • by pclminion (145572) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:31PM (#31514730)
    So what you're saying is it's too expensive to behave morally?
  • Amazing... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by VTEX (916800) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:13PM (#31515432)
    It always amazes me how much people take their civil liberties for granted.

    Instead of RTFA, a number of Slashdotters went off on tirades against the ACLU, an organization with the sole purpose of protecting your rights as an American citizen. The ACLU has sued to seek the legal justification of using drones, to find out what the limits are, and who has the authorization to use drones. They have not sued to stop it's practice.

    Even in war, there are laws that govern the U.S. Military and it's personnel. A soldier cannot just go and randomly kill people, just because they are in hostile territory. Soldiers must follow orders by someone who has the legal authority to order an attack or strike.

    This lawsuit aims to clarify who has legal authority to use drones and how they can be used, not only to insure the drones are being used properly, but also to protect the rights of the personnel who use them.
  • by jwhitener (198343) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:15PM (#31515464)

    Prior to 9/11, if I, as a US citizen, had walked into a US embassy somewhere in Africa and started shooting everyone, would I have been called a terrorist and taken to a secret CIA prison, or brought back to the US and charged as a criminal?

    We both know I would have been charged as a criminal in the US, with a lawyer at my side. Post 9/11.. its hard to say.

    The civil war was an officially declared war, with uniforms. This new "war on terror" makes no sense. You can't declare a war on an ideology. You can't have a perpetual war who's members are unknown and replenished with each generation raised on hating xyz about the US or its allies.

    How will we know when we've "won" this war on terror? We can't. There is no end. And if there is no end, no victory condition, it can't be a war. And if it is not a war, attacks against us are of a criminal nature, not military nature. And criminals, by the USA's laws and morals, deserve their day in court.

  • by 10101001 10101001 (732688) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:27PM (#31515612) Journal

    Yeah .. that's it. We'll just ask for ID cards proving citizenship before we shoot back at someone.

    If they are on US soil, I would agree.

    That's funny. I don't recall police ever doing an ID check before shooting back. No, if you're being shot at, you can claim some level of self-defense. There's nothing about a drone hit-list that's "shooting back".

    A US citizen in a foreign country that is hanging around with enemy combatants that the US military thinks might be doing bad things is fair game. I don't care if they are a news reporter either. Those are the risks one takes in a war zone.

    Funny. I thought the whole point of the ACLU FOIA request was to see if those US citizens were actually "hanging around with enemy combatants" or not. Or does being in a "war zone" mean the US military can summarily execute any and all civilians, US or otherwise, as it pleases? Btw, as much as it's a functional war zone, it's not actually a declared one. So, even if you recognize that the military does a lot more leeway in summary executions in a war, it's not very constitutionally clear whether the military's actions are legal.

    War sucks ... it's even worse when the enemy doesn't wear uniforms and hides like cowards among the civilian populations, using women and children to hide behind.

    It also sucks when drones are used to simply kill women and children because someone in intelligence made a mistake. The sobering fact should be one reason wars should be ended as reasonably quickly as possible.

    If someone shoots at American soldiers on foreign soil, then goes into a civilian population center, he just put his family and friends at risk. Whether that person is a US citizen or not, I hope a predator drone puts a missile right up his ass.

    Imagine if we had that same mentality about criminals firing on police in the US. You do realize, btw, that we're trying to root out an insurgency, right? Pressing into civilian population centers and mowing down innocent people to kill one insurgent will, in the long term, make the civilian population not trust us, rely on us, or be willing to support our actions. It is not different than if police in the US were to behave as you suggest. If the goal of the US were merely to kill all the "bad people" in the region, without regard to civilians, we should have wiped out the entire population a long time ago. And given that "bad people" are in the US region as well, it'd be high time for the US to execute a little bit of suicide on itself.

    Clearly that's irrational and speaks more of grand, generalized anger. It's no way to succeed at the task at hand, however, which is to help create stability in the region. Gun ho executions aren't the answer.

  • Re:Oddly Enough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by More_Cowbell (957742) * on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:01PM (#31516754) Journal
    Without disagreeing with anything you say (not necessarily agreeing either), would this same logic apply to the drone strikes in Pakistan?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:03PM (#31516772)

    This thread shits me to tears. All the seems to be concerning people here is the execution of US citizens while on foreign soil. Here's a hint for you all: there's nothing inherintly special about being a US citizen. The life of the mothers & children killed by your forces, that you don't even think worth keeping an account of, is worth protecting every bit as much - and often they are victims of these wack jobs running their country/state/city/shithole more that you ever will be.

    Quite frankly it's this fucking racist, one rule for other nationals, we do whatever the hell we want and fuck the law attitude that completely erased any sympathy we had for you after 911. Fucking wake up! But for the fact of the geography of where you were born it would be you and your family being killed & not even worth keeping track of.

  • Re:US Citizens (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jwhitener (198343) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:31PM (#31517010)

    "what the hell does the ACLU want? The FBI to paradrop into Afghanistan, slap the cuffs on them and read them their Miranda rights? What the hell?"

    Exactly. Like, if I left the USA because I hated it and decided I believed some foreigner's ideology that the west is Evil, and I choose to fly into Paris and plan and attack an embassy, we should certainly use F16s or drones with hellfire missiles to strike my Paris apartment building.........

    Now you might say, well of course we wouldn't do that in Paris. Too many collateral casualties, some of the people in the apartment might be pro-western/friendly, etc...

    At what point would the ratio of unfriendly to friendly become favorable to dropping a laser guided bomb in Paris?

    It is certainly easier to drop a missile than it is to arrest someone, it doesn't make it right. The only way we are getting away with drones in the first place, is because the villages and countries that they are landing on have very little voice in the world.

    The main problem is that this is not a war. These are not soldiers we are fighting. They are mixed in with friendly targets nearly all the time. They do not have a central figure or state that can ever surrender. There are no battlefield boundaries, and no where for the general populace to retreat to.

    Of course, I'm pretty sure that the military is very careful about minimizing collateral damages, but are any collateral damages acceptable when this isn't a war, these aren't soldiers, they can (as a ideological group) never surrender? For that matter, is planning or thoughts/speeches criminal? What if I, as a US citizen, go to some western hating village and train and train and train but never do anything? Is just hanging out in a village criminal and deserving of death?

    There are way too many grey areas for this to be as simple as "bomb" or "don't bomb". The ACLU is right to examine the policies behind drones, especially when it concerns US citizens. I wish someone was examining it for non-US citizens also. Like for instance, these Pakistanis. http://news.antiwar.com/2010/03/10/civilians-among-17-killed-in-latest-us-drone-strikes/

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:43PM (#31517110)

    I'm reminded of someone...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyFpOp8Ft0Q [youtube.com]

    While unfortunate that you lost your hearing killing gooks for god and country, that doesn't absolve you of your anti-Americanism. This is a nation founded in liberty. Our nation's moral justification is based in a respect for "inalienable rights".
    Throughout its history the ACLU has been the leading advocate for civil liberties in America. Nearly every single important Supreme Court case related to liberty has been argued by ACLU members. They have never backed down from fighting for our freedom, even when it requires defending the rights of anti-American idiots like you to be anti-American idiots.

  • by pnewhook (788591) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:49PM (#31517164)

    What a load of crap. Have you even read anything of what you are talking about or just got your information from Fox news?

    The Geneva convention covers both civilians or fighters (under a variety of names).

    Regardless, you do not have to wear a uniform to be covered by the convention. And you cannot be summarily shot. What a ridiculous crock of shit.

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:49PM (#31517166)

    Or I'm saying that war sucks and the idea that it can legislated and legally codified has no basis in history.

  • by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @09:39PM (#31517984) Journal

    Mod this guy up.

    Firstly, the Geneva conventions cover civilians who take up arms to defend against an invader (e.g. the Norwegian rifle club which set up a roadblock and annihilated an entire German airborne unit in 1940),
    Secondly the convention requires the capturing power to ask questions first and do their executing later - by implication the Geneva conventions do not authorise summary shooting of anyone, ever. You want to shoot someone who you've captured? You have to prove (if necessary to the satisfaction of his side's courts when you lose) that he's not entitled to the protection of the convention.

  • Re:Oddly Enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw (121541) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @10:49PM (#31518452) Journal

    When we declared war on Germany, did that apply to fighting German troops in Africa?

  • by Gonzo The Gr8 (952908) on Thursday March 18, 2010 @01:57AM (#31519496)
    Everyone is suitably impressed that you lost your hearing killing brown people. That doesn't change the fact that this is exactly the kind of thing you were supposed to be fighting against. Targeting US citzens? The only difference between this and what the commies were doing is that we've upgraded from secret police in the middle of the night to robots in the sky.

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