Thursday, April 26, 2012
President Obama this month authorized expanded use of drones in Yemen, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Under the expanded authority, the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command can use drones to fire on targets based only on their "signatures"--those patterns detected through intelligence that indicate that a target is an operative or otherwise poses a threat against U.S. interests. Prior to the expansion, the CIA and USJSOC only had drone authority in Yemen to fire on targets based on individual identity and close vetting, so-called "personality" strikes.
The administration has yet to provide a comprehensive legal justification for its use of drones in Yemen--which last September killed alleged terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki and, mistakenly, his non-targeted son. AG Eric Holder gave us all the legal justification we know (on the pre-existing Yemen drone program, not the expanded one) in a speech last month; we covered that speech here.
Bruce Ackerman argued in Sunday's Washington Post that expanded drone use in Yemen exceeds congressional authorization under the AUMF.
According to reports, the expanded authority in Yemen still falls a little short of the broader drone authority in Pakistan.