The existence of a previously secret US assassination drone base in Saudi Arabia has come to light amid President Barack Obama’s bid to install his counterterrorism adviser and architect of his covert targeted-killing policy, John Brennan, as the next CIA director.
CIA terror drones flown out of a secret American base in Saudi Arabia were used to carry out the “only strike intentionally targeting a US citizen” to kill Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son in a 2011 attack in Yemen, The Washington Post
reports on Wednesday.
The Obama administration’s highly controversial and secret targeted-killing program has relied on an expanding collection of assassination drone bases maintained by the CIA spy agency and the US military’s Joint Special Operations Command.
The Saudi base was established two years ago “to intensify the hunt” against what the US claims as the shadowy al-Qaeda operatives in the neighboring Yemen, and Brennan, who formerly served as a CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, “played a key role in negotiations with Riyadh over locating an agency drone base inside the kingdom,” the report adds.
The Washington Post
had refrained, in its past reporting on the Obama administration’s targeted killing opeations, “from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concerns that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia,” the daily emphasizes.
The secrecy around the Obama administration’s policy of targeted-killing of “US enemies” overseas was exposed on Monday with the disclosure of a Justice Department “white paper’ that outlines the government’s “legal” argument for killing Americans accused of acting as al-Qaeda operatives.
The so-called white paper argues that the US can lawfully kill one of its own citizens overseas if it finds that the individual is a “senior, operational leader” or an operative of the totally obscure al-Qaeda group across the globe and poses an ‘imminent danger’ to the United States.
Meanwhile, civil liberties groups in the US have described the white paper as an “example of the kind of unchecked executive power Obama campaigned against during his first presidential run,” the daily reports.
“The parallels to the Bush administration torture memos are chilling,” said Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights Vincent Warren, as quoted in the report, accusing Obama of hypocrisy for ordering the release of George Bush administration memos while retaining secrecy around his own.
To deliver on his promises of transparency, Warren emphasized, Obama “must release his own legal memos and not just a Cliffs Notes version.”
The US assassination drone campaign has so far murdered thousands of civilians and some militants in hundreds of strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.