Congress takes on Obama over drone kills

US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 12, 2012 (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)
The White House’s attempts to justify the targeted killing of suspected terrorists have attracted disapproval from critics old and new, but opponents of Obama’s so-called “signature” drone strike program have found new allies - this time in Congress.

­From Washington, DC on Wednesday, 26 members of the US Congress signed-off on a letter to President Barack Obama that heavily critiques his administration’s signature strikes and asks for him to consider the consequences of continuing to authorize kills both home and abroad, as well as offer a legitimate explanation for the necessity of the program.

“We are concerned that the use of such ‘signature’ strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States,” read this week’s letter to the president.  “Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight. We are further concerned about the legal grounds for such strikes under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.”

The plea to president Obama for actual justification of the killings was architected by US Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and is co-signed by more than two-dozen leading lawmakers from both political parties, including Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI).

“The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound,” the letter continues. “They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.”

In addition to offering their own argument against the signatures strikes, the congressmen behind the letter are insisting that president provides a detailed explanation for many facets of the program. Specifically, they request for the commander-in-chief to explain the process by which the strikes are authorized and executed, detail what mechanisms are used by ensure the legality of the executions and “the nature of the follow-up that is conducted when civilians are killed or injured; and the mechanisms that ensure civilian casualty numbers are collected, tracked and analyzed.”

Earlier this year, President Obama said during an interview broadcast live on the Internet, unmanned aerial drones had "not caused a huge number of civilian casualties” and added that it’s "important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash.”  The UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism has blamed the White House for killing as many as 775 civilians during the last few years with drone attacks.