U.S. talks lethal drones

  • FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2010, file photo, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. The White House has a released a version of President Barack Obama’s three-year-old directive on the use of lethal force against terrorists overseas, laying out what it says are safeguards to minimize civilian deaths and errant strikes while preserving the capability to take quick action with drone attacks and other means.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File) Kirsty Wigglesworth

Associated Press
Published: 8/6/2016 9:36:13 PM

The White House has released a version of President Obama’s 3-year-old guidance on the use of lethal force against terrorists overseas, laying out what it says are safeguards to minimize civilian deaths and errant strikes while preserving the capability to take quick action with drone attacks and other means.

The “presidential policy guidance” stipulates that the U.S., when operating outside areas of active hostilities, will only take direct action when there is “near certainty” that the terrorist target is present and that noncombatants won’t be killed or injured. Lethal force can also be undertaken only against a lawful target that poses a “continuing, imminent threat” to Americans.

The principles, released with redactions, provide more detail on the conditions for drone strikes and other direct action than the White House revealed earlier when it summarized the document in a fact sheet in 2013. Obama or his aides have spoken previously, though, about the “near certainty” standard at the heart of the guidance – a standard that hasn’t silenced criticism over civilian deaths from drones.

Ned Price, spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said in a statement Saturday that the policy standards “offer protections for civilians that exceed the requirements of the law of armed conflict.”

“As the president has said, ‘near certainty’ is the ‘highest standard we can set,’ ” Price said. The U.S. “takes feasible precautions to minimize the risk of civilian casualties” even when the U.S. is not operating in conditions covered by the guidance, he added, “or when we act quickly to defend U.S. or partner forces from imminent attack.”




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