Lee says drone memo should drive Congress to act

The Obama Administration’s newly revealed legal rationale for using drones to kill U.S. citizens involved in anti-American terrorism should help convince Congress to repeal the broad use-of-force authorization it in 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee said today.

Lee, D-Oakland, was the lone vote against that authorization on Sept. 14, 2001.

“We must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target,” she said that day, later calling the authorization “a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events – anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.”

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)Lee has been trying to get Congress to repeal the authorization ever since, and believes it’s the basis for policies such as those allowing drone strikes against U.S. citizens. She said Wednesday she was happy to hear President Obama affirm in his Jan. 21 inauguration speech that “a decade of war is now ending” and “we, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”

But to end perpetual war, “one of the steps that has to be taken is repealing that terrible resolution … an overly broad blank check that has been used over and over and over again to keep us in a state of perpetual war,” Lee said. “I’m going to fight until we get it done.”

She said she’s seeking co-signers on a letter asking the administration for a more specific explanation of its legal justifications for the drone strikes. Getting more information means raising awareness, Lee said, and that can lead to more support from both sides of the aisle.

Lee’s H.R. 198 says the September 2001 authorization of military force “has been used to justify a broad and open-ended authorization for the use of military force and such an interpretation is inconsistent with the authority of Congress to declare war and make all laws for executing powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.” It would repeal the authorization effective 180 days after the bill’s enactment.

Introduced Jan. 4, the bill has five cosponsors: John Conyers, D-Mich.; Donna Edwards, D-Md.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; and Walter Jones, R-N.C.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    You can always count on Bobbie Lee (D Moscow) to be at the forefront of the idiot brigade

  • RR senile columnist

    I think a few drones patrolling Oaktown would do a world of good. Again, much humor from Dr Lee and co., who represent some of the most violence-prone districts in the country.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee has joined Barbara Lee, in questioning assassination by remote control.

  • JohnW

    I’m glad we live in a country that even bothers to ask itself questions about the ethics and legality of military actions, torture etc. Corker and others raise some practical questions about drone attacks. Do we end up creating as many enemies as we kill? How long before this technology is in the hands of others who plan to do us harm?

    But, legally and morally, I don’t see the difference between killing enemies by means of Hellfires from drones, bombs dropped from piloted planes or troops on the ground. If you’re an American who has joined al Qaeda to fight against American troops or to help plot attacks on Americans, you’re welcome to surrender and claim your rights to due process through the American legal system. Lawyer up. Claim the Fifth. But if you are with your al Qaeda comrades on what passes these days for a battlefield, and a Hellfire comes calling, too bad. Enjoy your 72 virgins.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    I doubt if Senator Corker has misgivings about targeted killings from a moral viewpoint. Rather, the Repubs would like to see the present administration cite Bush era precedents to justify, or at least explain, current policy.

  • JohnW

    Re #5

    You may be right. Make Obama squirm over the apparent hypocrisy of having protested enhanced interrogation but being “all in” on drones and targeted killing, including Americans. I’ve seen conservative commentators rhetorically ask, “which would you rather be on the receiving end of — waterboarding or a Hellfire fired from a drone?”

    It’s an understandable argument. Obama can answer it however he sees fit. However, my view is that the “which is worse” argument is a apples and oranges. Enhanced interrogation is designed to get information out of people. Targeted killing is to stop bad guys from doing whatever it is they are doing. You can’t use enhanced interrogation to interrupt the enemy or targeted killing to get info. They are different tactics for different purposes.

  • Most of people in California, especially those in Berkeley and Oakland, were against the two recent economics-crippling wars launched by President Bush. Dear Congresswomen Barbara Lee, do you think that in the future, we could have a bill that would allow a city or even a state to apply for the conscientious objector status in case of a unfavorable war. Being a united states, why we need to always be united in a war? Could some states be united for peace to give some weight to Americans’ love of peace also.

  • alta

    Stop the drones. Save our homes.

  • Alexis S

    Barbara Lee’s slogan is “Barbara Lee speaks for me!” and once again, she speaks for me. There are some cranks here and some thoughtful people who disagree, but look at the numbers who vote her back in time after time– I’m not the only one who’s glad to be represented by someone who is concerned about the same issues I am, and is brave enough to stand alone when that’s what it takes.

  • bbox231

    The intellectuals will relish in their consideration of “ethics” in battle.

    America remains mired in a centuries old notion of “honorable” warfare.

    Which can only be an oxymoron.

    To send men and woman into war, asking them to deliver horrific and deadly force against certain and uncertain enemies, and then to occasionally intervene and question the relative morality of their choice of mechanisms by which they take the lives of others, is as confused and maligned a concept as I have considered.

    It is deadly, it is painful, it is horriffic. For this reason, you travel this path only as a very last resort. Once chosen however, you dont look back. It is a fight to the death.

    The distinction between seeking information from an enemy who is fortunate enough to not have been immediately killed on the field of battle versus through some other more expeditious means is, IMHO, moot.

    If you feel differently, then, as has been so well stated before – “..I suggest you grab a gun and stand a post…” – until then, I suggest you shut the heck up.

  • JohnW

    Re: #10 Bbox231

    Agreed with most of what you said until your last two paragraphs.

    Not sure what your point is about the “distinction between seeking information” and killing the enemy during combat or targeted action. Perhaps you could clarify.

    As for the last paragraph, I disagree with those who are opposed to the drones, or who second-guess the killing of an “American” like Anwar al-Awlaki. But I wouldn’t say, in Jack Nicholson fashion, that they need to “grab a gun an stand a post” to voice their opinions. If that were the rule, not very many people would be entitled to speak out. Only 10 percent of American adults (age 24+) are veterans or currently serving in the military. A much smaller percentage than that have been anywhere near combat or had the opportunity to “stand a post.”

    However, I do have a problem with “chicken hawks” — neo-cons who went to extraordinary means to avoid military service when we still had a draft but who seem always eager to send people off to war.

  • bbox231

    I see a conflict between those who question interrogation techniques used in a state of wartime. Again, in my world – there is no morality in warfare.

    Perhaps, I can make the point more clearly by asking – – “According to your sense of moral fair play in wartime, should I have shot this individual when I first had the chance, or, should I spare him/her – but exploit the opportunity to extract information advanatageous to my fight?” Pick one, because I likely had the opportunity to do both.

    P.S. – WHile on the field of battle, I, as your defender dont have the luxury of the time you just spent considering this moral dilemna.

    It’s just another affirmation of the hypocrisy you first mentioned and which, I might add, is not at all unique to the Obama administration.

    I share the notion that all are entitled to express their opinions.

    But, there are also voices which are deserving of more or less consideration in any given matter. As to the matter of wartime “morality” I think those of us who stand under that “.. blanket of the very freedom that..” others provide, should listen more and comment less.

    Which is, perhaps, a more politically correct way of saying “..stand a post or shut up..”

    I find it completely unconscionable that I would ask someone to risk life and limb for my safety and protection and then proceed to critique the morality of how that individual chooses to take the lives of mortal enemies.

    War is hell. There is no “good” war. Do not go casually.

  • RR Senile Columnist

    For Alta y Alexis: The essence of war is violence; moderation in war is imbecility.–Admiral Lord Fisher. Barbalee speaks for the Berkeley People’s Republic, recently twinned with Pyongyang.

  • Elwood

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” –George Orwell

  • JohnW

    @12 Bbox 231

    YOU SAID: Perhaps, I can make the point more clearly by asking – – “According to your sense of moral fair play in wartime, should I have shot this individual when I first had the chance, or, should I spare him/her – but exploit the opportunity to extract information advanatageous to my fight?” Pick one, because I likely had the opportunity to do both.

    I don’t think that’s a choice we ask or allow our warriors to make. So you probably would NOT have the opportunity to do both. Somebody up the food chain identifies kill targets or people we want to attempt to grab for interrogation. Then, we deploy the assets best suited to achieve those objectives — whether it be a drone attack or special ops boots on the ground. And, to the best of my knowledge, we don’t kill the detainees or allow them to die from the conditions of their captivity once we’ve finished interrogating them.

    Supposedly, the orders for the bin Laden mission were “dead or alive,” but my guess is the real orders were to take him out, because he needed to be gone. I suspect they could have grabbed him if those had been the unfortunate orders. On the other hand, when they found Saddam Hussein hiding in his hole, they could easily have found good reason to shoot him on sight. But they didn’t and probably had the option to shoot only for self-defense.

  • bbox231

    #15 –

    JohnW – you’re over-complicating.

    I’ve got a combatant in my sights right now. I can squeeze the trigger, or, spare this individuals life for interrogation.

    What does your sense of moral “fair play” suggest I do?

  • bbox231

    The underlaying premise (and my original point) is that there is no “morality” in warfare. My enemy is here to take my life and I’d better approach the battle with the same sensitibilty.

    But it goes ary when, at some point, I spare a combatant his or her life – question them – and NOW someone in the peanut gallery wants to discuss what is a morally more just means of interrogation. To which I respond, I shouldn’t have wasted anybody’s time – – just take the shot, we’ll solve the problem up front and forget all about this interrogation nonesense.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Patrick J. Buchanan has joined Barbara Lee & Susan “Medea” Benjamin, in questioning assassination by remote control. He wasn’t wearing pink on The McLaughlin Group, where he was obviously the most intelligent talking head on the program. Maybe he was merely opposing anything brought on by the Chicago mob running the country.

  • Ellen Franzen

    Barbara Lee speaks for me, and my family.

  • JohnW

    Re: 17 Bbox 231

    Totally agree with you about “morality” and the “peanut gallery.” Obviously, in battle, you kill, or capture if the enemy surrenders. As George Patton once put it, the idea is not to die for your country, but to make the other guy die for his country. Of course, these days, we’re not dealing with countries in the traditional sense. The point I was trying to make was that, generally speaking, the boots on the ground don’t deal with “kill or detain” choices. The mission decides that.

  • JohnW

    Re:: 18

    Yes, it is interesting to see that the “soul searching” about drones and targeted killing (including a few targets who have U.S. citizenship) is not exclusively among liberals. Similarly, those who have the “get real” view are not limited to conservatives.

    This kind of thing is not new. It was a very conservative Republican U.S. Senator (Robert Taft of Ohio) who criticized the Nuremberg trials as not being consistent with American standards of due process and justice. He called the trials “victors justice” under “ex post facto laws.” Few people had sympathies for the Nazis on trial, and Taft took quite a bit of heat for speaking out. JFK, who certainly didn’t share those views, nevertheless praised Taft for standing up for principle in his book, “Profiles in Courage.”

    Then, from the other side, liberal comedian/political commentator Bill Maher was very blunt about the subject Friday night. First, he did a satellite interview with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, who railed against the drones and killings. Then, Maher
    proceeded to acknowledge that the Obama policy was a beefed up continuation of the Bush strategy and went on to say, in effect, that the world is filled with loonies out to kill Americans and that, in a world of bad choices, we have to make the choices that keep the loonies from achieving their goals.

    As for Pat Buchanan, his position has nothing to do with opposing, as you opined, “the Chicago mob running the country.” Buchanan is an isolationist. He was just as critical of the Bush administration for it’s military interventions.

  • Elwood

    @ Ellen Franzen #19

    You have my sympathy.

  • RR senile columnist

    Agree with him or not, Taft was respected for his integrity and intellectual gifts. BaLee may be honest but brainy she ain’t.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    In the 1930’s Chicago mob, it was: You whack my buddy,I whack yours. The same mentality rings true in today’s Oakland, Detroit & most of the world. When Lindsey Graham & the CIA wipe out people with a $1,000,000 Hellfire Missile, all of the dead & maimed people’s friends & relatives want revenge.
    In Susan “Medea” Benjamen’s book, she mentions how the drone industry buys politicians.
    In Lafayette, suspects are surrounded by police with helicopters & attack dogs. Then taken to detention & court. A system that is cheaper & usually gets only the right person.

  • bbox231

    But a shoulder-launched Javelin would be AOK? Or, at least has been . . . up until the emergence of the drone debate.

    Because relatives and friends of the dead and maimed caught in the crossfire of automatic weapons fire exchanged between boots on the ground, somehow, does less to upset people (?)

    Bruce, when the other guy has access to IED’s and RPG’s and fully-automatic weaponry, trying to swoop in with a couple of helo’s and attack dogs isn’t going to get very far – except in very unusual circumstances (see “No Easy Day” by Matt Bissonnette/Kevin Maurer for an example of the conditions in which this tactic kinda’ worked)

  • RR Senile Columnist

    The lovely Medea ( quoted above) can be relied upon to take a stand against American interests around the world. She believes North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and Gaza have much to teach peace- loving Yanks like herself. If we didn’t attack Taliban fighters and like-minded Pakistanis with drones, they would calm down and stop shooting schoolgirls, foreign aid workers, Christians, Sufis, etc.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Susan “Medea” Benjamin is a brave little Jewish American auther, who travels to Pakistan to find information about the killing of women & children by remote control. Our mainstream A.K.A. lamestream media, propaganda machine, is prohibited from showing the public the carnage. Now we have the man who shot Osama Bin Laden, talking about his family living in fear.
    Where is the bravery of the people who condemn others, without giving their own name & town?

  • Publius

    “War is Hell”

    This term coined by Sherman was not meant to justify the atrocities committed during his march to the sea; the term was meant to convey the true nature of war, and to warn all that victory will require the victor to march hand in hand with the Devil himself. There is no such thing as limited warfare. War is war. There are no police actions, and there are no half wars. Complete victory cannot be achieved through limited military action. Hearts and minds cannot be won at the tip of a gun barrel or through the zoom lens of a drone. To win the heart or the mind of an enemy the victor must exercise overwhelming force. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are two examples of the force needed to crush the spirit of an enemy.

    I agree with #24 Launching Hellfire missles from the comfort of the war room only makes more enemies. This XBox type of war, fought from a recliner is supported by most politicians and the public at large. There are limited American casualties and we can tout a big name target. Everyone feels warm and fuzzy, but the enemy is still there.

    Ultimate victory will continue to elude us, until we as a country are prepared to fight a total war. Muslim Extremist do not wear uniforms, they use the innocents as shields. To fight this foe we as a people must be prepared to take innocent life on a scale that has never been seen before. War is Hell. It will take another 911 to convince the Amercan public to walk through the gates of hell and truly unleash the dogs of war.

  • bbox231

    #27 – ad hominem – why not remain focussed on the thoughts and issues? It *was* an interesting discussion.

  • JohnW

    #28 Publius

    “To fight this foe we as a people must be prepared to take innocent life on a scale that has never been seen before.”

    What specifically are you saying?

  • Elwood

    Christopher Dorner is holed up in a cabin at Big Bear.

    This looks like an excellent target for a drone-launched hellfire missile.

  • Elwood

    Dorner is dead.

    And that’s a very good thing.

  • JohnW

    Well, there was a fire. And he is going to Hell. So, I guess that’s something like a hellfire.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Dorner shot & killed 4 people. The 16 year old American citizen killed by a hellfire missile launched from a drone, was merely related to a propagandist, who was also killed by a drone launched missile.

  • Elwood

    @ Bruce #34

    Documentation please.


  • bbox231

    #34 – It is indeed a shame, the ruthlessness with which the elder Mssr al-Aulaqi exhibited as he so callously chose to expose his family and acquantences to deadly force which was likely to be directed towards himself as a result of his aggressive support of al-Qaeda. Only a coward would hope to use these innocent bystandards as a shield.

    Why not try taking your concerns to those family, friends and survivors of the Movenpick and Goldmohur Hotel bombings, or, the 1993 attempt on the WTC which was hoped to annihilate 250,000 people, or, the 1998 US Embassy bombings, or, the USS Cole attack, or perhaps, the 9/11 attack(s)?

    Please help me to understand – where is the “morality” in any of these actions?

  • JohnW

    Re: 35

    According to Wikipedia, al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son (born in Denver) was killed in a separate drone attack two weeks after al-Awlaki’s death. The attack reportedly killed the son and nine other al-Qaeda members. Although Wikipedia doesn’t say one way or the other, I assume the second drone attack was aimed at the al-Qaeda group and was not a targeted killing of the son.

  • Bbox231

    Johnw. And your point is…..?

  • JohnW

    Re: 38

    Point is, if anybody was under the impression that al-Awlaki’s kid was an unfortunate collateral damage victim of the targeted drone attack on his father, that’s obviously not the case. There were several attacks on al-Qaeda positions in Yemen the night he was killed, and he was with one of the groups that was hit. But I don’t know if he, himself, was a militant.

  • For Liberty

    What we are witnessing is a written policy memo that is without any constitutional authority whatsoever, and which makes changes so fundamental to our protected rights and the traditional doctrine of separation of powers, that Congress ought to be up in arms and threatening impeachment. Instead, we hear talk of concern but no outrage from our elected officials.

  • RR senile columnist

    #49: Golly gee, I ain’t never hear of a prez doin this here hi- handed policy making before ! All good Americans should be darn grateful to guys informalizing abut this here unconstitutiobalized stuff goin on!

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    The CIA is spending trillions in borrowed money, whacking people in Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan & parts of the world most people have never heard of. What does it get us? People all over the world wanting to whack any resemblance of an American.
    Collateral damage is what happened in Oklahoma City, New York City & more places than can be named. When will it stop? Who will stop first? The whole story is about ending perpetual war. The comments started by calling Barbara Lee an Idiot, for wanting to end perpetual war. Then the comments go on to glorify centuries of war. The U.S. Government is breeding militants all over the world. They are supported by America’s huge demand for Heroin.

  • bbox231

    #39 – Not sure where the idea emerged that “.. anybody was under the impression that al-Awlaki’s kid was an unfortunate collateral damage victim of the targeted drone attack on his father..”

    Who was targeted at that moment is speculative, might have been other al-Qaeda operatives reported to have been in the residence at the time of the attack, or, it could have been an attack intended for daddy but which was also operating on incomplete information. But, it doesnt matter. My point was simply that the fight was brought to this location as a result of this young mans fathers decision to support the dispatching of terror.

    Unlike those within al-Qaeda who have demonstrated their willingness to specifically target dense civilian population, our fight at least attempts to minimize the involvement of innocent victims. In both cases, unintended consequences are a possible result.

    My original point is simply that, the elder al-Awlaki (tks for the correction) had a choice to make. He could have avoided involvement in al-Qaeda. He chose not to, and, in so doing exposed he and anyone in his immediate vicinity to the possibility of horrific results.

    The original objection in this thread relates to the platform by which we dispatch deadly force, in this case, drones. My point is simply that drones are no more or less “moral” (the legal question I dont profess to grasp) than any other means of modern warfare, all of which are intended to take lives. We could have tossed a grenade into this house, or sent in a cruise missile, or, dropped 500 lbs of HE from 17,000 feet. . . . the results would likely have been similar in all instances.

  • Elwood

    @ Bruce #42

    “Collateral damage is what happened in Oklahoma City”

    What happened in OKC is completely irrelevant to the war against Islamic radicalism.

    And Bobbie Lee is still an idiot. Thanks for remembering.

  • JohnW

    Re: 43

    I agree.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Yawn! When did this war against Islamic radicalism start?
    Something like the year 1013? When will it end? The 13th of never?
    When will the Woody & Johnny show figure out that Barbara Lee received close to 90% of the vote in her district? I don’t equate that with being an idiot. Obviously she did not get bribes from the drone industry, like so many other members of congress.
    @#40. There is a movement to impeach. It’s coming from Alex Jones. He just wants to hear the words: President Biden.

  • Elwood

    “Barbara Lee received close to 90% of the vote in her district”

    Well, she definitely cornered the idiot vote.

  • JohnW


    Barbara Lee received close to 90% of the vote in her district.

    86.6% according to Politico. She represents a district where Republicans are as scarce as rabbis in Damascus. There are numerous congressional districts where right-winge loonies also won by lopsided margins.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    @ 47 & 48. Thanks for the sniping from you two robotic attack drones. You enticed me to study the word “Idiot”.
    It brought me to the words: “Illusory superiority”. You also enticed me to study Barbara Jean Lee. Somehow she went from a single parent to a Black Panther to a somewhat wealthy Member of Congress. I have the feeling some of you snipers, who comment under robotic names, have the illusion of being superior to just about everybody in existence.

  • Elwood

    @ 49

    Well, not everybody, but definitely to you Bruce.