WASHINGTON — Senior intelligence officials planning to use drones to kill U.S. citizens working abroad with terrorist groups would first have to request independent reviews under a proposal added to a bill by independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.
King worked with Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, to insert the language on targeted strikes on U.S. citizens on foreign soil into a bill that was endorsed Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The bill now goes to the Senate. King and Rubio co-authored a separate bill with an identical goal earlier this year.
“The executive branch should not serve as the judge, the jury and the executioner in these cases, and I believe this amendment is a vital step forward in balancing our critical national security needs with the basic constitutional rights that we cherish as Americans,” King said in a prepared statement.
The amendment would require the director of national intelligence to create an independent “red team” led by someone outside of the intelligence agency requesting the drone strike.
That team would conduct an “alternative analysis” of the situation and report its findings within 15 days to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and to the inspector general in charge of intelligence matters.
A strike could still happen before the report is complete, if the person is deemed to be an immediate threat.
The Obama administration has acknowledged that drones have killed at least four Americans deemed to pose threats to the U.S. because they were working with terrorist groups overseas. The most publicized target was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric working with al-Qaida in Yemen who allegedly planned attacks on U.S. targets or interests, including airliners.
Libertarian and constitutional rights groups have decried the U.S. government essentially executing an American citizen on foreign soil without the legal and judicial “due process” that would be required in the U.S.
As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, King originally suggested an independent, quasi-judicial review board for drone strikes.
The Rubio-King bill and subsequent amendment does not go as far, but Rubio said it would strengthen oversight by requiring information-sharing with Congress and the inspector general.
The White House did not reply Wednesday afternoon to a request for comment on the “red team” proposal. But Obama and CIA Director John Brennan have said they are open to discussions about additional oversight of such targeted killings.
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