John O. Brennan, Assistant to the US President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism issued on April, 30, 2012 a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wash-ington, DC) focused on legal aspects of US counterterrorism strategy: « I venture to say that the United States government has never been so open regarding its counter-terrorism policies and their legal justification ». The address came in the aftermath of the approval for CIA drone « signature strikes » in Yemen by President Obama. A year after Bin Laden’s death, John Brennan claimed: Today, it is increasingly clear that—compared to 9/11—the core al-Qa’ida leadership is a shadow of its former self. John Brennan acknowledged that the United States Government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qa’ida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. He is the first US political decision maker to admit publicly and clearly the use of drones for covert operations. His lay out of the foundation of today US op-erations occurred in the context of a communication and information cam-paign conducted by US government top officials. The conference rapidly became a source of contention with US human rights outlets such as the American Civil Liberties Union or Gabor Rona, interna-tional legal director of Human Rights First, denouncing the “charm offensive on targeted killings” (Opinio Juris, 03/05/2012) and explaining why John Brennan’s arguments were flawed: In other words, while members of the armed forces are targetable due to their status, any other targeting powers derive from the individual’s conduct, not his or her status. His criticism focuses on the downplay of collateral damage by Brennan and the status of people targeted. Gabor Rona concludes: « The U.S. delivered death and a guarantee of eternal impunity ». READ MORE & READ MORE

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