Congressman Calls for More Oversight After Drone Papers Revelations

“America’s drone program needs transparency and oversight,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus says that new details about the Obama administration’s secretive drone war call for heightened oversight.

“The Pentagon documents obtained by The Intercept echo what the Congressional Progressive Caucus has been saying for years. America’s drone program needs transparency and oversight,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., in a statement emailed to The Intercept.

“Extrajudicial killings via drones are highly inaccurate and result in significant civilian casualties. The drone program breeds resentment and erodes our credibility with international partners,” he said.

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Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images
The package of stories published by The Intercept showed, for instance, that despite U.S. claims about accuracy, during one five-month period in northeastern Afghanistan, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.

“Attempts to hide civilian casualties by naming any person within the vicinity of an airstrike an ‘enemy combatant’ is wrong,” Ellison said. “The report makes it clear: The U.S. drone program operates on highly questionable legal ground and offends our principles of justice.”

Ellison has been a vocal critic of targeted killings for years, along with other members of his progressive caucus.

Over the summer, with CPC co-chair Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., Ellison tried and failed to attach an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act that would have mandated that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community investigate civilian deaths from drone strikes and report back.

“Congress must exercise its oversight authority and demand more transparency in the U.S. drone program,” the two lawmakers wrote in a statement following the amendment’s rejection.

In January 2013, Ellison authored an opinion piece in the Washington Post titled “Time for Congress To Build a Better Drone Policy,” pointing to the deaths of 35 Pakistanis whose status as terrorists or civilians was unknown. He asked Congress to require the courts to weigh in on the White House’s “kill list” in its drone program, and take the conversation abroad to draw up a universal set of legal requirements surrounding targeted killings.

Other than Ellison’s call for more oversight, Congressional reaction to the newly revealed flaws of the drone program has been muted.

Read the complete Drone Papers.

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