Senate Democrats Confirm Drone Memo Author as Federal Judge
May 25, 2014 • 8:17AM

On May 22 the Democratic Party-controlled Senate confirmed David Barron, the former Justice Department official who authored the memo justifying the use of drones to kill American terror suspects overseas, to become a top Federal judge. Barron was confirmed by a mostly party-line vote of 53-45 and will now join the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Boston.

Barron was acting head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2009 and 2010 when he authored memos arguing that the government had the constitutional authority to kill Americans in counterterrorism operations abroad, even if they were not on a battlefield.

In 2011, an unmanned U.S. drone in Yemen killed American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, who administration officials say was an al-Qaeda leader. Officials acknowledge three other Americans killed by drones but say they weren't specifically targeted.

A Federal judge ruled that the Obama administration must release the memos. The DOJ announced this week that it would not appeal that decision. Sen. Rand Paul had put a hold on the nomination until the memo's release.

Nonetheless, Barron was confirmed even before the document, which is expected to be heavily redacted, has been released.

Thus, the Democratic Party in its apparently infinite defense of all things Barack Obama, including assassinating U.S. citizens in violation of the Constitution, have rushed to confirm Barron even before his argument for violating the Constitution has been examined either by the Senate or by the public. Now this man who has justified murdering an American citizen has been placed on a U.S. federal court, from which position he will render decisions regarding the same Constitution he has advocated violating.

Obama's Not Interested In Giving Up His Killer Drones

"Obama's Drone War Shows No Signs of Ending" headlines a Reuters report published in Newsweek, late Friday, which reports on the current state of President Obama's killer drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen, although it's a bit contradictory. On the one hand, it says that "a year after Obama laid out new conditions for drone attacks around the world, U.S. forces are failing to comply fully with the rules he set for them: to strike only when there is an imminent threat to Americans and when there is virtually no danger of taking innocent lives," thus blaming the military and the CIA for failing to follow the new rules that Obama laid down in his May 23, 2013 National Defense University speech.

But on the other hand, the piece makes clear that Obama is loathe to give up targeted killing by drone strikes. "The drones are still flying and the President still sees the attractiveness of this cold and antiseptic means of killing," says University of Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell, a leading expert on extrajudicial killings who has testified before U.S. congressional committees. Reuters reports that civilian casualties allegedly are falling—though we have no way of knowing this for sure, because there's still so much that the regime keeps secret about these operations—but there is, nonetheless, growing concern in Washington that the U.S. may be making more enemies from drone strikes than we are killing.

Meanwhile, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism's latest contribution to this debate is a new study that finds that the CIA routinely targets residential structures in Pakistan, in contrast to Afghanistan, where drone strikes are only permitted against vehicles and not allowed against structures (usually homes) except in the most dire of circumstances. As a result, civilian casualties from drone strikes in Pakistan are much higher than in Afghanistan. Even in Yemen, most strikes are reported as being against vehicles on rural roads, rather than against compounds which, as in the Pakistani case, usually house families ranging from 25-50 people.