The American Bear


The Assassination Czar’s War Crimes Dodge: Revisiting John Brennan’s Targeted Killing Speech | emptywheel

Now that John Brennan is in charge of selecting which patterns of behavior we should target with drones, it ought to be easy to charge him with war crimes. The at least eight civilians we killed in Jaar a number of weeks after Brennan seized control of targeting? John Brennan killed them, presumably based not on intelligence about who they were and what ties to AQAP they had, but because they ran out of a house after an earlier strike.

John Brennan is choosing to target people in Yemen without making adequate efforts to avoid civilian casualties. Given that we know he’s making these choices, you’d expect someone to try to hold him accountable.

Of course, such an effort would present all kinds of difficulties. You can’t really make a legal case against Brennan based on anonymous sources in an AP story. Furthermore, moving the drone program into the National Security Council makes it inaccessible to FOIA and, probably, to full Congressional oversight.

Most of all, though, Brennan appears to be preemptively crafting his defense.


John Brennan has always lied publicly about the drone program, particularly the civilian deaths associated with it. But knowing what has transpired in the last month–the Saudi sting presenting a threat, followed by the decision to use signature strikes overseen by John Brennan–it seems like something far more cynical: a pre-emptive statement of his purported understanding about the drone program, just in case anyone ever tries to hold him accountable for strikes that don’t show the appropriate concern for civilian life.

“Oh, those 8 civilians I killed in Jaar?” John Brennan effectively said 15 days before he killed them, “I didn’t intend to or know I was killing civilians. I was conducting strikes against known targets found to present a direct threat to the United States.”

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