Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) on Thursday stressed the need for more openness surrounding the Obama administration’s targeted killing program and the drones used to carry it out.
During an appearance on MSNBC, Ellison highlighted the need to set up an open legal architecture surrounding the program currently in operation in Yemen and Pakistan. That position falls in-line with both the sentiments of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and CAP Chair John Podesta’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post.
Ellison said he agreed with Podesta that the administration needs to go further to help set norms for the use of drones around the world:
JANSING: We should say the President did allow some members of the intelligence committee to see those memos, are you satisfied with that? Is it enough?
ELLISON: No, it’s not enough. I think Podesta is absolutely right on this issue. I don’t think the president has anything to fear. He’s the one who said let’s have a legal architecture. This is a chance for the United States to really lead the world. […] We should lead the way. The President should not allow himself to be coming up on the backside of this. He should be helping to lead this effort.
Watch Ellison’s full interview here:
At present, the program’s full legal justification — including the administration’s interpretation of when Americans can be targeted overseas — is being held closely by the White House, which has so far ignored calls to declassify the Justice Department’s memos. While it allowed the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence view the memos as part of the deal to confirm CIA Director John Brennan, the White House sent staffers to sit with the committee members during their review, a move that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) strongly objected to. “There was a minder who was sent in. I was unaware that that person was going to have to be there. It was an insult to me,” he said.
Speaking behind closed doors with the Senate Democratic Caucus, Obama indicated that he were he still in the Senate he would have “probably objected” to the White House’s continued secrecy as well.
Earlier this week, Ellison in his role as co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus signed onto a letter from House Democrats to President Obama calling for the release of those documents to the full Congress. Ellison also expressed wariness surrounding the use of armed drones in combat in general, stating that there are legitimate and illegitimate ways in which they can be utilized. “We should only use this sort of technology in the circumstances to protect American lives to do so,” Ellison said. “But I think that the technology has outrun the rules.” Calling back to his previously published op-ed on the matter, Ellison said that he was glad that the conversation in Washington had finally shifted to oversight over the targeted killing program.