Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Peace and Security Task Force Chair Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and CPC Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and members of the Progressive Caucus, held a hearing today on United States drone policy.
The hearing focused on lethal drones operations abroad, questions of due process, the implications for executive and congressional war making authority, and the precedent being set as other nations rapidly adopt drone technology.
The members heard testimony from Former House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Ron Dellums, Director of Amnesty International USA's Security with Human Rights Campaign Zeke Johnson, international human rights lawyer and New York University Professor Sarah Knuckey, Regional Policy Initiative at Open Society Foundation Program Officer Chris Rogers, counterterrorism and human rights lawyer Professor Naureen Shah, McClatchy News reporter Adam Baron and received video testimony Baraa Shiban, aYouth Representative in Yemen's National Dialogue and Reprieve Project.
"America ought to set an example for the world to follow on protecting civil liberties and respecting human rights. It's time our actions live up to our values," Rep. Ellison said. "This is a national security issue--we cannot allow drones to end up in the hands of our enemies or create a political rallying point for the very people who seek to harm us. Congress and the Obama Administration should work together to write a legal framework that makes sure any drone use has adequate oversight, avoids civilian casualties, and sets an example for the world to follow."
"No military or intelligence program should kill innocent people or create more problems than it solves," Rep. Grijalva said. "The drone program has, in many cases, done both. We need to know more about what we're doing, why we're doing it, and where we go from here. Blundering forward and hoping for the best is what got us where we are now. We have a rightly skeptical public and an international community tired of our excuses. It's time we got some answers."
"I'm proud to stand with my colleagues in the Progressive Caucus on this issue, and am especially grateful for their efforts in calling this hearing. We need to ensure that both chambers publically debate the implications of drones and drone warfare. We cannot retreat from our Congressional duties of oversight and accountability, especially on issues like this where the stakes are so high," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
Reps. Lee, Grijalva, and Ellison recently sent a letter to the president asking the administration to explain the legal basis for drone strikes. "It is far past time that the White House openly discuss the drones program," the authors wrote. "The President has full reign to protect the United States as Commander in Chief, but Congress has a vital oversight role in this issue, and we cannot shy away from those responsibilities."