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Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

During a recent speech, top White House conterterrorism advisor John Brennan stated that the United States only authorizes "a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing." Yet according to The Washington Post, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been given new authority that allows them "to fire on targets based solely on their intelligence 'signatures' - patterns of behavior that are detected through signals intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance, and that indicated presence of an important operative or plot against U.S. interests." This ne authority is in stark contrast to what your Administration has previously claimed regarding its drone campaign: that they are targeted strikes against suspected terrorists on lists maintained by the CIA and JSOC.

We are concerned that the use of such "signature" strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States. Our drone campaign already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight. We are further concerned about the legal grounds for such strikes under the 2011 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound. They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.

As members of Congress, we are deeply concerned about the full impact of drone strikes. Please explain the process by which "signature" strikes are authorized and executed; mechanisms used by the CIA and JSOC to ensure that such killings are legal; the nature of the follow-up that is conducted when civilians are killed or injured; and the mechanisms that ensure civilian casualty numbers are collected, tracked and analyzed.

We look forward to your rapid response.


Dennis J. Kucinich
Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Maurice D. Hinchey
Fortney Peter Stark
Michael M. Honda
Bob Filner
John Conyers, Jr.
Rush D. Holt
Charles B. Rangel
Raul M. Grijalva
Barbara Lee
Henry C. "Hank" Johnson
Lynn C. Woolsey
Ron Paul
John Lewis
Jim McDermott
Peter A. DeFazio
Jerrold Nadler
Walter B. Jones
Luis V. Gutierrez
James P. McGovern
George Miller
Yvette D. Clarke
Peter Welch
Keith Ellison
Donna F. Edwards

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