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US drone killings to continue under Trump, Clinton: Analyst

7 August 2016 20:13
The US will continue its global assassination program using drones no matter who succeeds President Barack Obama in November, says an American political analyst.

Scott Rickard, a former intelligence linguist, made the comments while discussing recent revelations about Washington’s drone program.

A newly declassified document reveals that the US president and his national security staff play a central role in choosing overseas targets for assassination drone strikes conducted by the CIA and the military.

The 2013 document, informally referred to as the “playbook” for Obama’s alleged counter-terrorism operations, was released on Saturday by the US Justice Department as the result of a legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union through the Freedom of Information Act.

“The US administration under Obama and his National Security Council continue to illegally murder people around the world non-judicially,” Rickard told Press TV on Sunday. “This is a lawless attempt by the government, the military and intelligence.”

The analyst said world needs to know more about the nature of America’s drone program and its victims, adding that the death toll from the attacks exceeds the ones claimed by Washington.

The US claims that between 2009 and December 31, 2015, the attacks killed 64 to 116 civilians and 2,372 to 2,581 “combatants” in 473 strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Watchdogs, however, have long disputed those figures, saying as many as 1,100 civilians have lost their lives in the lethal attacks.

The White House says the airstrikes only target members of al-Qaeda and other militants, but local officials and witnesses say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks in most cases.

Rights groups are especially concerned about the so-called signature strikes, one of the most controversial aspects of the CIA drone program, where people with unknown identities are targeted based on their looks, suspicious behavior, or other signatures.

Rickard said since “absolutely no investigation” is being carried out on these remotely-operated attacks, it is impossible to determine the real extent of civilian casualties.

In April, Obama acknowledged civilian deaths caused by the drone strikes and promised more transparency about the drone program before leaving office at the end of this year.

However, according to Rickard, neither Obama nor his successor, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, will stop the attacks.

“The military-industrial complex and the intelligence community are the ones influencing the administrations that come and go,” he noted.

In October last year, a trove of leaked documents shed more light on the drone program. The documents described the mechanism of targeting suspects and also detailed Washington’s measures to hide the extent of civilian casualties resulting from its drone strikes in countries like Yemen and Somalia.

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