On Friday night, in response to transparency lawsuits filed by the ACLU and the New York Times, the Biden administration released a redacted version of President Trump’s rules for the use of lethal force against terrorism suspects abroad. During the Trump administration, the Times and other media reported that the Trump rules weakened even the loose policy safeguards put in place by the Obama administration in 2013, which were also released in response to litigation in 2016. Despite redactions, the newly-revealed Trump rules show how far that administration went in casting aside any meaningful constraint on the United States’ use of lethal force abroad without meaningful oversight by Congress or the judiciary, and with devastating consequences for people’s lives.
Trump’s rules are in many ways an unsurprising extension of U.S. government logic and policy justifications for killing couched in legal language. Over now four administrations, the U.S. government has sought to justify an unlawful lethal strikes program that has exacted an appalling toll on Muslim, Brown, and Black civilians in different parts of the world. Now, almost 20 years into the U.S. government’s war-based approach, it’s clear that U.S. legal or policy justifications for this program do not actually demonstrate adherence to domestic or international law, they fundamentally undermine it. [Continue reading…]