On Friday, US drones fired several missiles targeting areas in Yemen's southeastern province of al-Bayda, killing 20 people, while 15 people were killed in attacks in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas.
At least three American citizens deemed a threat to the nation have been killed by drones on the orders of Barack Obama.
Eric Holder, the US Attorney-General, has detailed the legal justification for such action involving citizens saying the US will continue to strike overseas if a nation is "unable or unwilling". Holder said the US would continue be taken on foreign soil to deal with threats. He claimed that the due process clause of the Constitution does not guarantee "judicial process". We have already seen how the US government lawyers can rationalise illegal kidnapping (extraordinary rendition), and justify indefinite detention and legalise the torture of the prisoners, and now we see it providing excuses for extrajudicial executions.
The most high-profile killing is that of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. The cleric was never charged with a crime and never had his day in court, and it raises questions about due process is under the US constitution.
The American Civil Liberties Union has accused the administration of claiming the authority to kill any American citizen whom the president deems to be an enemy of the state. the executive branch can decide what to do for itself without any checks or balances. Its essence is - "We're only empowered to kill terrorists, but it is for only us to decide who is a terrorist."
"The most troubling aspect is that the administration is insisting that its decisions in this area shouldn't be reviewed by any court, so no court has a role to play in setting the standards under which Americans are killed, in evaluating whether any particular American should be on a kill-list or the evidence itself." - Jameel Jaffer, of the American Civil Liberties Union
"What we are sanctioning here is murder. The president has no authority in Yemen… his power extends to the US, its territories and its possessions. But to authorise a civilian agency, the CIA, to go to Yemen with drones, fire a missile and kill American citizens is just breathtaking to most of us." - Morris Davis, a former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay.
As the journalist Glenn Greenwald explains "the President and his underlings are your accuser, your judge, your jury and your executioner all wrapped up in one, acting in total secrecy and without your even knowing that he's accused you and sentenced you to death, and you have no opportunity even to know about, let alone confront and address, his accusations; is that not enough due process for you?"
Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project has said "Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact. Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power."
Nor should we forget about the non-American victims. The London Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been collating the number of casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan since Obama took office. According to their research including credible eyewitness accounts, 535 civilians died in drone attacks in that period. Of those, 60 are reported to be children and around 20 mourners attending funerals. Collateral damage! The report said Obama has ordered 264 drone attacks, averaging one every four days.