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Scarborough: Drone policy is far worse than Bush terror policy

Responding to the U.S.
A boy gestures to damage on a house caused by an air strike last year that was targeting al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen on February 1, 2013.  (YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
A boy gestures to damage on a house caused by an air strike last year that was targeting al Qaeda-linked militants in Yemen on February 1, 2013.

Responding to the U.S. White Paper detailing the legal reasoning behind the C.I.A.'s drone wars on terrorists in countries like Pakistan and Yemen, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough said that the U.S.'s drone policy is far more questionable than President George W. Bush's long-criticized rendition, interrogation, and torture policies.

"Here you’ve got a situation where the U.S. government is killing Americans without judicial review, without any crimes being charged against them," Scarborough said. "It’s hard to say how many stop signs were blown through here. But for those that were shocked at the Bush administration “torture memos,” they must be really stunned by this."

NBC News' Michael Isikoff reported Sunday that the white papers showed the U.S. had expanded on what had previously been reported as definition of what merited a drone strike. The memo noted that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force,” even if there are no indications that they are engaged in any such plot. Isikoff joined the Morning Joe panel to discuss his story.

"Bush is talking about seizing a known terrorist, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and taking them to a black site. Here we’re talking about dropping drones on not just one person, but killing a lot of people around them. And killing Americans who have a constitutional right to have jury of their peers, to kill Americans who are not charged of crimes who have no judicial review, no actionable intelligence."

Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of al Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki,was killed by a U.S. drone strike two years ago, two weeks after his al Qaida-associated father. Both were American citizens, though the father had renounced his citizenship. The son was never charged or even accused by the government of being a terrorist.

“What the administration will say is more than suspicion; they’ll say hard intelligence. We all know hard intelligence can be hard, or it can be awfully squishy and sometimes horribly wrong,” Isikoff said.

“Like the WMD’s in Iraq,” Scarborough said.

Willie Geist noted that he questioned the due process over the rendition and interrogations at Guantanamo bay.

"This goes several steps further, this says we can kill you without due process, we can kill you on suspicion that you’re a bad guy," Geist said. "We’re not even going to take you somewhere with the possibility that there could be a drone at some point, we’re just going to take you out of the game."

Scarborough continued: "Here they have a right to nothing; they have a right to be killed by an indiscriminate drone strike if somebody’s suspicious in the U.S. government."