In Pakistan last week, two CIA agents, Jonathon Banks and John Rizzo, were accused of murder. A formal investigation by Pakistan police said the two operatives targeted unsuspecting civilians when they coordinated a GPS drone strike killing alleged terrorists and innocents. A second complaint was filed against the Pakistan government for its role in not protecting its citizens.
The rub centers on two CIA agents based in Islamabad, Pakistan. The Pakistanis’ claim CIA Station Chief, Banks and former CIA lawyer; Rizzo coordinated a deadly drone strike murdering approximately 38 people. Human rights attorney, Shahzad Akbar claims the CIA agents recklessly decided the targets were members of al-Qaeda, while the family says they were educational scholars with no ties to terrorism.
Akbar’s initial hearing in the Pakistani court has already concluded and he expects a favorable ruling any day. Once the decision is made in the courts, Pakistan would immediately issue international warrants for the two CIA agents.
Agent Banks is accused of throwing a GPS homing device into the compound of Kerim Khan, a respected journalist and translator with two masters’ degrees, who was then killed by a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone along with his brother and son.
According to a Daily Beast story, “Rizzo seems to describe a video game rather than an act taking the lives of human beings. It was an ordinary-looking room located in an office building in northern Virginia. The place was filled with computer monitors, keyboards, and maps. Someone sat at a desk with his hand on a joystick. John A. Rizzo, who was serving as the CIA’s acting general counsel, hovered nearby, along with other people from the agency. Together they watched images on a screen that showed a man and his family traveling down a road thousands of miles away. The vehicle slowed down, and the man climbed out. A moment later, an explosion filled the screen, and the man was dead. ‘It was very businesslike,’” Rizzo said. “It’s basically a hit list.”
Legality and the ICC
Complicating these matters is the Obama administration’s wish to be a part of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This United Nation’s tribunal would force the United States to hand over those accused of “crimes of aggression” to a world body that could prosecute Americans, including elected officials like the president. If America signs onto the world court, the ICC tribunal would preempt any U.S. court and provides no U.S. constitutional guarantees.
Another critically important point is the methodology President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have followed to skirt Senate approval of the ICC Treaty by signing onto the world court as an observer and supporter. Normally, U.S. treaties must get 67 votes in the Senate to be recognized, but the supporter and observer status requires no such approval.
According to the ICC rules, the U.S. president can use its military to launch an offensive to apprehend ICC-named war criminals. (Think Ugandan leader Joseph Kony and Obama’s executive order to send in U.S. troops without Congressional approval or Libya’s removal of tyrannical leader Muammar Gaddafi)
While these events continue to unfold via executive order, the CIA must be wondering if President Obama will extradite the two agents to a world or Pakistani courtroom?
In 2000 under the George W. Bush administration, Department of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urged then President Bush to withdraw from the treaty signed by President Bill Clinton, but was never ratified by the Senate. Rumsfeld’s concerns zeroed in on the vague drafting of the ICC’s ability to liberally define what exactly “crimes of aggression” meant.
“There’s the risk the ICC could attempt to assert jurisdiction over U.S. service members, as well as civilians, involved in counterterrorist and other military operations—something we cannot allow.”
Fast forward to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Under her tutelage the U.S. looks to reengage with the ICC. According to a 2010 State Department statement: “The United States is thus working to strengthen national justice systems and is maintaining our support for ad hoc international tribunals and hybrid courts. Those who intentionally target innocent civilians must be held accountable, and we will continue to support institutions and prosecutions that advance this important interest. We are engaging with State Parties to the Rome Statute (ICC Treaty) on issues of concern and are supporting the ICC’s prosecution of those cases that advance U.S. interests and values, consistent with the requirements of U.S. law. Although the United States is not a party to the ICC’s Statute, the Obama administration has been prepared to support the Court’s prosecutions and provide assistance in response to specific requests from the ICC prosecutor and other court officials, consistent with U.S. law, when it is in U.S. national interest to do so. Since November 2009, the United States has participated in an observer capacity in meetings of the ICC Assembly of States Parties (ASP). “
The flagrant disregard for Pakistani civilian lives has unnerved locals and prompted several legal investigations. Family members of the victims have pushed Pakistani authorities to hold those in charge of unlawful drone strikes accountable.
While President Obama has authorized nearly 300 drone strikes ostensibly targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders during his “Terror Tuesday” White House meetings, his “kill list” policies are being meticulously scrutinized abroad. The family of a British citizen who was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan has also filed suit in UK claiming he was killed through British complicity with the U.S. and was denied his rights (hyperlink to story). Henceforth, America will surely begin to see the unwanted legal and political side affects of drone strikes, which have reenergized al-Qaeda and their affiliates – something U.S. Ambassador for Libya, Chris Stevens and three others paid for with their lives in Benghazi.
Last week Director of the CIA, David H. Petraeus released a curious statement regarding a guilty plea by CIA agent John Kiriakou for leaking information to the media.
“Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.”
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