House Democrats on Monday called for clarity surrounding President Barack Obama's use of unmanned drones, demanding the "full, unclassified release of information" about the administration's policy.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) announced that she and seven other House Democrats had sent a letter to the White House, expressing concerns stemming from a Department of Justice memo on the drone program leaked last month.
"Every American has the right to know the underlying legal rationale that ensures due process," the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
Lee summarized key areas that she and her colleagues said deserved to be "fully articulated" by the administration "to the whole of Congress and the American people":
[There are] several concerning factors of the Administration’s drone policy including, “An unbounded geographic scope; unidentified "high-level" officials with authority to approve kill-lists; a vaguely defined definition of whether a capture is “feasible,” an overly broad definition of the phrase “imminent threat,” which re-defines the word in a way that strays significantly from its traditional and legal meaning.”
The letter suggested that the administration's "vague legal boundaries" could "raise the risk of the executive branch authorizing the deaths of American civilians otherwise protected by the Constitution."
(Read the entire letter from House Democrats here.)
The request from the lawmakers comes a week after their Senate colleagues remained notably absent from a historic protest questioning the administration's use of drones. Last Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) embarked on a nearly 13-hour filibuster against the confirmation of CIA director nominee John Brennan. Paul expressed opposition to Brennan in part over his claim that the administration wouldn't state unequivocally that the president didn't have the authority to target U.S. citizens on American soil.
Paul's stand ultimately led Attorney General Eric Holder to clarify that such an order was not within the president's power.
With Paul apparently satisfied, he allowed a vote on the Brennan nomination, which easily passed the Senate. Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) followed up last week, introducing a measure seeking to put Holder's explanation of drone restrictions into law.
But neither Holder's memo, nor the bill from Cruz and Paul, do much to define more concretely the language at the heart of the administration's public explanation of its drone policy. According to the wording of Paul's bill, the law would only forbid targeted killings of U.S. citizens by "an unmanned aircraft" if the targets didn't constitute an "imminent threat."