Arrest sought for ex-CIA lawyer who authorized drone strikes

(THE WEEKLY INTERCEPT)   The lawyer who signed off on CIA drone “hit lists” is now being sought after for strikes that have killed hundreds of people in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Human rights lawyers in the UK and Pakistan are seeking the arrest of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) former legal director, John A. Rizzo, who served as the acting general counsel for the agency, Al Jazeera reported today.

“There has clearly been a crime committed here,” Clive Stafford Smith, a British human rights lawyer who represents British prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and is the leading voice against Rizzo.

“I challenge anyone to go to the families of those innocent victims in the [Afghanistan-Pakistan] border regions and say: ‘It’s legal to bomb your homes and kill your children’. It is not, obviously,” Stafford Smith told Al Jazeera.

Rizzo, who joined the agency in 1976 and left more than a year ago, admitted in a Newsweek magazine interview earlier this year, that he helped get the legal approval for lists of people to be targeted by drone strike inside Pakistan, beginning in 2004.

The well-dressed lawyer oversaw strikes from an office building in northern Virginia. “It was very businesslike,” Rizzo told Newsweek. “The agency was very punctilious about this,” he said. “They tried to minimize collateral damage, especially women and children.”

However some dispute the efficacy of such strikes. “On average, only one out of every seven U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan kills a militant leader,” Peter Bergen recently wrote for Foreign Affairs magazine. “The majority of those killed in such strikes are not important insurgent commanders but rather low-level fighters, together with a small number of civilians.”

A study by the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, said 42 drone attacks were approved in four years. The report said that the amount of strikes has quadrupled under the administration of US President Barack Obama and estimates about 2,500 people were killed in attacks on targets in Pakistan since 2004.  (See in-depth charts and analysis of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan 2004-2011).

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