The lawyer who authored the White House policy on lethal drone strikes has accused the Obama administration of using them when it didn’t want to capture prisoners who would otherwise go to Guantanamo Bay.

John Bellinger, who worked on the legal framework for targeted drone killings as an adviser in George W. Bush’s administration after 9/11, said he thought lethal drone use was on the rise because President Obama didn’t want to deal with the consequences of jailing suspected al-Qaida members.

“This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantanamo] they are going to kill them,” he said on a panel Wednesday at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Roughly 4,700 people have been killed by about 300 U.S. drone attacks in four countries. The program’s status under international and domestic law remains a subject of intense debate.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

Philip Zelikow, a member of the White House Intelligence Advisory Board, said the government was relying on two arguments to justify its drone policy under international law: that the US remained in a state of war with al-Qaida and its affiliates, or that those individuals targeted in countries such as Pakistan were planning imminent attacks against US interests.

When asked by the Guardian whether such arguments would apply in reverse in the unlikely event that al-Qaida deployed drone technology against military targets in the US, Zelikow accepted they would.

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