tv Hearing on the Legacy of Drone Strikes CSPAN February 28, 2022 12:05pm-1:54pm EST
. welcome. the hearing will come to order. in april of 2013, i held the senate's first and to date the only hearing on the nation's use of drone strikes to lethally target suspected terrorist overseas. at the time i was troubled by stories of innocent people being killed by these strikes as well as the potential for these strikes to violate the law and undermine our national security with very little transparency and accountability. in the nine years since the 2013 hearing, a watchdog group estimate 10,000 to 30,000 more civilians have been killed by u.s. coalition strikes. these are not just numbers. these are real people. they include a little girl, 11 years old in a new purple dress sitting down to dinner with her family. a wife as she slept next to her husband. a young boy playing soccer. a father and daughter sitting in
in the air. my back has been injured.>sgla smell in the air. my back has been injured. sgla smell in the air. my back has been injured.there n the air. my back has been injured. my left foot was broken. i look to the left of my wife and all i could see was debris. i started shouting her name. she did not answer me. i started calling to my daughter. no answer. i could hear a female sound. she said, basim. i felt that i was in a nightmare. >> bob yates thinks the signature strikes are out of hand. there's no judicial process involved. there's this kill list. in addition to the moral and legal issues involved in drone strikes, there's a policy issue about whether it's effective.
>> no matter if it works or not, it affects who we are as a people. >> you can't kill your way out of this. >> you can't kill your way out of this. it's a mistake. >> our nation is at a turning point. in the months after 9/11, we strayed from our values, engaging in torture and indefinite detention at guantanamo, which continues. it's now been more than 20 years since 9/11. we have ended the war in afghanistan, the longest war in our history. the world continues to face challenges from terrorism. terrorist operate in failed states and ungoverned spaces. they do not wear uniforms, distinguish themselves from
civilians or follow the wars of war. we cannot ignore this reality and this threat. i want to commend the biden administration for the recent mission against isis leaders. rather than a drone strike, the sources. as we grapple with the challenges, we have to ensure that the policies governing our response is grounded in the rule after law and respect for human rights. we must be mindful in 39 countries in the world today, we have armed drones, including north carolina, china and russia. we could be establishing
precedents that other nations will follow. i think i misstated that. mindful 39 countries in the world today have believed to have armed drones including north korea, china and russia. our constitution is clear. only congress has the power to decide when the nation goes to war. as the commander in chief, the president must act within that constitution's boundaries. 20 years ago congress authorized the use of force against those responsible for 9/11. in 2001, the authorization for use of military force, aumf has been stretched by precedent far beyond what i or any of my colleagues ever imagined. it's been used as the legal basis for strikes in half a different countries in just as
many different groups, including groups that did not exist when congress voted to pass the aumf. we have longed urged congress to take its responsibility seriously and re-visit the outdating aumf. even when authorized by congress, the use of lethal force against non-state actors raises complex legal questions. questions that only become more complicated with dramatic advances in ai weapons. international law recognizes that lethal force against terrorist is sometimes necessary and lawful to address imminent threats to life or target combatants during war. successive administrations have dangerously expanded these legal authorities.
the obama administration took tentative steps to limit force. 20 years and four administrations, the department of justice legal analysis permitting these lethal strikes has remained shrouded in secrecy. the biden administration is also rightfully sought to restore american leadership. in addition to do more to prevent these mistakes, we must ensure erroneous strikes are followed by appropriate investigations and accountability including redress to the victims and families. following a series of new york times investigations revealing systemic flaws in department of defense, that the department of
defense miigates and tracks civilian casualties, secretary austin developed a civil harm plan in 90 days. at this point i'd like to turn to ranking member grassley for opening remarks. >> this hearing will cover issues related to the department of defense use of force in war on terror. this will include targeted killings and the use of drones. these are important issues that are more appropriate to the senate armed services committee. now if the chairman knew what i
was doing in the 1980s before he got here, he'd say here, here. you did a lot of investigation of the defense department leading to the passage of the false claims act. i'm being a little inconsistent. there are, i want people to know -- okay. thank you. there are things within the heart of our jurisdiction that we should be holding hearings on.
ghost guns form a significant corner stone of the president's policies. address spikes in murders and police attacks. it will do nothing to stop people from being pushed into the front of a subway train or to stop trains from being looted or stopping store fronts from being smashed by flash mob attacks or the many other terrible crimes that we're seeing on television. we need a more serious policy. over 21,000 people were murdered
in the united states. 5,000 more than the year before. a hearing would provide crucial oversight and may even help save lives. the order of the day by -- the order of the day by majority is drones. we all believe in limiting civilian casualties as much as possible. we must achieve military objectives as well as protect civilians. we must use methods of fighting war and reduce to service members.
this attack might not have happened had isis been struck earlier. it's what president lincoln once called the quote, unquote, awful arithmetic of war. i have received a number of materials from vet raps, experts and law of conflict and scholars or importance of maintaining these carefully planned strikes. drone strikes might become necessary after president biden's disasterous pull out
from afghanistan. with a loss of intelligence on the ground, strikes and terrorists may be necessary. i fear they will also be less efficient. across the border into mexico, one cartel move to assassinate members of a rival cartel with weaponized drones. both trump and biden administrations have asked congress to help them by
criminalizing dangerous use of drones here in the united states. both administrations approve very similar legislation drafted by experts from across the executive branch. i hope this committee will swiftly take action on this legislation and i welcome members to join the three of us in co-sponsorship. >> thanks, senator grassley. let me say i accept your invitation to hold a hearing, another hearing on the issue of gun violence and the violence in our neighborhoods and streets. i live with it in my state and want to make sure we're doing everything in our power to assist state and local law enforcement which account for
85% of the activity. i accept your invitation and i promise there will be more hearings on the subject. let me proceed with the witnesses that we're fortunate to have before us today. five witnesses to testify about the legal and human cost of these u.s. strikes. she's the director of the national security project at the american civil liberties union. she's a lecturer at columbia law school. next is radhya al-mutawakel.
i hope i pronounced that right. she will testify remotely and provide on the ground impact of lethal force policies in yemen. last but not least we'll hear from stephen ponger. >> i thank you for being here. the general served as the 17th chief of staff for the u.s. air force as a member of the joint chiefs of staff.
he over saw the introduction of numerous air and space combat systems, including unmanned aerial systems. all of us thank him for his 39 years of service in the military. ambassador served as counterterrorism as well as acting under secretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights at state department.
ambassador sails has served as deputy assistant secretary for policy, state homeland security and office of legal policy at the u.s. department of justice. thank you both for your service. >> thanks. swear in the witness. each witness has five minutes of opening statements. we'll have rounds of questioning. each senator will have five minutes each. i ask them to try to stay true to the allotted time, if possible. we start by administering the oath. i'd ask the witnesses to stand. raise your right hand. do you affirm the testimony you're about to give will the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? let the record indicate all the witnesses have answered in the affirmative. proceed with your opening statement, please. >> chairman durbin, ranking member grassley and member of the committee, thank you for the
opportunity to testify. i was in the room almost ten years ago when, thank you, senator durbin this committee was held on these issues. a young activist testified he had seen himself as a cultural ambassador for america because of the scholarships and rich life experiences our country provided him. then u.s. drone strikes started killing yemeni civilians. traumatiing entire communities, including in his home village. he explained strikes were unnecessary and counter productive. people would have cooperate to turn over suspected militants. drone strikes are the face of america. he pleadsed for the program to end because of its civilian harms but it continued.
president offense both parties unilaterally started launching drone strikes in yemen without congress and the american public even having a conversation about it. the constitution vests only in congress the powers to declare war and authorize force pause that decision is so consequential for life,liberty and rights. they have crossed lines with wartime and peacetime rights. the categories of groups and people who could be targeted. it used vague and ever shiftsing secret legal justification. if any other country had done
this, we would call it unlawful killing. i've laned to fathers describe the horror of having to pick up the body part of their children. i've listened to one of my clients struggle to breathe through her despair after the killing of her husband and aide work for an american ngo and three of her sons and one of her grand children. my client's grief is compounded by the fact for 19 days, our government kept up false allegations about their lovedss strike was righteous.
the pentagon later admitted its mistake but the damage is done. for most americans, this kind of fear, horror and lifelong grief are unimaginable. to civilians in afghanistan, syria, iraq, yemen, pakistan and elsewhere it's been their life. our issues go beyond the weapon to the human and legal costs of what is now a 20 year war based approach that turned a lethal force into a strategy. the american people we're atten
inflection point. we can continue down the costly path or invest in alternatives that keep us all safer like a robust array of diplomatic development and other resources to mitigate security concerns abroad and at home. to help chart a new path, i urge you to take three actions. first, use your oversight powers to demand that executive branch officials testify about and make public their legal and policy justifications for lethal force where congress did not authorize it. there can be no place for secret law or secret lethal force. second, use your article one power of the purse to deny
funding for use of force and third, restore our constitutional system of checks and balances and congress authority on matters of war and peace. thank you for asking me to testify. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you very much. general. >> thank you. i'm pleased do be able to provide testimony today about the use of remotely piloted vehicle and specifically armed and those who care so much about these important issues. i submitted written testimony so my opening remarks will be short. the introduction of the predator rpv to the air force inventory in the mid 1990s marked significant improvement in and our ability to stare at targets.
casualties and unnecessary collateral damage. the enemy mixing itself in with civilians, the use of human shields and violations of the rules of engagement. our technology is progressed to the point where information and decisions can be made at the speed of light instead of the speed of voice communications or keyboards input. this will advance the side that can most rapidly and identify, locate and engage targets from the air, land, sea, space or the cyber domain. stealthy uavs and hypersonic are
available in other countries today. the u.s. does care. the united states military there's always rules of engagement even as technology allows instant decisions. it has been and will continue to be the responsibility of commanders to ensure strict enforcement of rules and engagement and accountability for violations. they are mothers, fathers and they do care. we can be sure there's no open debate about protecting innocent civilians such as this one here today and this session being conducted we have opposed and no such inquiry would ever be considered in those places. i thank you for the opportunity to be here today and participate
in this process. thank you, sir. >> thank you very much. our next witness is radhya al-mutawakel. >> thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. i'm joining from yemen. my country that's known as the worst military and manmade crisis in the world. i'm the chairperson of mwatana for human rights. we're working all over to document human rights abuses to the ongoing conflict. in addition to all dangers, that yemenis are facing today, air strikes to starvation. they continue to face the risk that the united states will carry out attacks that harm their loved ones in the name of
counter terror. today, i would like to share the impact of the attacks through the eyes of myself and my team. i first documented the devastating civilian consequences of u.s. operations in yemen back in 2015 after the execute the director. documented nine u.s. attacks that killed 26 civilians and injured 6 between 2012 and 2014. at that time, i remember a father was killed by a u.s. strike told us they just can't. they don't know what havoc. they are unaware of what they create for our families. almost ten years later, oots father of another civilian killed by the u.s. in yemen said we tried more than once to make our voice heard asking the u.s. to come and check but nobody
sufficient. the u.s. military did not identify the civilian by name but we knew who it was. a father of six children was killed while visiting home. it's hard to know what will be enough to convince the u.s. military to address the civilian harm it's caused in places like yemen. our researchers spent years gathering evidence in remote areas facing significant risks. the u.s. military dismissed most of the cases and refused to provide accountability. we call families of the victims. we heard the disappointment in their voices. we had to tell them that his
father was a civilian, they do nothing about it. no public apology and no justice. u.s. attacks in yemen have led to more poverty in some of the poorest areas in yemen. the airs don't have hospital or proper schools. many don't have even electricity or regular access to water and they have asked what is it that the u.s. can reach us with most advance military technology before electric cables can reach us. the impact of u.s. attacks is more than numbers can show. there are painful pictures that will flash before my eyes and eyes of my team for the rest of our lives. the grandmother fighting after seeing the body of her 17-year-old grandson and adult
son gathering his mother's remains while a husband rush to get his pregnant wife to the hospital watching her die. mother found dead clutching her dead. another mother finding her 14-year-old son body on fire. regardless of which president or party has controlled the white house, the united states had never fully investigated the civilian cause of its operation in yemen and never provided victims the acknowledgement, justice they are owed 20 years after the u.s. became unaccountable in yemen, the u.s. should change the respected course. thank you for listening. >> thank you very much for your
testimony. >> it's a pleasure to be here with you today. it's essential in the aftermath of mistaken strikes. properly used, drone strikes allow us to remove terrorists from the battlefield with maximum precision and minimal risk to our troops. drones can't solve the problem of terrorism on their own but they are an effective tool when used along side civilian tools like sanction, criminal prosecutions, border security, counter messaging and so on.
terrorists themselves recognize the effectiveness of drones. in letters seized from bin laden laden's compounds, al qaeda's leader instructed them to stay indoors except on a cloudy day, unkwoets. the group had been suffering from spy plane's problem in the spy war. in addition, decapitation strike s can be deeply demoralizing. strikes can illuminate networks as they charter among themselves
creating opportunities for intelligence collection or follow on strikes. furthermore, drone strikes reduce the risk of injury and death to u.s. military personnel. some operations that otherwise might have recognized ground forces can be carried out remotely by drones. moreover, because drones are precision weapons they can reduce the risk of casualties. few military platforms are as precise and discriminating as drones. other options can provide less precision resulting in greater risk of collateral damage and death. dod carried out 25 strikes in northern iraq to slow isis advance and allow the escape of
a genocide onslaught. this likely saved thousands of civilian lives. it includes the distinction principal that allows them to distinguish between combatants and civilians. beyond these legal requirements, the obama and trump administrations both adopted the default rule that a drone strike may not take place unless there's near certainty that civilians will not be harmed. this standard appears to offer more protection to civilians than what is required. protecting innocent human life is a fundamental american value. this is who we are as americans.
we fight hard but we fight fair. we play by the rules and one of the most important rules is to avoid inflecting the horrors of war on innocent bystanders. of course, sometimes we make mistake. i want to pause to acknowledge the powerful testimony of the witnesses joined us today from yemen. we also saw this in heartbreaking fashion in the drone strike in kabul last august that killed ten innocent civilians, including seven children. when mistakes are made and civilians are inadvertently killed, the united states must live up to transparency. the american people deserve to know what was done in their name and those responsible for any wrong doing should be held to account. at the same time, we have to acknowledge in many cases the alternatives to drone strikes could involve greater risk to our troops and civilians alike. thank you for the opportunity to be here today. i'm happy to answer any questions you may have.
>> thank you, mr. ambassador. >> thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on this important topic. members of the committee in september 2021, president biden told the aministration i stand here for the first time in 20 years with the united states not at war. the united states is still waging war. last year marked the withdrawal of u.s. forces from afghanistan, it did not mark the end of the military -- around the world. those operations to which this day are largely conducted under the 2001 authorization use of military force or aumf are directed against groups that include al qaeda and isis. they extend to territories far
beyond afghanistan. we hear about it when there's a big success and we hear about it when it goes wrong. there's a great deal we do not hear about. we do not know who the u.s. is fighting or where. we do not have a reliable sense of who is being killed or where the u.s. is operating. part of this is because of operational secrecy. part is because the operations are light footprint and reduce the risk of american casualties which draw u.s. media attention. there's also an institutional explanation. the executive branch has run away with this war. successive administrations develop doctrines that expand the scope. they turn to their own lawyers.
they decide what sorts of safeguards are appropriate to guard against civilian casualties and did not have strong systems for understanding where the safeguards fail. it may cause the united states to be over extended milltarially at a time when it faces many global challenges that command its urgent attention. allowing the executive branch to determine the scope of a conflict without public deliberation that includes a reckoning with the cost of the conflict makes it difficult to assess the extent to which congress has outlived some or all of its purposes. that makes it harder to determine when the conflict can be throttled back or brought to an end. secretary of defense austin issued a directive that responds
to recent account of civilian casualties in the press. i hope it brings about change and i've offered some suggestions how to bring about the change in my written testimony. trying to blunt the worst effects should not be a surrogate for confronting the bigger questions that the u.s. needs to ask itself after 20 years of war. i'm not going make the case for the u.s. to stop using military force, i will argue that the best and probably only way to test the risks, weigh the cost and determine the proper scope of this and in conflict is to encourage inner branch discussion that's been lacking in recent years. there's a good case this is what the framers envisioned when they drafted the constitution. they invested significant war powers because of its deliberative nature. the war powers resolution of 19737 and the 2001 aumf have
shrunk congress' role and that role needs to be restored. there's things the executive branch should do. i've referred to in my written statement that really agrandize executive power but to restore constitutional balance on matters of war and peace, the main work that needs to be done is legislative and here there are two main tasks. one is amending the 2001 aumf so it is explicit about who the u.s. is fighting, where and to what end, and to require periodic reauthorization perhaps every two or three years to ensure both political branches of government can be meaningfully held to account by the american public when they determine the scope of the nation's wars. and the other is amending the 1973 war powers resolution to restore congressional prerogatives and determining when and where the united states goes to war by defining key terms like hostilities,
shortening the 60-day period between congressional notification and mandated withdrawal for unauthorized operations and conflicts that are inconsistent with these requirements. with provisions along these lines the national security powers act introduced by senators lee, murphy and sanders and companion legislation in the house of representatives would help restore the inner branch balance that is so lacking. i want to express my gratitude to those members of congress for their leadership on this important issue. i want to thank members of the committee for holding this important hearing. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you very much. we appreciate your testimony, mr. pomper. i'm going to lead off on the questions. we'll each take five minutes and do as many rounds as we can accommodate. and so it seems to me that your testimony ended on a note very important. the real consideration about addressing this issue has to start this side of the table in terms of our role as defined by the constitution in light of the
new threats to national security and the new tools of war. i can tell you that the vote for aumf 20 years ago never envisioned that i would be considering the use of drones and innocent civilian casualties in yemen. that was not part of our calculation when we responded to 9/11. and so we have to take on the responsibility of accepting our constitutional mandate and implementing it in light of change circumstances in a dramatic way. secondly, i believe it's naive to think terrorism has an expiration date or the terrorists are looking forward to a peace negotiation. i don't think that was the nature of the threat and we have to accommodate that as well. we think in terms of classic war, and this is far from classic. the third question, obviously, is what we're going to do by way of oversight on the executive branch. mr. pomper, could you tell me by
your definition how many countries the united states is now using drones in to fight terrorism? lethal drones. >> thank you very much for the question, senator. i think you've put your finger on a really important point by asking that question. the answer is i honestly can't tell you with any level of confidence how many countries. the executive branch did, i believe, last report on the groups that it is fighting in a report that the obama administration issued at the end of 2016. i believe that subsequent reports, including reports that have been mandated to this body by the ndaa have included some key details in classified annexes that are not available to the public. so decisions about which groups the u.s. is fighting under the aumf, where it's fighting them,
are taken in the first instance within the executive branch. they may be reported to congress through committee channels or through reports that can include classified annexes. but they are not necessarily available to the public. and the result is that it can come as a surprise to find out that the united states is using drones or it's using ground troops or other means of projecting force in parts of the world that people aren't aware the united states is at war at. >> think about what that says. we are supposed to declare war on behalf of the american people and ask them to give up their children and loved ones to serve our nation in a noble cause and yet at this moment in time the average routine of members of congress does not include a disclosure of how many countries we are currently at war with. and i would suggest if we are using drones in a lethal
capacity to hunt terrorism, let alone kill innocent individuals, that should at least be disclosed to the american people. it's just amazing to me it is not. i think it really betrays the wisdom and legality of it. let me go to one example i used earlier and that is the situation in yemen. if ms. mutawakel is properly summarized she believes there have been 64 innocent civilians killed and 20 wounded by the united states and the use of drones in yemen. so i'd like to ask ambassador sales and general jumper to react to that, establishing that as a premise but also to react to a quote from general stanley mcchrystal about the use of drones. this is what he said. what scared me about drone
strikes is how they are perceived around the world. the resentment created by american use of unmanned strikes is much greater than the average american appreciates. they are hated on a visceral level even by people who have never seen one or seen the effects of one. i raise that point because ambassador sales said these are precision weapons. it's hard to argue they're precision weapons if 64 innocent people were killed in a country most americans would not list as one of our combatants in war. would you like to react to general mcchrystal's statement? >> sure, mr. chairman. i'm happy to take a stab at that. i think drone strikes are precise compared to the alternatives. consider fixed wing aircraft, consider conventional ground forces going in to an objective
to use lethal force. to say that drone strikes are more precise than the alternative is not to say they don't make mistakes. sometimes they do. sometimes intelligence is incomplete. sometimes terrorists are hiding among civilians that operators were not aware of. of course drones are a tool that can be used in a more precise or less precise way. the key point, however, i think is that when compared to the alternatives drones do a much better job of allowing the united states to comply with our obligations under the law of armed conflict to respect the proportionality principle and to put into practice some of the policy standards that are offering even more protection to civilians than the baseline requirements of law of armed conflict. >> i don't think there's much precision in the stories we've heard about use of lethal drones killing people at a wedding, at
a funeral. i mean, you describe it in a fashion belied by these realities that we've seen in countries around the world. senator grassley? >> first of all, i want to thank the chairman for saying he would respond to our request to have a hearing on the increase in crime in the united states and i want to emphasize the increase in the united states and hope it doesn't turn into a gun control hearing. general jumper, thank you for appearing today. in your 39 years in the military you saw the capability of drones develop and evolve. you described in your written testimony a drone that could see serbian forces invade kosovo and kill civilians but could not do anything to stop it. so as chief of staff of the air force during the first four years of the global war on terror, you led as drones became
a vital tool in precision targeting and terrorist combatants, what are the advantages of using weaponized drones and why were drones -- when -- why were they first armed? >> thank you, senator, for the question, and thank you for the invitation here today. when i was a young captain in vietnam and for all the time from 1969 up to the mid-90s when we went on a mission, we essentially had all the information about the target we were going to strike on our knee board. we had pictures that were, at best, hours but days or weeks old of a potential target. we would go to a forward air controller circling the target in a light aircraft, and we would take verbal cues off of
roads and geographically distinctive features to locate the target and bomb the target. sometimes these were troops in contact. the urgency was palpable. you could see enemy forces in the wire at the special forces camps. but the process of communicating the information was laborious and the standard was to destroy the building. we didn't know other than it was emanating from that building. we didn't know what else was in the building. if you look at the estimate of casualties in wars earlier, they are astounding. large, large numbers. with the invention of the predator uav and the ability to stare and hover over targets for
long periods of time with imaging infrared and synthetic capture radar and corroborate that information with signals intelligence that come from -- might come from the same area, we elevated our capability to be more precise and to characterize targets and to assess collateral damage by orders of magnitude. that this is not still satisfactory is something we continue to have to work on, mr. chairman. i certainly agree with that. we need to do better. but this capability has given us the ability to discriminate in ways that we have never done before. been able to do before. the hell fire weapon or those with no warheads have been used to make sure collateral damage.
people have to be held accountable and i think commanders that i know would agree with those statements. so this capability with rpvs is increased by orders of magnitude our ability to be more discreet and something we still need to work on. >> ambassador sales, what is the effect of afghanistan's fall to the taliban and the creation of a safe haven in afghanistan which i stated about in my opening comments on the need for continued drone program f. we simply abandon the drone program and isis and al qaeda are allowed to get stronger, what can we expect? >> well, senator, i think one thing we should fear is that afghanistan could return to the terror safe haven it was in the years that led up to 9/11. my concern is that with the complete withdrawal of u.s.
personnel from afghanistan the supporting elements necessary to carry out an effective campaign of drone strikes against isis elements there or al qaeda elements there will not make it possible for us to apply counterterrorism pressure to these growing terrorist threats. in order to do drone strikes, and this goes to their precision and it also goes to how discriminating operators can be when using this tool, in order to use drone strikes in a country you need to have signals, intelligence capabilities, have human sources on the ground who are prepared to tell information to the united states that puts their own lives at risk, but they're willing to do it because they know the united states will have their back. we don't have those assets in the country anymore. and so my fear is that as isis begins to grow its capabilities and as al qaeda looks to grow
its capabilities under the protection of the taliban, the united states will have neither the intelligence we need to know what our adversaries are planning nor the strike assets in the country to take action in a precise and targeted way against a reconstituting terrorist threat. >> thank you. i will submit the rest of my questions for answer in writing. >> senator leahy? >> thank you. and i want to thank chair durbin for holding this important hearing. i've long been concerned about the human consequences of military action abroad. others we don't even know why they're being done since september 11th drone strikes in particular have raised concerns. they've left an untold number of civilian deaths in their wake, and that's the problem, untold number, as it's not reported accurately. we have a strong national
interest in preventing the loss of innocent lives caused by our actions. so i have a question for hina shamsi. when they occur the u.s. government has to be ready to provide redress including payments and we have a specific law. the track record in providing these payments have been abysmal. congress recently repeatedly had payments in the law. most recently allocated $3 million in annual funding to compensate civilians and yet in 2020, for example, and there are significant number of civilian
casualties, the pentagon did not make a single offer of compensation, and that's notwithstanding the law that we passed. so, ms. shamsi, how does it damage our moral standing and reputation when the u.s. government fails to provide redress after causing civilian casualties and what steps should the defense department make to ensure credible investigations are done, innocent people harmed receive timely compensation? >> thank you, senator leahy. it is significantly damaging to our reputation but also our obligations to provide amends to people that we have harmed. but let me just start by saying of course you are exactly right
that after congress authorized $3 million of ex gratia payments it was reported none were made. it goes back to a significant issue of the military needs to know it has actually conducted operations that are lawful and what we know and i know personally from having advisd civilians who have reached out to us from yemen or somalia or elsewhere it is extremely hard for civilians to even access the military and to provide their information about innocent lives wrongly taken. it's important where that starts out is application of civilian harm prevention methods.
in recognizing actual wars, for example, like in iraq or afghanistan or syria there have been fundamental problems with tracking civilian deaths and injuries, significant gaps between the military's own assessments because it relies on its own data, does not conduct investigations that incorporate information from civilians or witnesses, and -- >> we also have the problem there's sometimes a delegation of authority in doing that is faulty, and i realize that since september 11 republican and democratic administrations have developed what's been a secret body of law for drone strikes in countries where congress has never even authorized the use of military forces. so the executive branch essentially is judge and jury
decide whether it complies with its own rules for drone strikes. what does that accomplish, that lack of transparency? >> it's a fundamental problem, senator leahy, and what it goes back to is where we started out some of the issues with the hearing which is that using secret legal interpretations apply to secret facts based on secret evidence. after 2001 the successive administrations came up with interpretations of authorizations for use of force, the 2001-2002 authorizations that went far beyond what congress had authorized and permitted. these secret interpretations, some of which only came to light after the aclu and "the new york times" sued and only came to light years later. these are important things this committee can demand
transparency of using all the powers it has because it is under this body of secret law that successive administrations have grabbed power that belongs to congress under article one, the declare war clause and through interpretations of terms like associated forces, successive forces, novel theories of self-defense have gone far beyond what congress intended or authorized in acting with the use of force in multiple countries around the world. >> my time is up but i'm going to submit for the record a question to you and ms. al mutawakel why the human rights perspective why it's important for the u.s. government to accurately acknowledge the number of civilian casualties
and what could the department of defense do to improve the reporting of the number of civilian casualties. i will submit that to the record if i might, mr. chair. >> without objection. senator lee? >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. thanks to each of you for being here today. presidents of both political parties have broadly expanded beyond any reading that i believe is permissible based on the text of the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force. in fact, i've consistently heard the 2001 aumf referred to as the, quote, unquote, cornerstone of counterterrorism authorities, this despite the fact many terrorist groups that the u.s. battles from time to time didn't exist in 2001 when congress provided this authority and in some cases may or may not be
fairly considered offshoots of a group in existence. ms. shamsi, i would like to ask you a couple questions about this if that's all right. can you share some of the major flaws you see in these existing authorities for purposes of future u.s. counterterrorism efforts? >> certainly, senator lee. and may i just begin by thanking you for the bipartisan legislation you've introduced with respect to congress' reassertion of its power and authority to declare war. and i'd like to start with that just because it is so incredibly important, because as we've been talking about for 20 years now -- over 20 years -- successive presidents have grabbed powers that belong solely to congress. as you know under article one only congress has the authority to declare war except in the
event of a limited and genuine emergency like in response to an attack or an imminent emergency where congress does not have the time to act. and even then the president needs to come back and seek authorization for those uses of force to continue that is what the 1973 war powers resolution was supposed to do. but that safeguard against a previous era of use of force violations, that system of checks and balances is broken, senator lee, and your legislation, your co-sponsored legislation, recognizes that and does some very, very important things, i think. one is that it reins in presidential authority to use force. it defines important terms that had been left or were deemed ambiguous under the war powers
resolution like hostilities. it reins in definitions of imminence, successive administration have done violence to the english language as well as lies in their interpretation of what imminence means and it provides important reporting and transparency requirements as well as a funding cutoff, reversing the switch so that congress itself can be the deliberative body it needs to be. and the final thing i would add is what we've seen now with successive interpretations of the 2001-2002 aumf this is an opportunity for congress to rein in these powers and to ensure that any future aumf it passes is defined with respect to objective, opponent, temporal limitation and what outcomes are expected so that congress may
fulfill its role under the constitution. >> thank you. i appreciate your remarks regarding the bipartisan legislation that i introduced with senator murphy and others. that's helpful. on the time constraint in particular, considering it's 2022 and the 2021 aumf is still in effect, my youngest child, my daughter eliza, was an infant at the time the '01 aumf was passed. it's been in place literally her entire life and she'll be graduating from college next year. considering how long that one has lasted, how important would you say it is for us as a congress to limit -- to impose a time limit on future authorizations for the use of military force to make sure that we're not just creating a roving
open-ended power within the executive branch? >> senator lee, i would say it is imperative and, in fact, congress has had more specific authorizations in the past. so congress knows how to impose these limits when it wants to. and this ensures the executive would come back to congress should authorities be needed but it's now 20 years later. proponents have to bear the burden of making the case and we have to take into account as a nation the costs and consequences of war-based to lives and our democratic accountability. >> thank you very much. >> senator feinstein? >> thanks very much, mr. chairman. in 2016 the obama administration for the first time released data
regarding the number of civilian deaths from drone strikes. i commended the administration at the time for taking this important step toward transparency. unfortunately, in 2019 the trump administration halted this annual requirement. i strongly believe, mr. chairman, that greater transparency with drone strike data is a way for the public to gauge the true value of the drone program and understand the care with which these operations are conducted. hiding this information moves us in the wrong direction. various numbers have been tallied by outside organizations but the government has access to unique information to help determine the number of civilian deaths. i believe the american people deserve to know more about this
program and its effects around the world. in 2019 president trump removed the requirement to annually report. so i'd like to ask this question to everyone if they would quickly answer it. what do you believe the value in reinstituting the requirement for an annual report on u.s. drone strikes outside of war zones that includes civilian casualty numbers would have? >> senator, i'm happy to -- >> please. >> -- jump in. so i was actually part of the effort back in 2016 to come to the arrangement that allowed that level of disclosure. i will say stepping outside that role now that it is extremely important that transparency be promoted by the executive branch, by this branch, that
requirement be reinstated. i would also want to make the caveat there was an enormous discrepancy between the number the executive branch reported back then and the number that was being reported by outside consolidators. and one of the reasons, i think, that transparency by the executive branch was so important it did create pressure, i think, on the different operating agencies to explain why there was that discrepancy, and i know the story the executive branch tells is that this has information outsiders don't have. i think as we've seen from recent reporting from "the new york times" sometimes information doesn't make its way to washington. i think in terms of creating a positive dynamic that actually sheds light on the cost of conflict it's extremely important to create that requirement, but i think it's important to take a very appraising eye of the information that the executive branch provides.
>> thank you very much. mr. chairman, i have followed this and i think this last witness just made very important points about where we should go. there is no question that we take great care with this program. there's also no question that we had annual reports. we were able to follow it closely. and then in 2019 president trump removed that. i think we should put it back. i think this committee should have annual reports and be able to follow this issue very carefully. it's really important. i have a lot of numbers. i won't go into them now. my seminal point is there is more that could be shared. and let me ask this last question of the panel. what data do you believe should
be included in that annual report which i would hope to have? >> thank you, senator. i think a few things. one is that it would be incredibly useful to have the terms that the military uses defined. one of the issues human rights groups have raised over and over again is understanding what terms -- understanding who the military applies civilian status to and who it applies a combatant status to. another important issue, and these are some of the -- one of the concerns that we have were repeated, actually, in a very important rand corporation study that came out at the end of january that added to what we and other groups have been saying and our partners. the military tends to undercount
civilian casualties in part because it relies only on its own records and privileges its own records. whereas it is skeptical of external sources that often turn out to be more accurate such as report from civil society and media because civil society and media conduct investigations of witnesses. so more information about methodology and a reflection of lessons learned after four years, five years of criticism of why these numbers are not accurate. >> could i ask for other comments on this point? i think it's important. >> of course it is important. i would ask they be brief comments, though. >> i would echo ms. shamsi's point. it's important the executive branch be explicit about the methodology and who it regards as a civilian and who as a
combatant. these are not clear. >> thank you. >> any other comments from other witnesses? >> i would say transparency is important. >> can i say something? i'm still here. >> go ahead. yes, please proceed. >> just very quickly, even when the data is available from the ground, nothing has happened around the u.s. so having the information, having the data is very important, but it's the minimum. what are the reactions, what are the mechanisms in order to lead. it's not only the data. we provided the centcom with all the data we have but nothing happened. >> thank you. general jumper, would you like to conclude? >> transparency is important. commanders in the field know they're responsible and accountable. i think they are not responsible for the definitions that are used.
i think any ability, any transparency we can get is helpful in this situation as time goes on. >> so i'm not going to presume on any member of the committee. i believe senator feinstein has made a valuable suggestion and i would like to join her in preparing a letter that would call on the administration to respond based on what our witnesses have told us and invite anyone else interested to join us in that effort. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. >> i will join in that. >> senator leahy will also join. senator graham, you're next. >> so i have a slightly different take. general jumper, is america at war? >> to the american service men, sir, we've been at war for a long time. >> are the american people at war? if so, who with? who are we at war with? >> sir, we are fighting an enemy out there who is determined to kill us. >> who are they? >> these terrorist organizations that we --
>> al qaeda? is that an enemy -- >> isis and al qaeda continue to be. >> ms. shamsi, do you agree or do you believe that if al qaeda and isis attack the american homeland they would? >> senator graham, i think what's important is -- >> no, what's important is you answer the question first and then give an explanation. it's a simple question. do you believe if al qaeda and isis had the ability -- they have the desire, i think -- if they had the ability they would strike america today or tomorrow if they could? >> senator graham, the reason i'm having a hard time answering that request a yes or no answer is because -- >> that's all i need to know because nobody in the world should have a hard time answering that yes or no. if you can't answer that yes or no you have no idea what you're talking about. you're living in a dream world
because i can tell you right now, ma'am, if they could kill us all, they would. the only reason 3,000 americans died on 9/11 is they couldn't find a way to kill 3 million of us. if they could find a way to kill 3 million of us, they would do it. so, mr. sales, what's the threat to america now from al qaeda and isis? is it less, more, the same? >> i think it's substantial, senator. it is not what it was before 9/11, in part because we have used force to degrade their networks and destroy fund-raising and harden our borders. their capability may be less than it was 20 years ago but the intention to strike the homeland, to strike us around the world is still very present. >> would you say their ability to plan an attack in afghanistan against the american people has gone up since our withdrawal? >> senator, i'm sorry to agree with you it has gone up. we don't have the intelligence
collection capabilities to know what our enemies are doing in afghanistan, nor do we have strike assets that can take action when necessary. >> general jumper, you're an air force guy. i'm a lawyer. you're a pilot. has the drone program prevented pilots from being put at risk? >> it's not the main point, sir, but the answer is yes. i don't think that's the main point of the drone program. >> has it been an effective tool in terms of killing terrorists? >> very effective, sir. >> has it killed civilians? >> it has, sir. >> name any weapons system that hasn't killed civilians. name any war that civilians haven't been killed in operations. transparency, you're right about that. but i can't believe we're talking about this. we have a witness that can't answer the question would al qaeda and isis strike the american people if they could, of course they would.
afghanistan is a breeding ground for another attack on our country the border is broken. i can't believe we're focusing on closing gitmo at a time when international terrorism is getting stronger. we're now talking about neutering the drone program at a time we need it the most. so secretary gave himself an a for effort. i give him an "f" for results. it's just a matter of time until some terrorist group, probably from afghanistan, maybe from syria, maybe from africa, maybe from somalia, works his way through the southern border to kill a bunch of us. and this committee seems not to get where we're at, mr. chairman. america's threat has gone up not down. our policies in containing the threat are not working.
afghanistan is a breeding ground for terrorism as i speak. everybody that we work with is being slaughtered, and we want to talk about limiting -- closing gitmo and restricting the drone program. you're living in a world that doesn't exist. count me in for transparency and accountability, but i think we've lost our way. i think the biden administration is sitting on its ass while the border is completely broken, people are flowing through by the hundreds of thousands and afghanistan is hell on earth and they're not doing a damn thing about it. i wish we could have a hearing about the threat america faces from a broken border and our debacle in afghanistan and what that means for our future security. it's just not if we're going to be attacked, it's when and how much damage will be done. thank you. >> since the senator, my friend,
has addressed me indirectly for my suggested hearing, actual hearing on guantanamo, i hope he and i can both agree that paying $13 million a year to hold each detainee, each one, in gitmo is certainly not a wise expenditure in fighting terrorism. the next senator to speak, senator blumenthal. >> thanks, mr. chairman. last month i joined a number of my colleagues in sending a letter to president biden that urged the administration to review and overhaul the united states counterterrorism policy to center on human rights and the protection of civilians.
and align with the united states and international law prioritizing nonlethal tools to address conflict and fragility and using force only when it's lawful and as a last resort. does anyone on this panel disagree with the basic principles? okay, thank you. the letter outlined numbers that we've been discussing today, namely that as many as 48,000 civilians across seven countries were reportedly killed by the united states strikes over the last two decades and, as you all know on january 27, general austin published a memorandum on civilian harm mitigation and
response. does anyone on this panel take issue with the principles and tactics and strategy that general austin articulated in that memorandum? again, no one disagrees. i want to commend the administration for addressing these issues. i think we need to reach consensus on those basic principles in the way that they are implemented in the field, in combat, in the arena and members of this panel, some of you have direct experience with the challenges of the battlefield. let me ask ms. shamsi, do you think the administration is moving quickly enough to
implement those principles? >> unfortunately not, senator blumenthal, and thank you for your question. i think it's important to clarify a couple things i think also your letter hopefully raised and pointed out. one is that when we're talking about this program, what are we actually talking about. we have been using drones but also other air strikes in recognized armed conflict, for example, in afghanistan. where my clients' loved ones so recently were killed. and, in fact, it's more air strikes not using drones that have happened in afghanistan and in places like that what applies is the law of war. in other countries where drones started being launched, the u.s.
wasn't at war. when we're talking about where we stand and what the biden administration is doing it's important to step back and say 20 years later when we look at the concerns you and your colleagues so importantly and rightly raised in your letter, how are they going to be addressed going forward strategically, taking into account the costs and consequences. it's so important that as you pointed out to take into account where congress has authorized war and where the executive branch took on the authority to start using drones or other weapons systems with costs and consequences and how does congress take back its power to address the things you've raised. >> i agree congress should be taking back or at least safeguarding its authority in many of these areas we have
foregone. general jumper, do you agree with secretary austin the center of excellent to implement these policies is a good idea? >> i do. >> do you think more should be done? >> sir, i think one thing in my experience that has not happened when we get into -- i think afghanistan is an excellent example because when we transition from the military operations which in afghanistan the military mission was essentially accomplished in a matter of months, we transitioned to nation building. we don't have the presence of the other agencies of the government to implement the change in direction. it often falls on the military to do things the military doesn't do very well. so it's the full participation of the government when it's appropriate. i think is something else that has to be seriously looked at.
it has to be funded and governed appropriately and with proper oversight, of course. >> thank you. thank you all for your testimony. thanks, mr. chairman. >> next is senator hawley. >> thank you, mr. chairman, thanks to the witnesses for being here. i want to talk about the drone strike that has gotten the most recent attention and rightly so, the strike on august the 29th in kabul that killed ten civilians including seven children and the process leading up to that strike. now i understand that -- i'm sure all of you are familiar -- everyone on the panel is familiar with the strike i'm talking about, aren't you, and with "the new york times" reporting as early as the day after on august 30th that indicated it was innocent civilians and the military denied this but it turns out
"the times" reporting was entirely correct. i want to get a sense how we got to this position, how we could have a strike of this magnitude and the military deny it, dod, the biden administration, deny it for weeks when it turns out they were killed. let me just ask you, mr. sales, and you can tell me if you're not the right person to address this question to, but i understand that sometimes in the fog of war mistakes are made. the spokesperson at dod, john kirby, admitted there was a significant breakdown in process, his words, break down in process, that led to this drone strike that killed these innocent civilians and yet there's been no discipline or accountability for anybody involved. is that typical to have a breakdown in process and no remedial action be taken, do you
know? >> senator, i will probably have to defer to the general on that one. >> general? >> i do not know the details. a lot of that operation was classified. in these hearings -- i'm not on the inside with classified information anymore in my current retired position. what i can tell you is that the people who were on the scope and looking at the events, i think, actually did believe this vehicle was about to cause greater harm, was laden with explosives and about to cause much greater harm that they were frantic to try to prevent. the mistakes that were made i cannot characterize but i think the situation was one that they thought there was a very extensive threat that was about to take place. >> now that all makes sense to me, general. here is what's a little more
puzzling. we've learned since that the intelligence community, the cia, sent a warning to the military as the strike -- before the strike happened, before the drone strike happened. this is per public reporting so forget what congress may or may not have been briefed on, but a public reporting september 18 from cnn, says the cia sent an urgent warning before the missile hit the car warning civilians were in the car, not isis-k, civilians were in the car. that's in real time. so the ic is warning the target is wrong. i understand mistakes happen. here is what i don't understand entirely. the cia and the ic is warning you've got it wrong, you're targeting civilians. they ended up killing civilians. i understand once you launched there's no place to dump it off. where are you going to dump it
off? you can't divert it. civilians were killed. however, the next day after the ic warning, the death of civilians, the next day the command earp of u.s. central command goes out and says that the strike dealt isis-k a crushing blow. the next day the general of the joint chiefs of staff milley said it was a righteous strike. the next day the president of the united states goes out and claims victory for this strike. what is strange to me about this is already we know the military had been warned they'd gotten it wrong and yet the president of the united states, the chairman of the joint chiefs, go out in public, knowing this, and claim victory and say actually weep got terrorists. does that seem unusual to you? >> i am not in a position to gauge the reaction. i can tell you notice in the
press that a message went out -- where did the message come from? who did it go to? how long did it take to get to the people who were actually responsible for the engagement. all of that stuff is fog of war stuff that requires much more close investigation than certainly i know about. >> senator -- >> i could not agree more about the need for a close investigation and i would just say that is exactly why, exactly why this congress ought to be holding meaningful hearings into what happened. these folks ought to be testifying. i suspect, general, i suspect, if we put the commander under oath and asked him about what he knew and when he knew it and when those who made the decision to lawn this much drone strike, when they were informed, i suspect we're going to find they were informed at a very early date and knew at a very early time and yet you have the
commander, the chairman of the joint chiefs and the president of the united states out there claiming victory. that suggests there was a severe breakdown in process and you're not informing the president before he goes out to claim victory that you may have killed innocent civilians, or he did it knowing anyway. either way we have a big, big problem here and need to get to the bottom. my time has expired but you wanted to say something. >> if i may, thank you, senator hawley. my colleagues and i represent the survivors of that drone strike as well as the california-based ngo whose employees were killed. i want to be clear we do not take positions on the political decision to get into war or withdraw. we work on the human rights -- the legal consequences, and i think it's very important to
note that what happened there was unusual for certain reasons but not unusual for other reasons. it wasn't unusual in that there was a 2013 joint chiefs staff study that identified misidentification of a target as the primary cause of civilian hostilities in afghanistan particularly due to perceived hostile intent from individuals who were later revealed to be civilians. that is critically important because that goes to the legal obligation of u.s. forces to comply with the laws of war and yet we came to find out that with this august 29 drone strike the same finding that confirmation bias played a critical role in the wrongful deaths in the killings of people alongside him and so what we have here and why it's so
important to look at these measures is a systemic issue. and the need for a structural overhaul of how civilian harm prevention mitigation happens in order for it to be addressed properly. i will say this, and i'm sorry to go over time, but it is unfathomable to my clients that this would have happened given that an employee of a u.s. ngo was followed for eight hours. his employer keeps asking us how can it be that they -- they couldn't do a simple search to see that he worked for a humanitarian aid organization, that water bottles were water bottles, not explosives? and the need to address systemic civilian harm, to mitigate
against it in the context of armed conflict is key but also we need to think 20 years later about preventing it entirely in places where congress has not authorized or considered costs or consequences. thank you. >> thank you, ms. shamsi. senator blackburn. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i really appreciate this hearing and each of you being here. i'm from tennessee. i represent many of the men and women at fort campbell. and this week when i was heading back up here i had a great conversation with someone who is a part of the 160th. and, i tell you, these special operators have very dangerous missions. they're delicately carried out. they have to be very precise in
their mission. the utilization of isr assets, the new technologies that are there help to save their lives and do a better job. i'm deeply appreciative for the service that they give this country and deeply appreciative for a lot of the work darpa have done in trying to bring forward tools that they can use to be more precise in their work. as a matter of fact, and you all may know darpa just recently turned a blackhawk into an av and flew it at fort campbell. that is something that will help keep our men and women in uniform safe and it came as kind
of a surprise to me that in the raid last week in syria that the president declined to use a drone and instead sent in special operators. so that they could carry that mission out and, of course, we had an aircraft that had to be disabled and destroyed, which was of concern to us. let me ask you general jumper, are you concerned by the president's decision to use a raid instead of using a drone strike to carry this out? >> thank you, senator, for that question. i think the answer to this depends on the target area at the moment. if the choice is level the building and not worry about who
is inside or send in a group who can try to discriminate who is inside you go for the ground option. if it's we can catch the person who is going to be walking out and we can recognize that person and catch him going to the restroom which is in another building and catch him in between buildings and we can have the means to positively identify that, that's another situation. commanders make these decisions and make these recommendations on the tactical details of the moment. >> let me ask you this. i've been a little bit perplexed with what is a strategy around the over the horizon capability for afghanistan and looking at options. ambassador sales, let me come to you on this. we want to make certain we can prevent terrorist attacks and we know because of this there will be a greater need to rely on drones, to have that capacity.
to prevent those attacks from originating in afghanistan and i've heard a lot from some of our military men and women on concerns about the length of time the drones will be able to fly. where you're going to be able to launch from. so taking that over the horizon if you could address that for me, please. >> i share that concern, i am worried that over the horizon, limiting ourselves in afghanistan will not be sufficient to degrade the growing threat that we're already seeing from groups like isis and al qaeda. i believe we have testimony from administration witnesses that al qaeda and isis could redevelop the capability to hit the u.s. homeland as soon as april of this year. and to my knowledge we have not been applying counterterrorism pressure to those organizations
the way we did when we had a substantial military presence in afghanistan. if drones are flying in from the middle east seven hours into the country, seven hours back, subtract from your 24-hour 24-hour loiter time, that's not a whole lot of time collecting intelligence information. it also increases, it seems to me, the risk of damage to civil yachbs. the lower the fidelity we have in terms of intelligence, the location, the identity and the actions of you are targets, the greater the risk we are going to make mistakes. that doesn't mean we are going to fail to get the person we are intending to get, it could mean we incidentally strike a civilian. as you know, that's something the united states has to minimize at all costs. >> well, i'm over time, but yes, indeed, at senate arms services meeting yesterday we had a meeting with general criminalo,
who is going to go to sent com, and having these isr assets and what it means within that area is going to be important and also it weighs into how we deal with china. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator blackburn. i want to thank the witnesses for appearing this morning. we are going to put on the record a statement signed by 115 organizations including veterans groups, faith based groups and racial justice organizations, urging the united states to end the use of drone strikes outside recognized battlefields. i understand the debate on this issue will continue at pace as terrorism pushes us into questions that weren't obvious 20 years ago when we voted for the amuf. safety is important. i thank these witnesses for their testimony today and our witness who joined in a virtual fashion from yemen. thank you all very much, this meet of the senate judiciary
committee stands adjourned. >> c-span is your one stop guide the our nation's commanders in chief. find short biographies, video resource, life facts, telling the story of their lives and president cease, nall uneasy to browse c-span website. visit the website to begin exploring this rich source today. the head of the federal bureau of prison testified about the first step act. this house judiciary subcommittee on crime hearing
also touched on recidivism rates, education skills training for inmates, and vaccine mandates for prison employees. >> the dee will come to order. good morning again, and welcome to today's oversight hearing of the federal bureau of prisons. i would like to remind members that we have established an email address and districts list to circulate exhibits, motions or other written materials that members might want to offer as part of our hearing today. if you would like to submit materials, please send them to the email address that has been previously tributed to your offices and we will circulate the materials to members and staff as quickly as we can. i would also ask all members to mute your micro phones when you are not speaking. this will help prevent feedback and other technical issues. you may unmute yourself any time you seek recognition. i now recognize myself for an