Newsnippets, February 9, 2013: Drone edition

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From The Atlantic: Obama unaccountable when drones kill innocents

Set aside the question of whether President Obama should be empowered to order the killing of Americans. Instead, let’s ask, “What happens after he orders an extrajudicial assassination?” So long as drone strikes happen in secret, nothing happens. A kill order is given, a Hellfire missile fired, and it doesn’t matter if the human blown limb-from-limb is an Al Qaeda terrorist, an innocent Muslim man, or a five-year-old girl. Even if the target is killed far from any battlefield, in a place where he might easily have been be captured, and the kill order could’ve been postponed without putting national security at risk, the president won’t be investigated or arrested or tried in court or punished.

There is no mechanism for it to happen.

From John W. Whitehead: How a Nobel Peace Prize Winner Became the Head of a Worldwide Assassination Program

The President of the United States of America believes he has the absolute right to kill you based upon secret “evidence” that you might be a terrorist. Not only does he think he can kill you, but he believes he has the right to do so in secret, without formally charging you of any crime and providing you with an opportunity to defend yourself in a court of law. To top it all off, the memo asserts that these decisions about whom to kill are not subject to any judicial review whatsoever.

From Salon: Fact checking Brennan and Feinstein on civilian drone deaths

[A]s WaPo [Washington Post] points out, with U.S. drone bases maintained in West And East Africa (not to mention the recently revealed base in Saudi) as well as strikes in Afghanistan and Somalia, “it’s plausible that the civilian casualties would be even higher than the Long War Journal and New America Foundation stats reflect.” The BIJ’s most up to date statistics, looking at strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, suggest that up to 1,128 civilians have been killed in drone strikes. But as Brennan’s hearing made clear yesterday, evidence of trauma and civilian casualties caused by U.S. drones will continue to be a counter-narrative to the prevailing, drone-loving sentiment in Washington.

From The Guardian: Obama’s ‘extreme’ anti-terror tactics face liberal backlash

“If Bush had done the same things as Obama, then more people would have been upset about it. He is a Democrat though, and to an extent can get away with it,” said Daniel Ellsberg, who as a government official leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and helped to expose the truth about the Vietnam war. Ellsberg is now one of the plaintiffs in the case against the NDAA and insists that the administration has used the law to give itself widespread and unconstitutional new powers: “We have been losing our guaranteed freedoms one by one.”

From RT: Brennan the perfect director to increase hostility against Americans

Brennan assured that any actions the CIA would take “will be legally grounded, will be thoroughly anchored in intelligence, will have the appropriate review process, approval process before any action is contemplated, including those actions that might involve the use of lethal force.”

One of those skeptical of Brennan’s words is Jayel Aheram, an Iraq War and Marine Corps veteran, activist and writer who, in an interview with RT, expressed his doubt over the possibility and the commitment of the CIA thoroughly to review the situation on the ground from somewhere far away from the United States.

He also questioned the criteria which might be used for such a review, suggesting that “basically anyone over the age of 18 or 16 in a strike zone constitutes a militant. So I could be going to school somewhere in Yemen, going about my day, and if I get obliterated by one of these drone strikes, am I to be considered a militant?”

From Politico: Drones: Tough talk, little scrutiny

Congress’ public oversight of targeted killings has been almost nonexistent. The last hearings on the drone strikes — held by a House national security subcommittee — faded away after the early months of 2010.

And until Thursday’s Brennan hearing, the two committees with jurisdiction over the CIA drone program — the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — have never held a public inquiry on the program. The Senate and House Armed Services Committees, which oversee the military drone program in war zones, haven’t held hearings, either.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.