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March 07, 2013



Here's the thing. Shouldn't there be an actual law passed by Congress to address this rather than a letter from the AG?

Peter G

Watch me defend the indefensible overseas drone policy with respect to American citizens. Terrorists, for such are the targets at issue, should not get a free ride because they carry an American passport. Americans are not the only targets in the world. And those examples of American citizens aligning with and participating in attacks on the civilians in other countries do not get a pass because they do not attack Americans. Should it ever become clear that American citizenship gets you such a free pass to attack and destabilize other countries then the US will have a diplomatic problem of epic proportions. I imagine those individuals will then become highly prized recruits in such organizations as care to undertake terrorist activities. They will make excellent shields for their brothers in bombs. I'm afraid this carries American exceptionalism rather too far in granting to individual citizens the right shit disturb around the world under the aegis of the American flag. Now if you want to discuss protocols under which such an execution, for that is what it is, may take place, then by all means debate that. I note that this is no problem domestically where the police have the authority to take out hostage takers like that asshole in Alabama who killed a bus driver and kidnapped a child, without consulting a judge or the president.


I suppose there was a reason for you calling the actions of our Attorney General "stupid"...amazing how much the "left" sounds like the "right"...


Peter I think the indefensibility goes more to the murkiness of the drone program, the lack of oversight, the "protocol" you reference, and certainly not hot pursuit.

Peter G

And those PM are the proper subject of debate. From a technical point of view drones are very much preferable to alternative conventional techniques. Their ability to stay on station for extended periods allows them to wait for a given target to disengage from potential collateral civilian casualties. It cannot eliminate them but it can and does reduce them when compared to the alternatives. That being said, it does call into question whether or not this capability is inducing the military to use them where they wouldn't even consider using a piloted aircraft. I can see that the temptation is there.
The reported numbers of deaths due to drones far exceeds the worldwide total of Al Qaeda and affiliate members but that is because drones are also used for close and intermediate air support to target approaching enemy forces to US and Afghan troop concentrations. In this use it is merely an extension of existing military philosophy on force protection.

I am somewhat at a loss to imagine how additional transparency or even an additional layer of oversight is going to change much of anything. If you are going to present a case for targeting a particular individual can you publicly reveal the intelligence that lead to making that case? Can it be based on hearsay reports of what that individual may be contemplating doing? Or must it be signals intercepts from the horse's mouth as it were. A pattern of behavior? Links to other known operatives? Presumably the same standards must apply to other more conventional techniques besides drones. Having made that case to the hypothetical oversight, which would naturally be tailored towards action, would that action be limited to hot pursuit? That is an imminent terrorist act. Or would that target be subject to attack when conditions favored minimal collateral damage? Can you take out a pirate, having established they are one, only when they are engaged in an act of piracy? In summary I would have to say that a certain amount of murkiness attaches to any military or intelligence operation whether drones are used or not. But the one thing I cannot accept is that American citizenship acts as a protective shield for terrorists exclusively targeting civilians of whatever nationality. If the case is made and the evidence is sound that an American, in Waziristan for example, who is beyond the reach of capture and is engaged in terrorism, can only be gotten with a drone then they can tape a warrant to the nose of the Hellfire missile for all I care. Someone must decide that and the president is ultimately, the decider. The one thing I will point out is that adding a level of oversight and requiring that an attack be imminent (as murky a term as I've ever heard) pretty much eliminates the key technical advantage of drones I first mentioned. The opportunity to act is lost while the case is debated in court. Once a target is approved that person must remain a target of opportunity barring additional intelligence that reverse the decision. Oversight of whatever form will be largely secret and to be effective it must also be pragmatic.

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