Drones

The Drone War's Secrets and Lies

If our government thinks it is justified in killing people, it shouldn't act like it has something to hide.

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Barack Obama promised to install his administration in a glass house lit up like the Super Bowl, with everything visible to the citizenry he serves. So you will not be surprised to learn that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wants nothing more than to keep the public well informed.

The administration, he said in a recent letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, "is exploring ways in which it can provide the American people more information about the United States' use of force outside areas of active hostilities."

That's what he said. Then he laughed so hard he fell off his chair.

What Clapper was trying to convey in his charmingly oblique way is that he is exploring ways to deny basic information to anyone who wants it. His letter came in response to a bill approved by the committee requiring the president to divulge how many people he kills or injures with drones.

It doesn't seem too much to ask. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military had regular press conferences to publicize the latest enemy body count, to prove the effectiveness of our fighting men. It gave up that practice after officers inflated the numbers, but by 2005, in an effort to confirm the progress of the Iraq war, the Pentagon was again enumerating corpses and proudly releasing the tallies.

The drone war in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen has been going on for years, though the number of strikes has declined lately. But the people in charge see no reason to reveal anything about its consequences. The intelligence committee, told by Clapper to butt out, dutifully abandoned its brief quest.

The president says he has kept his campaign promise to be more open: "This is the most transparent administration in history." But when it comes to the subject of blowing people up with unmanned aerial vehicles, the windows are painted over and boarded up. You can look all you want; you just can't see.

It's not only drones that are concealed. Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, has covered presidents going back to Ronald Reagan and calls this "the most secretive White House" of them all. But when the government is slaughtering residents of countries with which we are not at war, the value of information is especially high—and so is the harm from secrecy.

The whole world always knew about the drone strikes, but the administration didn't even admit it was carrying them out until 2012. Obama also refused to publish the Justice Department "white paper" explaining the rationale for targeting U.S. citizens overseas for sudden, fiery death from the sky. The document came out when someone leaked it to NBC News, prompting the department to officially release it.

The white paper was based on a lengthy legal memo, but the president would not willingly expose that memo to the light of day. Recently, a federal appeals court ordered him to, concluding there is no risk of "disclosing any aspect of military plans, intelligence activities, sources and methods, and foreign relations."

The same can be said for Clapper's stonewalling on numbers. It's not as though the individuals targeted by missiles, or their families, would learn anything new from this information. The only point of secrecy is to let the government tell self-serving lies without fear of contradiction.

The CIA attested last year that the total number of innocents killed was in the "single digits," but a United Nations investigator determined it was over 400. A report by the Washington think tank CNA agrees that the evidence "points to higher casualty numbers than suggested in official statements." Why should Americans have to get their information from guesswork in outside studies instead of the government that does the killing?

In his letter, Clapper frets about "the disclosure of intelligence sources and methods or other classified information." But if the U.S. military, during wartime, can safely put out the number of enemy bodies found on the battlefield, the CIA ought to be able to disclose how many terrorists and bystanders it has extinguished.

Obama's drone war is a covert offensive conducted in remote places far from America, and it's easy to forget because it doesn't put our aviators at risk. But if our government thinks it is justified in killing people, it shouldn't act like it has something to hide.

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46 responses to “The Drone War's Secrets and Lies

  1. Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, has covered presidents going back to Ronald Reagan and calls this “the most secretive White House” of them all.

    Nice of Jill to clutch her pearls for us. I guess it is too much to ask for her to do something about that and maybe engage in some honest journalism.

    1. Criticizing Obama would be racist.

      1. That and sure he is doing some bad things but telling the public might allow the racist women hating Republicans to win and no one wants that.

        1. Surely, comrades, you don’t want Jones back.

    2. I guess it is too much to ask for her to do something about that and maybe engage in some honest journalism.

      She didn’t ask permission; she’s just following orders.

  2. You can look all you want; you just can’t see.

    So it’s the Hotel California of transparency.

  3. Every time I see that photo, I want to pokecheck that smug douchebag on the bridge of the nose with a shovel.

    1. Me too. I know everyone can have an embarrassing photo snapped of them. I can’t imagine, however, ever being caught with that look. It really is a look into the shallow, stupid bastard’s soul.

    2. Yeah this. For me, it’s an open-handed smack to the back of that self-satisfied melon of his.

    3. Backpfeifengesicht

  4. Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, has covered presidents going back to Ronald Reagan and calls this “the most secretive White House” of them all.

    You’re a bad girl, Jill. You make him hit you. He doesn’t want to give you those beatings, but you never do as you’re told. He only whips you with that lamp cord because he loves you. It stays on message or it falls down the stairs. Again.

  5. Today on Derpbook, a prog responds to:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUS1m5MSt9k

    As far as the British alien video…..I don’t even know where to begin on this one. It doesn’t really seem to be making a case for anything other than some of the laws we have are silly or superfluous. But I don’t think anyone would disagree that speeding laws, or traffic laws, or environmental laws, or drug laws, or gun laws, or many of the other laws we have are unnecessary. I find the ultimate irony is that many anti-government types take all their laws, like the one that tells them at all costs they must hate the gays, for instance, from a thousands of years old book of archaic and ridiculous laws written by men that thought the earth was flat. Truth of the matter is, if you want to live in a civilized society, there will be laws, and a system of government in place. It can’t just be the wild west all time. Look at these war torn lawless societies in Africa, even with all the rapes, child soldiers, and limb removal…it’s really hard to find anyone with any sort of quality of life. It’s easy to bitch about Mom and Dad when they are the only thing keeping warm and dry and fed. I find that anti-government sentiment is tantamount to a petulant 16 year old bitching about how much their parents suck, but without them, they’d be homeless, starving, sex slaves.

    1. Yes, govt is what keeps people comfortable. Why, just look at North Korea. Without govt, they would just be cold, starving, miserable, and under the constant threat of violence.

      1. I find that anti-government sentiment is tantamount to a petulant 16 year old bitching about how much their parents suck, but without them, they’d be homeless, starving, sex slaves.

        I find that pro-government sentiment is tantamount to a petulant 35-year-old bitching about how much their parents suck, but without them, they’d be homeless, starving, sex slaves.

      1. Resolved, that no lawyer be permitted to practice law in this district, under penalty of not more than fifty nor less than twenty lashes, and be forever banished from this district.

        Now here’s an idea worth revisiting.

    2. I find the ultimate irony is that many anti-government types take all their laws, like the one that tells them at all costs they must hate the gays, for instance, from a thousands of years old book of archaic and ridiculous laws written by men that thought the earth was flat.

      If this inhabitant of Derpbook were half as educated as he thinks he is, he would know that the flat Earth myth was a slander propigated by anti-Scholastic French writers who wanted to paint their medieval forebears are ignorant barbarians and then was taken up advocates Darwinism against Christianity in general, most notably John William Draper and William Irving. The fact that the Earth is round was discovered by Pythagoras in the 6th century B.C. and accepted by Aristotle (you know, that guy the RCC took most of its views on science and morality from).

      1. Truth of the matter is, if you want to live in a civilized society, there will be laws, and a system of government in place.

        Civilized men make a civilized society, not laws. Laws do not magically cure barbarity, just a leash doesn’t magically turn a tiger into a house cat.

        1. And anyone who wants a government smaller than 55% of GNP wants anarchy. These people are all about nuance.

        2. Why do you hate exotic pets?

          1. They get fur on my top hat.

      2. Of course if he were anything but an ignorant baboon, he would know that only a tiny minority of Christians read the bible literally and that many people who support small government are not Christians and in fact are often atheists.

        I guess he can’t let the facts get in the way of feeling smug.

      3. I find the ultimate irony is that many anti-government types take all their laws, like the one that tells them at all costs they must hate the gays, for instance, from a thousands of years old book of archaic and ridiculous laws written by men that thought the earth was flat.

        I love the deflection here. Yes, because one MUST be an atheist to even entertain the idea of smaller government. I can’t tell if he thinks Christian Libertarian is an oxymoron, or whether he just hates Christians and is trying to ad-hom half the country.

        1. Actually I read that as him implying that libertarians – “anti-government types” – are all christian right wingers – “take all their laws, like the one that tells them at all costs they must hate the gays, for instance, from a thousands of years old book of archaic and ridiculous laws written by men that thought the earth was flat”.

          So, in addition to being completely idiotic and incoherent, he was ad-hom-ing half the country. Because fucktards like him actually think insulting people is how you win a debate.

          1. People like to lump all of their ideological opponents together. Libertarians and conservatives are guilty of this quite a bit too.

            1. No, way, Zeb. Say it ain’t so…

      4. Yeah, anyone who has traveled any distance can figure out that the earth isn’t flat.
        If you want to point at religiously inspired medieval ignorance, go with the attachment to the geocentric universe.

      5. The author’s actual claim appears to be that the biblical hebrews thought the earth was flat. I’ve never seen anything one way or the other on what they thought about that, but it’s likely we’ll never know.

    3. Look at these war torn lawless societies in Africa, even with all the rapes, child soldiers, and limb removal…it’s really hard to find anyone with any sort of quality of life.

      The whole continent is just one big libertopia (except Zimbabwe, which is socialist, so naturally everything is going swimmingly).

      1. I thought making sweeping generalizations about brown people was THE RACIST? Is this guy saying black people can’t build a civilized society?

        1. I think one secret here is, that when white Europeans decided to extend their empires into Africa, break it up with no regard to natural, long-standing boundaries between the cultures, and then try to make them all the various peoples there behave correctly and submit to foreign overlords, that they denied the right of the people to have any chance at all of creating a government which might actually work.

          Africans haven’t built the governments of Africa, in many (most?) cases: The English, the Dutch, and others did that. And when they “gave up” their colonies, the governmental structures were all which were left, and those structures, designed to line the pocket books of foreign invaders, tend to be easily corrupted by new tyrants. Okay, obviously an oversimplification, but I think you get my drift.

          1. sorry about the “make them all the various” line. I think the proof-reading part of my brain is, as yet, not awake.

          2. That dog doesn’t hunt very well. First, plenty of countries in Asia were subject to colonialism, often by other Asian countries as in the case of Korea, and they seem to have managed to create governments. The Philippines or Malaysia are just as big of a random amalgamation of ethnicity as any African country. Yet, they somehow have managed.

            Second, whatever unique problems Africa may have had, COLONIALISM HAS BEEN DEAD FOR OVER SIXTY YEARS. At some point it stops being a valid explanation. Lastly, there are some good governments in Africa today. What is the bad governments’ excuse?

            If you want to know why Africa has done so poorly, the infection of western socialism and the disastrous effects of international aid programs are a lot more to blame than colonialism.

    4. “Truth of the matter is, if you want to live in a civilized society, there will be laws, and a system of government in place.”

      But what about when the government is not civil, nor the laws they force upon us?

      His assumption is that all governments are just and fair and are the only ones capable of maintaining order.

      Balderdash!

    5. I find that anti-government sentiment is tantamount to a petulant 16 year old bitching about how much their parents suck, but without them, they’d be homeless, starving, sex slaves.

      DON’T YOU DARE TALK BACK TO YOUR BETTERS! LEARN YOUR PLACE YOU FUCKING CHILD! /ThingsStatistsMeanWhenTheyBitchAboutUs

      1. It’s amazing how he thinks that comment makes any sense in the context of grown adults who are perfectly capable of providing for themselves.

        1. Not to mention that 16 year olds are perfectly capable of providing for themselves if they had to.

          1. He even gave them one suggestion for raising cash.

    6. That’s some high quality derp word salad, right there. I think he managed to work in all the proggie talking points while barely forming a coherent thought.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfUU6coziu4

  6. But I don’t think anyone would disagree that speeding laws, or traffic laws, or environmental laws, or drug laws, or gun laws, or many of the other laws we have are unnecessary.

    Unintentionally correct.

    Ha, hah.

  7. Why should Americans have to get their information from guesswork in outside studies instead of the government that does the killing?

    National Security, DUH!

  8. …”it was over 400.”…

    Well, that’s three single digits, so Sebilius says it’s a SUCCESS!

  9. See, that was Hydra’s mistake: Target a million people at once with your drones and even Captain America turns against you. Pick off a few at a time and all you get is a few cranks complaining.

  10. There are tens of thousands of civilian deaths caused by drone warfare. Obviously they do not want to release those numbers.

    1. Nonsense. They’re not launching nuclear weapons into population centers. Hellfire missiles (AGM-114) are actually quite small (~100 pounds total weight), and the 18 pound warhead is barely sufficient to destroy a large truck.

    2. Agreed with Anon E. Mouse in terms of numbers; that’s ridiculous.

      Hundreds? Sure. Thousands? No way. Tens of thousands? Absolutely ridiculous.

      Where did you get that bizarre notion?

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