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Top White House official comes clean about covert drone strikes

In recent weeks, controversy has been boiling over the targeted killings of American citizens with drones.  While most would agree that Americans who join hostile overseas terrorist groups like al Qaeda may be difficult to capture and may necessitate strikes with deadly force, most also take issue with the way the administration handled the information.

At a time when drones are deployed over U.S. airspace to "monitor the homeland" and discussions of arming such drones are ongoing, the issue is a sensitive one for Americans who fear what could happen under a system with such a lack of transparency.

I. Down the Rabbit Hole

Robert Gibbs, a former White House press secretary who recently joined MSNBC -- a network owned by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) and General Electric Comp. (GE) -- gave an exclusive interview with his new employer on the politics talk segment "Up".

In the interview clips are played in which he and the new press secretary -- Jay Carney -- are shown dodging questions about targeted drone killings.  In the interview, he confirms, "When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the things, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.'"


When reporters started asking questions about drones, Mr. Gibbs recalls, "I realized I'm not supposed to talk about it."

The case is drawing fictional comparisons, such as "The Wizard of Oz" (in which a normal man hides behind an animated curtain to hide his lack of magic powers) or "Alice in Wonderland" (due to questions of how many layers of obfuscation are wrapping the reality of the covert actions -- i.e. how far down the rabbit hole, we must go to find the truth).

Reaper drones
Reaper drones are currently being used over U.S. airspace. [Image Source: The Real Revo]

Mr. Gibbs used The Wizard of Oz analogy in his own interview.  The former official, who says he never talked to President Obama about the issue, complains that "when [drone strikes on Americans are] obviously happening, undermines people’s confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes."

II. Drone Medal Awarded, Brennan Nomination Jeopardized

The White House has finally agreed to release some documents to the Senate and House, but much about the reportedly highly codified death strikes program is unknown.  Reportedly the only people with fully details are the Obama administration and high ranking military and intelligence officials.

President Obama
President Obama says sometimes U.S. citizens must be killed, although it may be too sensitive to say when that time is. [Image Source: AFP/Getty Images]

U.S. use of drones overseas has exploded in recent years.  The autonomous surveillance-cum-killing machines offer a way to project U.S. hegemony without risking the lives of servicemen.  Reportedly one in three U.S. warplanes is today a drone.

The Pentagon recently announced a new medal of honor -- the Distinguished Warfare Medal -- for drone operators and cyberwarfare experts.  The medal ranks above the prestigious Purple Heart (which is awarded to servicemen wounded or killed in battle), raising criticism.  Critics dub the award "the Geek's Cross".

The controversy over drone killings of American citizens and the secrecy surrounding the administrations' rules on the topic has impacted the nomination of John Brennan to become director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

John Brennan
John Brennan helped mastermind the drone killings. [Image Source: Reuters]

John Brennan has also been criticized for supporting "enhanced interrogation" (torture), warrantless wiretaps, and the Iraq invasion/war.  Much of these policies were his work during his time with the previous Bush Administration.  Salon has a nice piece on these issues.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Tenn.) says the strikes raise serious Constitutional issues, due to the administration's secrecy and ambiguous language.  He says unless he gets answers he plans to do "whatever it takes" to block Mr. Brennan's nomination.  


That in turn, could create chaos in U.S. intelligence ranks and compromise America's ability to monitor enemies and defend itself overseas.

Source: MSNBC News



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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Solandri on 2/25/2013 5:38:37 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Seems like everyone thinks they have the "right" to drive or to a cell phone or to drink, but no one know what actual rights are on the Bill of Individual Rights any more :-P

They don't have to know. The Bill of Rights (specifically the 10th Amendment) says that any right not explicitly addressed in the Constitution is retained by the people (or their respective state).

This is probably the most common mistake people make when talking about the Constitution. The Constitution doesn't grant us rights. We are assumed to have all rights under the sun (after all, they are "granted to us by our creator" and are "inalienable"). The Bill of Rights was just added as emphasis.

The Constitution just lists what rights and powers the Federal government has. The way it's supposed to work is if it's not in the Constitution, assume the government can't do it. But those arguing for more government power have successfully tricked people into believing it's the other way around - that if it's not in the Constitution, we don't have the right. It's completely the other way around.


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