February 07, 2013 4:15 PM
With the Brennan/CIA Director hearings on in the background, I am prompted to think about the entire controversy about the leaked information regarding the Obama administration’s use of drones against terrorist targets.
What I have seen so far is in language so vague that I don’t think it would hold up in traffic court. Apparently if some highly placed official thinks that someone, somewhere is in some position of importance in some terrorist group that might pose a threat, that official can authorize a drone to liquify that individual, U.S. citizen or not.
While I am in favor of taking out the bad guys before they take us out, I do think there needs to be a more explicit statement of policy beyond “we think so.” I don’t even need to see the policy and procedures; I would satisfied to know that they exist and have been briefed to the Congressional oversight committees. The confidentiality of such operations must remain inviolate.
However, I want to go beyond the easy comparisons between Obama’s drone policy and Bush’s enhanced interrogation policy. Neither is a good example of due process but neither is in the context of a criminal investigation. Instead I want to recall hearings of a few decades ago.
During the Carter administration, the Church committee, a select body looking into the history of assassinations performed by agencies of the United States, directly or through proxies. Much time was spent on JFK and Castro but the bottom line was that the U.S. was not to engage in assassinations. A SEAL Team raid is a military action against an identified target. A drone, sent from the White House, to kill a suspect by remote control is every bit as much an assassination as the Georgi Markov affair.
While we revile the latter, the former seems to be perfectly okay. What’s the difference?