Nonsense on stilts: Brennan's defense of U.S. drone attacks

Nonsense on stilts: Brennan's defense of U.S. drone attacks

Washington : DC : USA | May 02, 2012 at 2:45 PM PDT
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Al Majala video

While the covert drone attacks carried out by the CIA and U.S. military in several different countries are not officially acknowledged, officials often talk about them. Usually it is to note successes in killing this or that important al-Qaida da figure or "X" number of militants. However, if a rights group tries to get information or any details, even acknowledging the existence of the program, this is said to be a danger to national security.The request for information is denied. See for example this article: "The Obama administration has not only refused to provide any of that information, but worse, the CIA is insisting to federal courts that it cannot even confirm or deny the existence of a drone program at all without seriously damaging national security...."

Until some news outlets grew weary of such nuttiness, the strikes were never in news reports said to be CIA strikes without some appropriate qualifying term such as "allleged" or "suspected."

Now another Obama official talks to the media about the drone strikes to defend them as legal and ethical. In doing this John Brennan White House counter-terrrorism adviser, even though an official, just unofficially acknowledges the existence of the program.

Brennan says: "Yes, in full accordance with the law - and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives - the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones," Brennan says that Barack Obama has asked the administration to be more open about the drone program. He meant this seriiously even though it is nonsense on stilts.

If Obama wants to be more open about the program why does he not release information about the program for those seeking it especially when nothing can be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act even the information that the program even exists!

Obama has said that the U.S. is judicious in its use of drone technology. Perhaps he could explain how the attack on Majala in Yemen was judicious. Perhaps he could explain why the U.S. had Yemen to agree to take responsibility for the attack? Perhaps he could explain why the photographer and journalist who took pictures, photos that proved the attack was by the U.S. and that the victims were almost all women and children, was put in jail? Perhaps he could explain as well why the same photographer was kept in jail at the request of the U.S. when the Yemen government then under President Saleh was about to pardon him? I know. The president never comments upon specific events of this type. Except that is to crow about them as happened when a drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

Perhaps Brennan can explain as well what intelligence justifies putting Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old Pakistani teenager, on a list of targets. Aziz was killed in a drone attack a few days after he had attended a conference on drones and had been shown how to take photos to make a record of the results of drone attacks. Organizers of the conference deny he was a militant and noted that he was killed while driving back home from taking his mother to a clinic. If he was a militant and wanted why was he not apprehended at the conference? Again there will be no answers.

Finally Brennan shows himself not to even know what drone strikes have been authorized. He speaks of specific known al-Qaida militants as targets. Apparently he is not aware of signature strikes. These sort of strikes have been carried out for some time in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These strikes are not against known and identified militants at all. Here is a description from the Washington Post. in an article about the recent expansion of targeting in Yemen. Apparently Brennan is blissfully unaware of these:

"The expanded authority will allow the CIA and JSOC to fire on targets based solely on their intelligence 'signatures' — patterns of behavior that are detected through signals intercepts, human sources and aerial surveillance, and that indicate the presence of an important operative or a plot against U.S. interests.Until now, the administration had allowed strikes only against known terrorist leaders who appear on secret CIA and JSOC target lists and whose location can be confirmed."

Brennan needs to stop presenting defenses that are no defenses but nonsense on stilts and do a bit of research on what his own government is doing. Part of what it is doing it would seem is targeting people who have revealed or might reveal consequences of drone attacks the government does not want people to know about.

UPDATE: Robert Naiman notes that Brennan does know there are signature strikes but side-stepped a question about them see this article. Naiman has his own criticism of the defense here.


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Video of Majala attack. The Yemen govt. claimed it carried out the attack on what it claimed was an Al Qaeda training camp. A photographer showed the weapons were American and not in the Yemeni arsenal and that almost all vicitms were women and children.
northsunm32 is based in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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