This headline and first paragraph from today’s Washington Post scoop by Greg Miller speaks volumes about so many things:
There are many evils in the world, but extinguishing people’s lives with targeted, extra-judicial killings, when you don’t even know their names, based on “patterns” of behavior judged from thousands of miles away, definitely ranks high on the list. Although the Obama White House has not approved of this request from CIA Director David Petraeus, these so-called “signature strikes” that “allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior” are already robustly used in Pakistan — having been started by George Bush in 2008 and aggressively escalated by Barack Obama. There is much to say on this new report, but in order for me to focus on three discrete points, permit me to highly recommend two superb articles that highlight other vital aspects of this policy: (1) this article from my Salon colleague Jefferson Morley this morning on why this form of drone-targeting is pure American Terrorism, and (2) this essay from Chris Floyd about a recently published Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings on Obama’s love of drones and secret wars and how the military’s slang for drone victims — “bug splat” — reflects the sociopathic mindset that drive them.
Initially, it’s critical to note how removed all of these questions are from democratic debate or accountability, thanks to the Obama administration’s insistence that even the basic question of whether the CIA has a drone program is too secret to permit it to publicly acknowledge, even though everyone knows it exists — especially in the countries where it routinely kills people. Recall that Obama officialsrefused to tell the ACLU, in response to a FOIA request, whether any documents relating to a CIA drone program even exist because even that is too much of a secret to address, and when the ACLU then sued the Obama administration — seeking the most basic information about why the Obama administration thinks it has the power to kill people this way and how it decides who will die — the Obama DOJ again insisted in court that it cannot even acknowledge that such a program exists, let alone provide any basic disclosure or transparency about it.
So here we have this incredibly consequential policy adopted in total secrecy by the Obama administration, one that empowers the President to secretly target people, including American citizens, for instant, due-process-free death. They have placed the policy beyond the rule of law — by insisting that it’s too secret for courts to examine — and shielded it completely from democratic debate. The only time we are permitted even to hear about it is when the President, his aides and loyalists politically exploit the corpses they create by strutting around with chest-beating, tough-guy boasting about how Strong it shows Obama to be (because, really, what is more courageous, more embodying of the noble American warrior spirit, than killing people by remote-controlled video game while the killers are ensconced in secure bunkers in the U.S.?).
And the only time we are permitted glimpses of the debate over these policies is when someone decides to leak it anonymously to reporters like Greg Miller. So here’s a policy — CIA drone strikes — which anonymous administration officials are defending yet again on the front page of The Washington Post at the very same time the Obama DOJ tells courts that it cannot explain itself in a judicial proceeding because it cannot even safely confirm that such a program exists.
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