White House Defends Use of Drones

Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, White House counterterrorism official John Brennan today defended the use of drones against al Qaeda.

“Yes, 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 said.

He defended targeted strikes and the use of drones as "ethical." You can watch some of his statement here.

< More Court Documents Released in George Zimmerman Case | DNA Testing Clears Colorado Man After Serving 18 Years >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Life in a vacuum (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Dadler on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 06:49:58 PM EST
    One could argue that in the end drones serve exactly the opposite purpose, especially with their increasing use by law enforcement at home.  The proliferation of spy tools, logically, leads to decreased freedom, not increased.    

    Well, isn't this special (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Zorba on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:02:59 PM EST
    Not.  Thank you, ACLU, for speaking out against this.  Link.  I'm sending them an additional donation (on top of the money I give them yearly).  

    It is ironic that a president (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Slado on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:13:31 PM EST
    that was elected because of his anti war stance has not only continued the war on terror, kept Gitmo and when it comes to drones even managed to turn it up a notch.

    Add on top of that he is now bragging about killing another human being in campaign adds and well....ironic

    He was never anti this war... (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Addison on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 08:28:33 PM EST
    ...I can't believe we're still making this basic error or memory (and that's charitable, I think people are choosing to forget) 3 years later.

    The anti-war (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by lentinel on Tue May 01, 2012 at 04:37:08 AM EST
    stance that you mention is a fiction.

    People should recall that Obama stumped for Lieberman against Lamont in 2006. That was a pivotal moment when citizens were given a chance to vote against the war - and they did. And Obama stumped for the pro-war candidate.

    That was just one of many red flags.

    When he was a candidate, Obama, like McCain, called for a bigger war in Afghanistan.


    I meant the war on terror (none / 0) (#20)
    by Slado on Tue May 01, 2012 at 06:22:22 AM EST
    He campaigned on harsh techniques and his answer was to kill terrorists with drones,  no need to interview them lets just act as judge and jury from 20,000 feet.

    You may (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by lentinel on Tue May 01, 2012 at 07:27:41 AM EST
    be right about Obama campaigning against harsh techniques, (torture), but I don't recall it -I specifically don't recall him calling out Bush or Cheney as the torturers they are. He still doesn't.

    In any case, for anyone to have believed that he represented any kind of change - except for the packaging - astounded and confounded me.

    And it still does.


    John Brennan may be one of the (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:15:24 PM EST
    last people whose definition of "ethical" would bear any resemblance to mine.

    And I hate to say this, but Obama's not exactly been a paragon of ethical behavior on this issue, either.

    Here's Glenn:

    Then there's the question of what legal authority exists for Obama to order the targeting of Yemenis who very well may have nothing to do even with the "Al Qaeda" group in Yemen: one which itself did not even exist as of the time the 2001 AUMF was enacted. As Yale Professor Bruce Ackerman argued this weekend in The Washington Post, Obama, by approving of these strikes, is "breaking the legal barrier that Congress erected to prevent the White House from waging an endless war on terrorism." That's because Congress, even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, refused to write the President a blank check to attack Terrorists of any kind. Instead, they authorized force only against those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and "require[d] the president to return to Congress, and the American people, for another round of express support for military campaigns against other terrorist threats." But as Obama demonstrated conclusively when he continued to wage the war in Libya even once Congress voted against its authorization, legal and Constitutional constraints are no more important to him than moral and strategic ones when it comes to waging more war.

    As usual, to the extent that most Democrats mention any of this, it will be to celebrate its political value: how it proves that Obama is so very Tough and Strong on national security. Because nothing exudes Strength -- or the values of the Nobel Peace Prize -- like continuously escalating secret wars and targeting people for death via remote-controlled aircraft from thousands of miles away without even knowing their names. The innocent corpses, the trampling on accountability and transparency, the ongoing fueling of Endless War, must not be permitted to interfere with the President's re-election, so all of this is just best ignored, again. Dead Yemenis will be kept out of sight and out of mind, and on those rare occasions when we hear about them, we'll just tell ourselves that the President is a Good, Magnanimous Man who just wants to Keep us Safe.

    As we "celebrate" the one-year anniversary of the bin Laden killing, the airwaves are filled with a combination of the media not even bothering to disguise their fawning, and dire warnings of our vulnerability.  

    It just makes me sick.

    But, but (none / 0) (#7)
    by jbindc on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:41:15 PM EST
    Weren't we told that the AUMF was eeeevil and those who voted for it were also eeeevil?

    And now I learn we've gone even further than what the AUMF authorized???


    It is now okay if a Democrat does it; (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 08:04:38 PM EST
    situational ethics apparently rules the day.

    Glenn again:

    Just ponder that: not only the Democratic Party, but also its progressive faction, is wildly enamored of "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades." That's quite revealing on multiple levels. Bergen does note that irony: he recalls that Obama used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to defend the justifications for war and points out: "if those on the left were listening, they didn't seem to care." He adds that "the left, which had loudly condemned George W. Bush for waterboarding and due process violations at Guantánamo, was relatively quiet when the Obama administration, acting as judge and executioner, ordered more than 250 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2009, during which at least 1,400 lives were lost."

    To explain the behavior of "the left," Bergen offers this theory: "From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramatic cognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama's record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is." In other words, progressives are slavishly supportive of "one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades" because they have deluded themselves into denying this reality and continue to pretend he's some sort of anti-war figure.


    Contrary to Bergen's generous belief that progressives are deluding themselves about Obama's militarism, many are fully aware of it and, because it's a Democrat doing it, have become aggressively supportive of it. That, without a doubt, will be one of Obama's most enduring legacies: transforming these policies of excessive militarism, rampant secrecy and civil liberties assaults from right-wing radicalism into robust bipartisan consensus (try though they might, not even progressives will be able to turn around and credibly pretend to object to such things the next time there is a GOP President).

    Hard to believe that just a few short years ago, Dems were apoplectic about the machinations of the Bush/Cheney administration, and now?  It's all good now that Obama's doing it.

    It's sickening.


    now that Obama's doing it. (none / 0) (#25)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:18:31 AM EST

    Your memory may need a tad bit of refreshment.  The evil Bush/Cheney were arresting and interrogating AQ members to get information to foil plots and locate other members.  The intel that lead to OBL's demise is the best example.

    Obama OTOH having tied one hand behind his back by eschewing capture has left himself no real alternative to summary execution.



    Guess it depends (none / 0) (#26)
    by Yman on Tue May 01, 2012 at 08:51:07 AM EST
    The evil Bush/Cheney were arresting and interrogating AQ members to get information to foil plots and locate other members.  The intel that lead to OBL's demise is the best example.

    ... on whether you believe the administration's evidence-free claims.  OTOH - intelligence officials told The New York Times that the coercive methods had played a minor role, if any, in locating Bin Laden.  Moreover, the Select Committee on Intelligence concluded - after reviewing a 3-year study of the program - that "the notion that the so-called enhanced interrogation methods helped the C.I.A. find Bin Laden by identifying his courier "misguided and misinformed."

    For some reason, Republicans refused to take part in that review.

    It also depends on whether you think the information gathered from using torture is worth the damage done to the U.S. by torturing.

    Obama OTOH having tied one hand behind his back by eschewing capture has left himself no real alternative to summary execution.

    When has the administration said it "eschews capture"?  Many times there is no opportunity for capturing (BTW - Not justifying the use of drones in those situations).


    So a bunch of Dems (none / 0) (#27)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue May 01, 2012 at 10:28:26 AM EST

    So a bunch of Dems concluded the Dem position was right all along.  Shock!!!

    If you read your linked article you will note that enhanced interrogation did produce the valuable intel, namely the name of the courier that was confirmed or confirming of another source.   The article is forced to concede:

    ...intelligence officials told The New York Times that the coercive methods had played a minor role, if any, in locating Bin Laden.

    Not no role.  The characterizing of "minor" is certainly pleasing to the Obama administration and we have no good way of assessing its accuracy.  

    But the main point remains, Obama would rather kill than capture.




    So a bunch of Republicans ... (none / 0) (#29)
    by Yman on Tue May 01, 2012 at 11:14:06 AM EST
    ... concluded that they were right all along without providing a single bit of evidence.  Shocker!

    Of course, the Republicans on the committee chose not to participate in the review of the 3 year study ... wonder why they would do that.

    BTW - Read it again.

    ...intelligence officials told The New York Times that the coercive methods had played a minor role, if any, in locating Bin Laden.

    They can't even commit to the use of the word "minor", since they don't know that it played any role.

    Also, when did the Obama administration turn down an opportunity to capture someone in favor of killing them?


    I did read it again (none / 0) (#31)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue May 01, 2012 at 12:31:53 PM EST

    They could not make a declarative statement of no value.  That they refused to make such a statement is quite revealing since that what being fished for.

    It wasn't the Select Committee ... (none / 0) (#32)
    by Yman on Tue May 01, 2012 at 12:51:29 PM EST
    ... that made that statement - it was intelligence officials.

    The re's no evidence to support your claim, apart from allusions (with no evidence) by Bush admin officials.  The 3 year study found just the opposite, despite the fact that Republicans chose not to participate.

    Guess they didn't want to go "fishing", probably because they knew the pond was empty.


    meh. (none / 0) (#38)
    by jpe on Tue May 01, 2012 at 09:25:57 PM EST
    courts have held that the aumf extends to associated forces of al-qaeda.  so there's the legal authority.

    Usually, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by lentinel on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:18:01 PM EST
    reports say that the targets are "suspected" terrorists. Mr. Brennen amended that to "specific" terrorists.

    And, of course, those unfortunate enough to be in the specific vicinity where one of these dronipies drop their goodies.

    If this be ethics, lemme outta here.

    Nothing to see here (none / 0) (#8)
    by Slado on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:51:39 PM EST
    Drip some water on some terrorists and there is a media fire storm.

    Kill people and children from 30K feet by remote control in Arizona and there is nothing to see here.


    Torture (none / 0) (#15)
    by lentinel on Tue May 01, 2012 at 04:27:54 AM EST
    is up close and personal. People can identify with it.

    A Drone, like Obama himself, is like a video game. No feeling necessary.


    It's more simple (none / 0) (#21)
    by Slado on Tue May 01, 2012 at 06:25:34 AM EST
    Bush torture equals bad.

    Obama drones is no big deal.


    not true (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by PatHat on Tue May 01, 2012 at 10:57:45 AM EST
    Many are against BOTH. It depends on what value you place on American lives vs. foreign lives. Someone kills 3000 of our innocents...makes it "ethical" to kill as many of "them" as we deem necessary.

    Here's one Dem who thinks Obama is a great disappointment in almost all areas.


    you know what? i just don't want to even (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by cpinva on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 11:54:01 PM EST
    hear it. it was a crock under bush, and it's a worse crock under obama. when is congress going to terminate the (constitutionally questionable) authorization of use of force legislation, that got us into afghanistan and iraq to begin with? revoke it, and force the administration to defend any use of military force not resulting from a direct attack on this country, by another country's military.

    if you, as the president, want to start a war, then by god you must do it the old fashioned way: by convincing congress of the need to formally declare war, against another country. further, if it's that darn important, reinstitute the draft, so everyone has an equal opportunity to get their butt shot off.

    Drones are Good for Election (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 01, 2012 at 12:04:01 PM EST
    Maddow discussed how using drones and contractors is a far easier pill for Americans to swallow then dead US soldiers.

    It's all a big game, how can the hawks do what they love without creating too much backlash from the voting public ?

    They keep taunting the caged tiger and then are all up in arms when it strikes back, too stupid to realize they could avoid the whole mess by doing what is right and letting the GD tiger go.

    Exactly. Drones make it all very high (none / 0) (#33)
    by ruffian on Tue May 01, 2012 at 01:04:56 PM EST
    tech, antiseptic, and low risk to the voter. If we were sending ground forces in to do the same actions there would be a much higher risk of loss of American life, which is after all the only kind of life that matters, right? This way the only damage is to people most voters don't really care about that much.

    And (none / 0) (#36)
    by lentinel on Tue May 01, 2012 at 05:11:07 PM EST
    add to that the fact that there is in fact loss of American life - and limb. For what? Nobody gives a hoot - except on Memorial Day - when Obama puts on his somber mask at Arlington.

    When will they release a statement (5.00 / 3) (#35)
    by Chuck0 on Tue May 01, 2012 at 02:55:45 PM EST
    defending the use of drones by law enforcement in the US against US citizens? If you don't think the US is a police state, you're not paying attention.

    Wasn't there a runaway (none / 0) (#3)
    by fishcamp on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 07:12:38 PM EST
    tank a few years ago ruining cars and stores down by you Dadler?  Call out the drones...

    That low? (none / 0) (#10)
    by Addison on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 08:27:48 PM EST
    300 civilian deaths in over three years is fewer that I would have thought (and a part of me still thinks that it's got to be many more than that).

    And frankly, though it's counter the majority opinion on this site, 300 civilian deaths over the course of three years is very low for a campaign that has been reaping results (admittedly along it's own metric of success -- killing trained and trainee militants).

    We can't trust Pakistan to deal with this. India can't strike within Pakistan to protect itself. We're the only ones who can do this -- if it is indeed something worth doing.

    It's not just Pakistan - it's also Yemen. (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Anne on Mon Apr 30, 2012 at 08:44:57 PM EST
    And I don't know that we are reaping results, as much as we are just reaping more and more death, and more ill will.

    And we are still avoiding the major question: is it even legal?

    Doesn't seem to matter, and that's the real shame, not to mention the terrible precedent this so-called Democratic president is both setting and normalizing.


    If you (none / 0) (#17)
    by lentinel on Tue May 01, 2012 at 04:42:24 AM EST
    acknowledge that this is maybe not worth doing, 300 civilian deaths is 300 too many.

    And, bear in mind, that the "metric of success" you mention is being fed to us by the perpetrators of this indiscriminate slaughter.

    Since when is the killing of "suspected militants" acceptable?

    Will this follow us into the good old USA? Will we start killing "suspected criminals"?


    Not to Point Out the Obvious... (none / 0) (#34)
    by ScottW714 on Tue May 01, 2012 at 02:51:26 PM EST
    ...but 300 civilian deaths, according to who, the people pushing the program, DoD ?

    HERE are their official civilian deaths for the wars, HERE are other estimates, one including the Wikileaks number.

    4422 'officially' in Iraq from DoD, 66,081 from WikiLeaks Classified Iraq war logs.  And most outside assessments doubling that number.

    They are incapable of telling the truth about important matters, including civilian deaths.  Tell us how many kids they have really killed using drones and let us decide if the threshold is too high.  But I suspect they already know, it's why they lie about it.


    Terrorism (none / 0) (#14)
    by Andreas on Tue May 01, 2012 at 03:09:08 AM EST
    And there are still people who support the terrorists at the head of the US government claiming that they are better than the terrorists from the other party.

    US resumes drone killings in Pakistan
    By Bill Van Auken, 1 May 2012

    Just heard on the news this morning (none / 0) (#18)
    by jbindc on Tue May 01, 2012 at 05:57:51 AM EST
    That drones may be used in the near future to monitor traffic problems.

    Good news - I found the (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Anne on Tue May 01, 2012 at 06:12:37 AM EST
    quotation marks that are missing from your comment!  And now your sentence makes so much more sense:

    That drones may be used in the near future to monitor "traffic problems."

    "Traffic problems" are but one of the benign uses we will be told are the reason for using them here, but I think - I hope - people are smart enough to know that their use isn't going to end there.


    Reminds me of what has happened with red light (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Rupe on Tue May 01, 2012 at 07:11:22 PM EST
    cameras.  They started out at several intersections in town with the purpose of increasing the efficiency of the lights changing back and forth.  Since then they have been upgraded to tag drivers that run through red lights.  The next logical step I would think would be to upgrade to video cameras until there's a network all around town (like London with CCTV).

    Technology can seem useful and innocuous at first but seems to always tend towards something more nefarious.


    Where's Code Pink? (none / 0) (#22)
    by BTAL on Tue May 01, 2012 at 07:09:14 AM EST

    They're still protesting (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Yman on Tue May 01, 2012 at 07:43:23 AM EST