Tuesday Morning and I’m still talking drones.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Rogers is stating that the House Intelligence Committee acts as a quasi-Star Chamber.

    Perhaps. But it’s not clear necessarily that they are doing their jobs, or what if anything they might do or be able to do if they decided that a strike was objectionable.

    In particular, Rogers seems to concede that they don’t have any power of review before the sentence is carried out. In other words, if this is a Star Chamber, are they not sitting in the peanut gallery?Report

  2. Avatar Glyph says:

    the interlocking layers and the extent of congressional abdication of responsibility

    I love this phrase, as it suggests a byzantine conspiracy of incompetence and failure (think “Burn After Reading”). We like to think of epic conspiracies as theoretically nefarious and hyper-competent, but in reality pretty rare and hard to maintain for long in any case.

    But most worrisome of all is the idea that such conspiracies are both huge, and at the same time deeply, deeply stupid and pathetic.

    Also, for a title you should have gone with “It’s Tues. AM and I am still droning on about drones.” 🙂Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Because of the nature of the benefits vs. the nature of the costs, they’re more than happy enough to privatize the profits (even if they go to someone else!) if it means that they get to socialize the losses.

    I wonder what would be required to change this, assuming that people wanted it to change.

    An entirely new Congress (one willing to cut off funding)? Would that suffice? A new Congress and a new President? Would that even matter?Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

      The more I’ve been reading about lawfare, the more I’m convinced the US government is a lot more complicated than just Congress and the President. Honestly I think you’d need to go for a gradual transformation if that’s what you’re after, with sustained pressure via judicial means, the media and oversight.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Oh, I’ve no doubt that the USG has grown into a, dare I say, Leviathan.

        I very much dislike how much of it is completely independent of oversight from anybody that actually gets elected.

        We have outsourced many of our legislative duties to regulatory agencies. We have outsourced our warmaking to agencies that generally don’t get reported upon and who have acronyms that generally don’t make it into newspapers (for a few years there, a handful of these agencies got a lot of play in “deep conspiracy” movies or tv shows… there seem to be less of a stomach for those sorts of storylines out there currently, I’m guessing).

        The USG has evolved into an entity that reflects Rumsfeld’s famous quotation: there are parts of it that we know about, there are parts of it that we know we don’t know about, and there are parts of it that we don’t even know we don’t know about.

        And that strikes me as bad.Report

  4. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Once the door to this sort of thing opens, nobody ever gets it closed again. Congress granted all these extraordinary powers to the Executive, let them try to take them back again.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    There’s only so much oversight Congress should have over the tactical and strategic military decisions of the executive branch, once it’s authorized the executive to act in a warlike manner. So while I’m very troubled by the executive’s use of drones, I think Congress ought to be reviewing drone use from a general policy perspective, not just reviewing the justification for each drone strike individually.

    And contra some commentators, I’d be more comfortable with the drones in military, rather than CIA hands. For one, we’re better off when the CIA is focused on intelligence gathering, rather than paramilitary actions. For another, it’s easier for Congress to exercise policy control over the military than over the CIA.

    Oh, and Glyph beat me to the pun, damn him.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to James Hanley says:

      I suppose it’s simpler just to say: If you didn’t want the President acting like he’s at war with a collection of invidivuals who don’t wear uniforms and are vaguely defined, you shouldn’t have authorized military force against them.

      The solution to this revolves around the AUMF.

      Nobody would blink an eye if the President bombed an enemy commander’s position in wartime, even if that commander happened to be a US citizen working for an enemy’s army. Because he was a soldier on the battlefield, working for the other side.

      However when you declare the war a battlefield, and the other side a cellular collection of idealogues with no clear-cut criteria on what defines them, well….

      It’s the same power, but the end result is staggeringly different. And that’s Congress’ fault.Report

  6. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    To Glyph’s point, it’s deeply problematic just how much dysfunctional the government triparte is on this matter.

    And this all seems, to me, to go back to the paradox of judicially reviewing Congress-executive dynamics when docs necessary to adjudicate it aren’t available. Court can’t decide whether X should be available because X isn’t yet available in order for it to decide.Report

  7. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    if this sort of review is actually true, why haven’t we heard about it to date from anyone?

    Here’s the LA Times in June 2012, Congress zooms in on drone killings,

    Once a month, a group of staff members from the House and Senate intelligence committees drives across the Potomac River to CIA headquarters in Virginia, assembles in a secure room and begins the grim task of watching videos of the latest drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.


    The lawmakers and aides with the intelligence oversight committees have a level of access shared only by President Obama, his top aides and a small number of CIA officials.
    In addition to watching video, the legislative aides review intelligence that was used to justify each drone strike.

    If the congressional committees objected to something, the lawmakers could call CIA leaders to testify in closed investigative hearings. If unsatisfied, they could pass legislation limiting the CIA’s actions.
    “I don’t know that we’ve ever seen anything that we thought was inappropriate,” one senior staff member said.

    Administration officials who had sought to justify their actions have been curiously vague about the actual process of the drone program.

    Maybe I misunderstand what you mean by process, but haven’t the NYT and WaPo extensively reported on this? How the executive branch produces the disposition matrix and Obama signing off on targeting, here’s the WaPo, The process behind targeted killing. That’s from the no-attribution-please world of national security reporting, but if you’d prefer on the record, there’ve been quite a few speeches from high level administration officials, Eric Holder, Harold Koh, John Brennan, on the administration’s rationale and justifications for the process. For a covert program there’s quite a bit in the public domain. What more on the process were you hoping for?Report

  8. Avatar George Turner says:

    My complaint is that the way the administration controls drones is a woefully inefficient use of human resources, especially lawyers (who should probably be the targetees, not the targeters).

    Engineers build these ultra-sophisticated semi-autonomous flying machines of death, and then we turn around and require top elected officials to be a critical part of the control loop? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just let the drones buzz around and kill people with the least amount of low-cost manpower we could get away with, like an army corporal sidelined for some physical therapy? Ideally the drones would be fully autonomous and fly around killing our enemies without human intervension at all, in effect like smart mosquitos carrying a lethal plague, acting as just another force of nature that weeds out irritating and stupid people that we don’t like.

    Then, instead of all this hand-wringing about targeted assassinations and our president being a hit-man, both we and our enemies would regard drone strikes like lightning strikes, snake bites, or rogue elephant stampedes, perhaps even finding them amusing. Instead of becoming enraged with the United States policy of killing civilians, Muslims would probably just nod their heads and says “Ah, aren’t drones irritating? But they merely carry out Allah’s will, and what human could fathom His divine motives or question His wisdom in such matters?” People would get used to getting randomly blown up by air-launched guided missiles, just like they got used to stepping on abandoned land mines, and then they’d quite droning on about the horror and immorality of it. But perhaps I’m just too optimistic.Report