Americans: If You Don’t Want To Get Killed By A Drone, Avoid These 4 Things!

The much anticipated Department of Justice memo authorizing the use of drones to target Americans….scratch that.  A white paper from the Department of Justice outlined what might be the U.S. government’s position with regards to the killing of Americans via the use of unmanned drones.

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Twitter erupted with claims that this memo provided the President unprecedented powers to kill any American, anywhere, for any reason.  Well, I read the memo, and I’m fairly certain that is not what it said. (I think @blakehounshell was the first to point this out.) However, in reading this memo, which may or may not exactly detail U.S. policy, I did identify four important points for Americans if they want to avoid getting a warhead to the forehead.

Americans, if you are trying to avoid being transformed into a red mist;

  1. Don’t join al Qaeda outside the United States- Who knew that if you are an American and you decide to join al Qaeda that you might get smacked in the face with a Hellfire missile.  Unbelievable, the nerve of the American government to hold a grudge for so long.  Can you believe the Executive Branch would be willing to kill members of the terrorist organization, including American members, that committed the largest terrorist attack in history on American soil?  Absolutely absurd! However, simply being a member of al Qaeda won’t necessarily get a drone sortie on your hut.   
  2. Don’t become a Senior Leader of al Qaeda overseas - Even more shocking, if you are an American citizen and you join al Qaeda, and then later, you become one of the senior leaders of that organization, you might just wake up to a mouthful of hell’s fire! Unbelievable!  To think that you could join a terrorist group and openly advocate for the killing of your fellow citizens, and then be so good at promoting terrorism against your homeland that you would be honored by al Qaeda with a promotion….to think you could then be killed for that promotion.  I can’t imagine.  Who are these barbarians?
  3. Don’t actively plan to kill or actually attempt to kill Americans – It turns out that if you are an American and you join al Qaeda overseas and then you plan to kill or actually try to kill Americans, you could get shot in the face with a missile.  Ridiculous.  What right do U.S. citizens have to try and prevent terrorists from attacking them?  Surely if you join al Qaeda, recruit a guy off the Internet, and then help wrap his junk with explosives before setting him off to take down an airplane over Detroit on Christmas day, you should be allowed to hide out overseas and enjoy another opportunity to try a better, more sophisticated attack against the U.S., right?
  4. Don’t make it difficult to be arrested - This is where the white paper gets completely ludicrous.  It seems that if the U.S. government cannot figure out a way to arrest you since you’ve joined al Qaeda, been promoted, tried to attack the U.S. and have been hiding in a failed state with no functioning law enforcement, they will then maybe send a drone after you.  How insulting! How is this possibly fair to American terrorists that join al Qaeda?

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Unlike the folks I witnessed on Twitter suggesting this document provides the President unbounded power to kill Americans, I see the inverse – a legal opinion particularly crafted to pursue one Anwar al-Awlaki.  As has been seen in other public domains, Awlaki, an American, served as the head of external operations for AQAP in Yemen (a senior leader position), was being considered for promotion to head of AQAP (a more senior position) and was actively participating in plots to attack the U.S. (See Underwear Bomber).  This uniquely qualifies him for targeting according to this white paper.  The question should now be: what other Americans could be legally targeted by the U.S.?  Adam Gadahn maybe? The list seems to be fairly short and not expansive in the way suggested by drone conspiracy theorists.

Drone critics – what do you want?

Look anti-drone critics, I get it.  You are worried that the President might become Judge Dredd - prosecutor, judge and executioner without any oversight.  I understand this.  I also know you have seen the Terminator one too many times and feel as if drones are somehow autonomous killing machines different from other technology the U.S. has used to carry out airstrikes for decades (namely cruise missiles & manned aircraft).  However, drones have proven highly effective at dismantling al Qaeda in its safe havens – Bin Laden himself attested to their effectiveness. Drones have also limited the large scale military interventions you so ardently protested against the past decade.  While you continue to call for a “law enforcement” only approach where each individual is indicted, captured and convicted, this one system fits all approach just doesn’t fly in the modern age of warfare.  Terrorists use the limitations of “law enforcement only” approaches to their advantage.  At the same time, the “law enforcement only” approach requires a detention policy and an extradition policy.  Drone critics, you also didn’t seem to like Guantanamo Bay or renditions either (See “Counterterrorism 2012: No Drones, No Rendition, No Detention“).  When someone actually tried to put a structure in place to legally and morally conduct counterterrorism with the appropriate amount of force to sustain pressure against terrorists (John Brennan and the “Disposition Matrix”), you punched him straight in the face and are now threatening his nomination to Director of the CIA. Drone critics: you are being ignored because you are against all actions. You are thus advocates for inaction. And inaction cannot be our counterterrorism strategy.

Drone critics – Give us your plan

The biggest thing holding back drone critics is their inability to articulate, in clear terms, what exactly they would like the policy to be with regards to the use of drones – “Indict, Arrest and Convict” just doesn’t cut it.  Likewise drone critics, you have not done sufficient research into what happens if we don’t use drone strikes to pursue terrorists – namely that it pushes the U.S. to use proxies (foreign militaries and local militias) in the pursuit of al Qaeda and its affiliates.  Make sure you are comfortable with the counterterrorism options you are indirectly supporting by taking drone operations off the table.

I’ve had some productive discourse with Greg Johnsen and Frank Cilluffo and I have written some longer pieces on drones which can be found at these eight links (#1#2#3#4#5#6#7, #8).  But again, I’ll re-post my recommendations for creating an improved and more accountable drone targeting process.  Drone critics: take any of these and run with them. Refute them if you want. But whatever you do, please offer solutions to what you want the drone process to be. Otherwise you will continue to be ignored.

Here’s an excerpt from “The “Disposition Matrix” – Drones, Counterterrorism & National Security for the next decade” posted on October 25, 2012.

“There are several points where I think drone targeting, and counterterrorism more broadly, can be improved and refined.

  •  Detention Policy – We don’t have one!

The article states:

“Obama’s decision to shutter the CIA’s secret prisons ended a program that had become a source of international scorn, but it also complicated the pursuit of terrorists. Unless a suspect surfaced in the sights of a drone in Pakistan or Yemen, the United States had to scramble to figure out what to do.”

For drone critics, I noted this past summer the lack of a detention policy has led the U.S. to pursue more drone strikes.  U.S. counterterrorism planners are restricted from or encouraged not to do the following:

  • Detain terrorists and send them to Guantanamo Bay – a good thing.
  • Conduct renditions of terrorists and ship them to black site prisons – probably a good thing.
  • Detain terrorists and turn them over to their home countries if they might be subjected to torture – a likely occurrence with respect to virtually all of our Middle Eastern, North Africa or South Asian counterterrorism partners.

So what is the counterterrorism planner to do?  Lacking any way to detain a terrorist, it likely becomes much more appealing to kill a terrorist.  So drone critics, when you are whining about drone targeting are you also advocating alternatives for a detention policy that doesn’t involve Guantanamo Bay, renditions, and human rights abuses by counterterrorism partners?  I’m not hearing many solutions to this conundrum, which directly encourages further drone targeting.

  • Oversight of the Executive Branch

The article notes:

“With no objections — and officials said those have been rare — names are submitted to a panel of National Security Council officials that is chaired by Brennan and includes the deputy directors of the CIA and the FBI, as well as top officials from the State Department, the Pentagon and the NCTC.”

As drone critics point out, the President and the Executive Branch holds all the power with drone targeting.  This summer Frank Cilluffo and I offered:

“The U.S. might examine the establishment of a secret panel of judges and policymakers that hear cases for placing individuals on a targeting list. A single individual, as suggested in recent articles – even the Commander-in-Chief, should not be the lone arbitrator for each person proposed for targeting. An established process involving a collective judgment will render more defensible and consistent rulings. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court might provide an example structure for how secret information can be protected while evaluating the evidence for placing a terrorist on a targeting list.”

A judicial panel could be appointed and authorized, similar to the FISA court, to provide oversight and accountability on drone targeting.  This judicial process could provide documented deliberation, justification and accounting of drone targeting allowing for periodic review in terms of effectiveness and investigation when civilians are errantly engaged.

  • Interdisciplinary “Devil’s Advocate” Red Team

The article notes:

 “Counterterrorism experts said the reliance on targeted killing is self-perpetuating, yielding undeniable short-term results that may obscure long-term costs.” ….

For a decade, the dimensions of the drone campaign have been driven by short-term objectives: the degradation of al-Qaeda and the prevention of a follow-on, large-scale attack on American soil.

Side effects are more difficult to measure — including the extent to which strikes breed more enemies of the United States — but could be more consequential if the campaign continues for 10 more years.”

I would recommend that a threat or geographically oriented team of interdisciplinary “Devil’s Advocates” be injected into the targeting process.  Drone targeting by its nature focuses on the short term tactical goals of counterterrorism.  The “Devil’s Advocates” team could provide cleared country experts, cultural studies folks, PHD’s in terrorism and strategists that can anticipate the long term “blowback” implications of pursuing immediate term drone strikes in a given country outside of declared war zones.  In the Yemen example, the panel might include development specialists, diplomatic ditherers, regional experts and strategists familiar with the Yemeni context and able to plot alternative worst-case scenarios of what might happen if drone strikes go bad.  This can provide a valuable check for those consumed with the day-to-day tracking and engagement of terrorists.

  •  Publicly Disclosed Targeting Justification – Post Mortem

The secretive nature of today’s drone targeting leads to conspiracy theory generation by drone critics.  As part of the approval process for drone targeting, a declassified justification for targeting individuals (that protects intelligence sources and methods) could be drafted.  Immediately upon interdiction of terrorist targets, the White House could disclose this justification publicly serving two purposes.  One, it would allay the conspiracy theories of those that believe the U.S. is unjustly killing individuals for no good reason.  Two, it would put an informal check on the intelligence process encouraging planners and policymakers to get their intelligence and resulting justifications correct, as once a justification is openly published it would allow the public and the media to do their own checking if they choose.

  • Expand the use of information operations in concert with drone strikes

As part of the effort to minimize civilian casualties and collateral damage from drone strikes, where possible, I think the U.S. could expand its information operations in the locations where they are targeting terrorists.  As much as possible, I’d dump the equivalent of ‘Wanted Posters’ throughout areas where terrorists operate and let people know that terrorists are in their midst and that if they associate with said terrorist they might just get hit by a drone.  Some would argue this alerts terrorists that they are being targeted, but I imagine most terrorists already know the U.S. could put a warhead-on-their-forehead at any given time.  The information campaign would work much like the “Wanted” posters in the old west, many smart people would begin distancing themselves from those being targeted, maybe even cough up some terrorists to local law enforcement and it could inform local populaces as to who is being targeted and why they are being targeted.  I don’t think this will win any hearts-and-minds per se, but it does help people unknowingly enmeshed with terrorists make better decisions about who they hang out with.

  • The temptation to overreach – finding a definition of “al Qaeda”

Critics cited in the article rightfully note that drones make killing easy as compared to other counterterrorism options.  As the U.S. has relatively decimated the upper tier of al Qaeda’s leadership, the targeting list has continued to add members.

“Is the person currently Number 4 as good as the Number 4 seven years ago? Probably not,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official involved in the process until earlier this year. “But it doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous.”

This begs the question, “Are we really even fighting al Qaeda anymore?”  As al Qaeda members flee Afghanistan and Pakistan, we must begin addressing who our adversaries are and how far we will go to pursue them.  As of now, there is no common understanding of what al Qaeda is. As seen with the Benghazi attack, new militant groups with a handful of al Qaeda members or supporters are scattered around the globe. These groups will cooperate at times and compete at other times in pursuit of their goals, which vary from place to place and include different elements of al Qaeda’s ideology based on local conditions.  Essentially, which of these new militant groups, regardless of the title al Qaeda, are truly threats to the U.S. and require dedicated counterterrorism action?  Until the U.S. clearly identifies its adversaries and its interests, its likely to go too far in pursuit of some counterterrorism objectives and completely fail to address key threats in other locations.

 “We didn’t want to get into the business of limitless lists,” said a former senior U.S. counterterrorism official who spent years overseeing the lists. “There is this apparatus created to deal with counterterrorism. It’s still useful. The question is: When will it stop being useful? I don’t know.”

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29 comments

  1. God, what an asinine post. Your 4 points are flawed beyond belief.
    1. Relies on unproven govt. accusations
    2. Relies on unproven govt. accusations
    3. Relies on unproven govt. accusations
    4. Relies on unproven govt. accusations, also makes no sense. I’m pretty sure The Constitution’s 5th amendment doesn’t say, “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process, unless it’s hard to arrest you.”

    • Thanks for taking the time to read my asinine post. Now I’ll take some time to refute your conspiracy theories.

      1- Awlaki appeared in al Qaeda propaganda, wrote in AQAP’s magazine about how to attack the West, and was documented publicly in many al Qaeda cases. See the links I put in the posts. They are not U.S.government posts, they are newspaper accounts with primary sources.
      For 2 and 3 – Awlaki appears in al Qaeda documents written by Osama Bin Laden himself. Additionally, the Abdulmutallab sentencing memo describes in detail Awlaki’s role in a deliberate attack on the U.S. See the link I put in the post.
      4 – Did you read the DOJ memo? It works through detailed arguments from case law for how the 5th amendment does not give an American unlimited space to use this right to kill other Americans.

      I’m guessing you didn’t even read the bottom of this post.

  2. I agree with the first commenter’s objection to your 4 basic points. But even if we concede proof & process, there’s another problem your post does not address. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16 year-old U.S. citizen, was also killed by a drone strike – and almost certainly not by accident. Are you suggesting that his death is a result of these 4 things an American shouldn’t do if they don’t want to be targeted?

    • I have no reason to believe that the U.S. tried to kill Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. I am confident this DOJ white paper and resulting memo were not used to justify the death of someone they did not intend to target. If you go to the drone posts I cited in the article, you’ll see that I noted this to be a huge mistake. This one incident is a tragedy, however, the recommendations I made at the end this post, which I’m guessing you didn’t read, were designed specifically to address this point with regards to drones – who is accountable when innocent people are killed?

      You say that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s death wasn’t an accident? Really? You think that the U.S. government deliberately set out to kill him. I’m not with you on this at all. But conspiracy is always more appealing, I guess, than the simple explanation – someone screwed up.

      • “I have no reason to believe that the U.S. tried to kill Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.”

        No reason at all to believe that???? Well… the fact that the individual is dead strikes me as providing some reason to suspect that they tried to kill him. (AND SUCCEEDED.) I would submit that this is the Occam’s Razor explanation of what transpired.

        “You say that Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s death wasn’t an accident? Really? You think that the U.S. government deliberately set out to kill him. I’m not with you on this at all.”

        I’m new to your blog. I just sort of happened on it and decided to make a comment, but it seems to me that your basic modus operandi is to always shift the burden of proof onto the other person. You use this stale “conspiracy theory” trope as a rhetorical device typically, as in: “Oh, you don’t share my belief in X??? YOu must be one of those conspiracy theorists.” You really ought to realize that that is not valid logical argumentation…

        Your conjecture is that this 16-year-old is dead and it was just an accident. I grant that I cannot disprove that this was an accident. Maybe it was. But you cannot prove that it was an accident either.

        As far as I can tell, you believe this teenager’s death was unintentional simply because you want to believe this. So your basic modus operandi comes into play: you claim that the burden of proof is on anybody else to demonstrate that what you want to believe is untrue. You then trot out the time-tested trope of “conspiracy”. Anybody who does not believe what you want to believe is a “conspiracy theorist”.

        But let’s have a reality check here, Clint. If you have just shot somebody dead and there is your smoking gun and you do not even deny that you pulled the trigger, on whom is the onus of proof? To all outward appearances, you just murdered somebody. Okay, in this instance, you claim that you killed the person in a case of mistaken identity — you mistook him for somebody you claim was intent on doing you harm and you mistakenly killed him because you thought you were defending yourself. In any case, your claim is that you did not intend to kill that person.

        I would submit that, in this scenario, if you want to beat a murder charge, you’d better hire yourself a pretty damned good lawyer.

        In any case, the baseline, Occam’s razor explanation of why that boy is dead is because they wanted him dead. I really think that would be most sane people’s working hypothesis.

  3. You miss a huge point of the detractors of Obama’s drone war. Where under Bush, the left wing hysteria machine was apoplectic at the thought of wiretapping US Citizens affiliated and/or contacting Al Queda, that outrage is markedly absent under Obama’s policy.

    Just like Gitmo, troop deaths, wiretapping, debt ceiling increases, Katrina v Sandy, and executive privilege all caused libs to nearly stroke out under Bush…not a peep under Obama.

    The only conclusion one can reach then is that the left doesn’t really care about such civil liberty violations. They only (to use our current President’s favorite term) were “Playing politics” This agenda and the stunning lack of outrage just proves it.

    • I care nothing about either political party or “left vs. right” politics. This blog is about analysis and developing policy that gets to the heart of matters.

  4. “Until the U.S. clearly identifies its adversaries and its interests, its likely to go too far in pursuit of some counterterrorism objectives and completely fail to address key threats in other locations.”

    It’s likely to go too far? As if it hasn’t already?

    Al Qaeda is an idea, not an organization. There have been grave crimes committed in the name of this idea, but by refusing to treat crime as a matter of Law, and instead adopting the rubric of War, you’ve literally declared war against the rule of law. And since Al Qaeda is an idea, your rubric of war will continue to feed that idea. It is a perpetual war of its own making, and it will continue to enrich profiteers wholly interested in its perpetuity.

    • First off, the War on Terror has ratcheted down dramatically over the past 11 years. I know this first hand and have participated in counterterrorism for a decade. 2012 was nothing like 2002.

      al Qaeda, at least until recent years, was very much an organization. However, I’ve called for a specific definition with regards to al Qaeda. So I’m not sure why you are complaining to me about this.

      Lastly, the last paragraph you wrote is one of the slipperiest slopes I’m ever had to travel. I’m guessing your next sentence must have been “And then it all leads back to Kevin Bacon!”

  5. This was actually a very well thought-out post. What it highlights is the fact that we’ve been check-mated strategically. In chess this condition is called Zugzwang (German for “compulsion to move”) in which a player is placed at a disadvantage by the necessity of making a move. Drones are an example of this. Nobody really thinks that we’re going to end this form of terrorism with drone strikes. But all of the other responses to the threat (Asian land wars, indefinite detention, and all that other Bush-era stuff) are hugely problem-ridden, expensive and unpopular. But we can’t just do nothing. We’re compelled to move. So we have this temporary advantage (and it is temporary) of being able to launch these things all over the world and kill people and thus, in the absence of any better idea, that’s what we do.

    • George,

      Excellent points. I agree with you whole heartedly. We must do something in terms of counterterrorism in the near term. But, long term, we really don’t know any way to end this. Additionally, the public gets really uncomfortable every couple of years with some new tactic of our counterterrorism strategy. My fear is the persistent knee jerk reaction to take options off the table…until eventually there are not more options and we fall back into legally constrained complacency. Here is the post that led to this most recent discussion and describes the conundrum we are in with regards to CT policy. (http://selectedwisdom.com/?p=685) and (http://selectedwisdom.com/?p=677) Thanks for the post and hopefully getting what I was trying for in the post. I’m for curbs on drones, but I’m not for pulling them off the table.

  6. Do I have any particular problem with our use of drones? Not so much. But to suggest that the extrajudicial assassination of our enemies and the collateral damage to innocent parties with drones is in some way less outrageous than waterboarding captives is idiotic. The administration made it clear that torturing people was not only immoral, but that it reflected badly on America’s willingness to put its principles into practice. So now our President sits down with his “terrorist bubble gum cards” and decides which ones to assassinate. Really? This is more moral, less objectionable, than making them uncomfortable? I have two problems with the inconsistency in our policy. First, when we torture people we do not kill innocents. Second, we have actually concluded that it is “more moral” to kill somebody in cold blood than to torture them? Really?

    • I don’t know how you got off on some tangent about torture. I’m talking about the DOJ memo authorizing drone targeting on Americans. Go visit Human Rights Watch if you want to rant about that. I’m not aware of anyone in our government, currently, who thinks torture is a good idea or advocates for it.
      I think you must be naive about what CT policies you are essentially advocating for when you see drones as immoral and yet other options – like funding, training and equipping corrupt armies or building unsupervised militias – create enormous atrocities on local populations. Americans just choose to ignore these options as they wash their hands of responsibility for what proxies do. At least with drones, we take some accountability for our counterterrorism actions. See more of this discussion here if interested (http://selectedwisdom.com/?p=685) and please research other CT options currently being conducted and then compare them to drones. Drones are one of the least invasive, least casualty producing options our nation has.

  7. “But we can’t just do nothing.”

    Adhering to the rule of law is not “doing nothing”. 9/11 didn’t change anything. It was an act of individuals, and the failure of the Bush administration, who ignored frequent warnings that individuals planned an attack. Terrorism has always been a crime. There never was a war and there is not an existential threat. We’ve vitiated the Constitution for the illusion of security, and the enrichment of the national security complex.

    • So what do you offer as a solution for individuals, such as Awlaki, that persistently plot to kill Americans? How do we mitigate that threat? If Abdulmuttalab, the Underwear bomber, had been successful in blowing up the device he carried onto a plane over Detroit, would you say that al Qaeda poses no threat? What is the law enforcement solution to dealing with terrorists, whom we know are plotting against us, when we have no means to arrest, detain or convict them? The drone policy is only one prong in the counterterrorism fight. Right now we have no policy for drones, detentions or extraditions with regards to al Qaeda members. See here: http://selectedwisdom.com/?p=685

      • The whole terrorism threat is pretty clearly a hoax. If, in the entire United States, there were even a dozen jihadi terrorists with the skills that the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents regularly demonstrate, they could (and presumably would) cause all sorts of mischief. As it is, there are no terrorist attacks. All of the terrorist plots that have been uncovered were actually FBI sting operations. (That explains why the bombs never go off. The IED’s that have taken such a toll on U.S. troops in Iraq, for example, typically do explode.)

        Since the typical American runs about the same risk of being killed by muslim terrorists as he (or she) does of being struck by lightning, a serious analyst would have to ask what is the real agenda behind all of this?

        If you are going to respond using the term “conspiracy theory”, you can save it. The term is basically meaningless, it’s some kind of middlebrow American trope. Using the term says a lot about the person using it and nothing about the person being referred to.

      • “No means to arrest, convict, and detain” describes every fugitive in human history. It is not a new precedent. It has been dealt with before. Without extrajudicial murder.

        The argument the NatSec complex makes is that these threats are imminent, that there is no alternative to killing “potential terrorists” in “rogue territory”, and that “collateral damage” breaks even in the end. This is basically the 1% doctrine.

        But NatSec’s interpretation of ‘imminent threat’ is a semantic farce. http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003660.html

        And the 1% doctrine is, well, a little slippery shall we say?

        So here’s an obvious alternative to having “no alternative”. America has the most sophisticated surveillance technology on the planet. Rather than creating bugsplats through executive fiat, I proffer that keeping an eye on these ‘imminent threats’ would be more productive for intelligence and interdiction in the long term. Not to mention America’s standing in the world. Which is what really “makes us safe”. The rule of law does not put us in danger. Just the opposite.

        The idea of terrorism poses a threat. Always has, always will. You’re not going to murder it out of peoples mind. If anything you inspire others to act. What were Abdulmuttalab’s motivations? Was Awlaki a hypnotist? The real threat is right in front of your face, but acknowledging it would cause, I believe, a great deal of cognitive dissonance for your community, it’s status, it’s purpose. And thus… “We are at War!”

    • Sure, I stay up at night writing these blog posts to support a politicians legacy. Both administrations have used drones. There would be no difference in policy with a different president either. I think a President Romney would probably even use them more. And President Bush specifically encouraged President Obama to maintain the drone program. The executive branch is charged with keeping the country safe. They will stretch their power as far as possible to achieve that goal and will do so within the law. Why complain about the President, when Congress has done nothing to stop him.

      • Our leaders must always be trusted to do the right thing and not overstep their authority. This policy has always served mankind well.

    • Right, I write this blog and have spent a career supporting government so I can then throw partisan support to a politician. Exactly why I offer curbs on executive power with my recommendations.

  8. To say that the government can target “terrorists” with drones using evidence that nobody can examine because it constitutes “national security secrets” is tantamount to saying that the government can target anybody for murder, period. They kill you and if anybody asks why, they say you were a terrorist and if anybody asks to see the proof, it is claimed that these are national security secrets.

    Actually, they do not even need to claim that you were a terrorist. They can claim that the person you were in a car with was a terrorist and that they only killed you by accident. People with the totalitarian mindset of this blog’s author will then have no problem with it. If the government says it, it must be true.

    Besides… regardless, once you kill somebody, they’re dead and… we have to look forward and not backwards, right?

    • The white paper discussed was written with Awlaki in mind. I think you should do some more research on why they were concerned about Awlaki. Maybe start here:

      http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/02/11/the-double-agent-who-infiltrated-al-qaeda.html

      Beyond equipment and help with fundraising, the two discussed terror attacks.

      “He wanted to attack the big shopping centers in the West … by using biological weapons. But I said that I didn’t want to take part in killing civilians—I could only agree to attacking military targets,” Storm says. “Of course I wouldn’t have helped him carry out any kind of terrorist actions. But I had to let him think that I was on his side.”

      • Thanks for the response and the link you provided. However, I have real problems regarding the credibility of this information. Actually, that is an understatement. My initial reaction was that the article was hilarious. There it was, the photo there of the Scandinavian red-headed jihadi who infiltrated Al Qaeda…. It kind of reminded me of this:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQtysS7fB4k

        But, okay, even that aside, don’t you see certain problems with the narrative there? You posit that there is this fearsome terrorist group, Al Qaeda, and this red-head jihadi infiltrated them and then (from their point of view) betrayed them. This guy is now seeking publicity??? He wants his photo to appear there? He has absolutely no fear that this fearsome international terrorist organization (or its supporters) would want to settle accounts with him?

        Does this not give you pause?

        Now, as for the claim that Awlaki was planning to do nasty things in shopping malls in the US, what specifically is the hard proof of this? I mean, the game here seems to be that the government can simply allege that something is the case and the onus of proof is on me or anybody else to demonstrate that it is not true (which obviously we cannot do). In your world, there is no onus on the government to provide any evidence that this shopping mall story is true. For you, apparently, anything the government claims to be true is, by default, true, and anybody who questions it is some sort of “conspiracy theorist.”

        But the whole thing makes no sense. If there really is this fearsome network of terrorists with the capability of killing all kinds of Americans in a shopping mall, say, why don’t they do it? If there were as many as a dozen Al Qaeda terrorists in the USA with the skills that the Iraqi insurgents or Taliban regularly demonstrate, you would expect to see some mayhem once in a while and we just never see anything.

        The Occam’s razor explanation is that this is simply the government continually crying wolf. And it’s not a conspiracy theory. If the government is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to counter terrorism, this creates a MASSIVE vested interest on the part of so many institutions and the corporations and individuals who feed off of this money trough to convince the public that they are faced with this massive terrorist threat. Because otherwise, there goes their gravy train, right?

        So, contrary to what you would claim, it makes perfect sense to be extremely skeptical about these claims about all these terrorist plots, and to demand hard evidence.

  9. I think that all this misses the point a little bit. Not many people doubt that terrorists should be punished, and if a US Citizen commits a crime against other US Citizens that would be punishable by Death at home, then basically it is probably OK to kill him or her abroad. The awkward feeling is left not by the Death of those people, but rather by the manner in which they die. In most cultures in the World, not least certainly in the Western one, bravery, risk and personal exposure to danger are a point in favour of an individual. Conversely, a way of killing that is entirely automatic, remote and without any risk to the operator, is always seen as slightly tainted, regardless of how much that person may have deserved his fate. When the Israelis brought Eichmann “home” in the 1960´s, the agents doing this faced not inconsiderable personal risk, and, importantly, Israel made an effort to conduct as much as possible a fair trial, even though the outcome was certain. Both factor are absent from the process of execution of terrorists by drones. It is just too clean and, if you allow, a little cowardly.

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