On Thursday, Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden will be among several Democrats and Republicans poised to challenge John Brennan during his Senate confirmation hearings to become the country's new CIA director. Wyden intends to question Brennan about the U.S. government's policy on drone warfare, particularly the targeted killing of U.S. citizens who are suspected terrorists.
On Monday night, NBC News reported about a memo issued last summer that outlines the Obama administration's decision to kill Al Qaeda terrorist suspects without any evidence that specific and imminent plots were being planned against the United States.
"The threat posed by Al Qaeda and its associated forces demands a broader concept of imminence in judging when a person continually planning terror attacks presents an imminent threat," concluded the document.
To call this problematic is the understatement of the Obama administration.
One of the best places to read a wide-ranging selection of essays about this 16-page white paper is on the Lawfare blog.
Brennan is said to have the most knowledge — in the Obama administration — about the drone program, and there will be no greater platform for him to come clean about what it has really done than when testifying before the Senate.
Last August, in a speech given to the Council on Foreign Relations, Brennan denied that drone attacks were creating problems with our allies overseas.
This spring, I addressed the subject of targeted strikes at length and why such strikes are legal, ethical, wise, and highly effective. Today, I’d simply say that all our CT efforts in Yemen are conducted in concert with the Yemeni government. When direct action is taken, every effort is made to avoid civilian casualties. And contrary to conventional wisdom, we see little evidence that these actions are generating widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits for AQAP. In fact, we see the opposite. Our Yemeni partners are more eager to work with us. Yemeni citizens who have been freed from the hellish grip of AQAP are more eager, not less, to work with the Yemeni government. In short, targeted strikes against the most senior and most dangerous AQAP terrorists are not the problem; they’re part of the solution.
However, a story in today's New York Times detailed how the United States' killing of civilians is alienating populations throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, a bill sponsored by GOP state Sen. Joe Negron that would restrict the use of general surveillance drones in Florida passed a second Senate committee on Wednesday.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Negron watered down his bill to some extent — now law enforcement agencies can use drones, but only after obtaining a search warrant or citing a hostage situation, a terrorist threat or other 'exigent' circumstances."
The story goes on to say:
After the bill's unanimous passage by the Community Affairs committee, Negron sounded hopeful, even though the measure must still be heard by three more Senate committees.
"I'm very optimistic about the bill passing, and the response I get from my constituents is they want the government to be able to have reasonable investigations but they don't want their lawful activities monitored," he said.
No other states currently have bans or limitations on the use of drones. But use of the pilot-less aircraft is expected to increase dramatically in 2015, when the Federal Aviation Administration is scheduled work on rules to allow their operation in the United States.