It was nice to see Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin disrupt a speech on the “secret” drone war by Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan. In the brief time before she was carried out, she told the audience about two of the innocent children murdered in the drone war, Tariq Aziz and Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. Both were just sixteen years old.
Medea organized the drone summit that I attended in DC this past weekend. It featured journalists, lawyers, and scientists knowledgeable of the expanding drone war both at home and abroad. For an excellent primer, read Antiwar.com columnist Kelley B. Vlahos’s piece for today. Also see Kevin Gosztola’s coverage. I did my best to live tweet the event, highlighting everything from my question to Jeremy Scahill about the air campaign in Yemen, to the human costs to the drone war in Pakistan, to the impending outbreak of scary high-tech domestic surveillance drones sure to violate the civil liberties of hordes of Americans.
With regards to Brennan’s speech, I watched it. In all its statements on the drone war, the Obama administration has dodged serious questions and pretended the inconvenient facts don’t exist, all while insisting a global program of extra-judicial assassinations is none of the American people’s business. For my previous posts on the drone issue see here and here and here.
“We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous. This statement makes clear that the administration is treating legal restrictions on the use of force as questions of preference. Moreover, it is dangerous to characterize the entire planet as a battlefield,” Shamsi said.
“It is dangerous to give the President the authority to order the extrajudicial killing of any person – including any American – he believes to be a terrorist. The administration insists that the program is closely supervised, but to propose that a secret deliberation that takes place entirely within the executive branch constitutes ‘due process’ is to strip the Fifth Amendment of its essential meaning.”
On a related note, this WOLA study published last week reports that drones are heavily used by U.S. security forces along the Mexican border. The focus is not drones, but it is still interesting throughout. It claims that drones are only used on the Mexico side of the border. But Adam Isacson at the Just the Facts blog says that’s a bit sketchy:
The Homeland Security Department’s Customs and Border Protection agency, however, runs six Predator-Bs, plus one maritime variant, out of Sierra Vista, Arizona and Corpus Christi, Texas.
In fact, WOLA’s report is already out of date on this issue. Testimony last week by the Pentagon’s top homeland security official, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Stockton [PDF], reveals that, as of this year, four Defense Department drones are now operating out of Arizona.
Congress approved the use of domestic drones this past winter, and the Federal Aviation Administration was recently forced to reveal over 60 drone sites already constructed on U.S. soil. I wrote about drones on the U.S.-Mexico border here.