America’s drone sickness ~ Glenn Greenwald (Salon)
The U.S. slaughters at will, then shields its actions from all forms of judicial and democratic accountability
This headline and first paragraph from today’s Washington Post scoop by Greg Miller speaks volumes about so many things:
The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said.
There are many evils in the world, but extinguishing people’s lives with targeted, extra-judicial killings, when you don’t even know their names, based on “patterns” of behavior judged from thousands of miles away, definitely ranks high on the list.
Although the Obama White House has not approved of this request from CIA Director David Petraeus, these so-called “signature strikes” that “allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior” are already robustly used in Pakistan — having been started by George Bush in 2008 and aggressively escalated by Barack Obama. There is much to say on this new report, but in order for me to focus on three discrete points, permit me to highly recommend two superb articles that highlight other vital aspects of this policy: (1) this article from my Salon colleague Jefferson Morley this morning on why this form of drone-targeting is pure American Terrorism, and (2) this essay from Chris Floyd about a recently published Rolling Stone article by Michael Hastings on Obama’s love of drones and secret wars and how the military’s slang for drone victims — “bug splat” — reflects the sociopathic mindset that drive them.
Initially, it’s critical to note how removed all of these questions are from democratic debate or accountability, thanks to the Obama administration’s insistence that even the basic question of whether the CIA has a drone program is too secret to permit it to publicly acknowledge, even though everyone knows it exists — especially in the countries where it routinely kills people. Recall that Obama officials refused to tell the ACLU, in response to a FOIA request, whether any documents relating to a CIA drone program even exist because even that is too much of a secret to address, and when the ACLU then sued the Obama administration — seeking the most basic information about why the Obama administration thinks it has the power to kill people this way and how it decides who will die — the Obama DOJ again insisted in court that it cannot even acknowledge that such a program exists, let alone provide any basic disclosure or transparency about it.
So here we have this incredibly consequential policy adopted in total secrecy by the Obama administration, one that empowers the President to secretly target people, including American citizens, for instant, due-process-free death. They have placed the policy beyond the rule of law — by insisting that it’s too secret for courts to examine — and shielded it completely from democratic debate. The only time we are permitted even to hear about it is when the President, his aides and loyalists politically exploit the corpses they create by strutting around with chest-beating, tough-guy boasting about how Strong it shows Obama to be (because, really, what is more courageous, more embodying of the noble American warrior spirit, than killing people by remote-controlled video game while the killers are ensconced in secure bunkers in the U.S.?).
And the only time we are permitted glimpses of the debate over these policies is when someone decides to leak it anonymously to reporters like Greg Miller. So here’s a policy — CIA drone strikes — which anonymous administration officials are defending yet again on the front page of The Washington Post at the very same time the Obama DOJ tells courts that it cannot explain itself in a judicial proceeding because it cannot even safely confirm that such a program exists. Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton spoke at an “Open Government” conference in Brazil, and — while serving in an administration that is waging an unprecedented war on whistleblowers and is fixated with self-mocking levels of secrecy — had the audacity to say things like this, apparently with a straight face:
In the 21st century, the United States is convinced that one of the most significant divisions among nations will not be north/south, east/west, religious, or any other category so much as whether they are open or closed societies. We believe that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful. . . .
I know we don’t need to make the case for openness to you. You’re here. But what we have to do is make a convincing case that those of us who have joined up to the Open Government Partnership really mean what we say. It’s not enough to assert that we are committed to openness. We have to deliver on the commitments that we have made.
Let me mention a few examples of how that is already occurring. . . . I want to commend the Slovak Republic and Montenegro for also introducing whistle-blowing protection laws to ensure that those who expose corruption are not punished or harmed. . . .
These initiatives are designed to reduce corruption because we know corruption kills a country’s potential. It drains resources. It protects dishonest leaders. It takes away people’s drive to improve themselves or their communities. So the cure for corruption is openness, and by belonging to the Open Government Partnership, every country here is sending a message to their own people that we will stand for openness. And we’re going to hold ourselves accountable. . .
So we now have a chance to set a new global standard for good governance and to strengthen a global ethos of transparency and accountability. . . .[W]e intend to do all we can to help make the Open Government Partnership a leader in ensuring that the 21st century is an era of openness, transparency, accountability, freedom, democracy, and results for people everywhere. Thank you. (Applause.)
Last week, the Obama administration indicted its 7th whistleblower on charges of espionage — more than double the number of such cases under all prior Presidents combined — and it continues to insist that its CIA drone program is too secret even to acknowledge for purposes of court cases or public debate, even as it boasts of that same program on the front pages of newspapers. That’s apparently what Clinton means when she trumpets the “global ethos of accountability and transparency.”
Read the full article at Salon