Monday, February 25, 2013

Mr. Droney Has Friends

(Editorial cartoon by Jim Morin / Miami Herald (February 7, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then return.)

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, our president is quite enamored with drones, especially as a weapon.  He allows the CIA to use them and he allows the Department of Defense to use them.  He also doesn't seem to mind much that they are being used domestically by local law enforcement agencies.  No one else in government seems to mind much either.  Mr. Droney has many friends.  Some surprising friends.

Last week, one of the trusty regulars at Eschaton posted a comment which linked to this article.

The government says you can’t know how many people U.S. drone strikes have killed, because that’s a state secret. But one of the most hawkish members of the U.S. Senate just said the strikes have killed 4,700 people. And his math raises questions.

That’s what Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) approvingly told an Easley, South Carolina, Rotary Club on Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first public death toll provided by a U.S. government official for the signature method of killing in the U.S.’ sprawling, global counterterrorism campaign.

“We’ve killed 4,700,” Graham said, according to an Easley website. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al-Qaida.” Graham did not evidently offer an estimate of how many innocent people the drones have killed. ...

...Graham’s disclosure underscores the extraordinary secrecy around the centerpiece of U.S. counterterrorism efforts — a military action in all but name, operated by an agency that need not explain to the public how it carries out the program. Even [Dianne] Feinstein, a big advocate of the CIA and its drones, acknowledged to Danger Room earlier this month that the CIA has a history of being deceitful with Congress about its other highly valued programs. And even after the CIA’s likely next director, John Brennan, acknowledged that the CIA performs such lethal strikes, the Justice Department still maintains that even the existence of its drone program is a state secret, so that it need not disclosure information about it in court. Whatever Graham’s intentions in stating a death toll — regardless of its accuracy — that secrecy is the most prominent, visible fact about the drones.   [Emphasis added]

 I decided to do a little checking around to see if any mainstream media were going to touch this story.  It didn't take long.  The Los Angeles Times reported essentially the same thing, but noted that not just the CIA was involved in ordering drone strikes.

The increase in Afghan drone strikes also has coincided with a greater U.S. military focus in the region on deterring Iran, which has put more demands on the Navy fighters flying off two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In the past, one of the carriers had focused on air operations over Afghanistan.

The U.S. military drone strikes in Afghanistan are separate from the CIA drone campaigns against suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen. In Afghanistan, analysts say, drones often are used to back up ground forces or for killing insurgents who are spotted trying to plant roadside bombs.

But another strike last year demonstrated that U.S. forces are also using drones for targeted killings, much as the CIA is in Pakistan and Yemen.   [Emphasis added]

No one in Congress is running around with their hair on fire over the issue, and, sadly,  with good reason.  Again, from the Los Angeles Times a day later:

The United Arab Emirates is close to purchasing Predator drones from a San Diego County defense contractor, sparking concern among arms control advocates.

Under the proposed sale, revealed this week at a defense conference in Abu Dhabi and confirmed Friday, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of Poway will sell an undisclosed number of the robotic aircraft to the UAE armed forces for $197 million.

The agreement would mark the first time a non-NATO country has obtained the American-made technology, which has reshaped modern warfare. The deal has drawn scrutiny from critics who worry about the technology falling into terrorists' hands or being used by governments against their own citizens. ...

The sale would still need the approval of Congress, and there are federal restrictions on selling large drones. But General Atomics, which builds the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper hunter-killer drones used by the U.S. Air Force and CIA, has designed a new unarmed version of the Predator that would qualify for export.

The remotely piloted aircraft, called the Predator XP, could be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, but will not be outfitted for weapons capability. The company did not say whether any cameras and sensor packages would be included.

But the drone has the same physical dimensions, altitude, speed and flight endurance — up to 35 hours — as the original unarmed version of the Predator drone first flown by the Air Force in 1995. ...

In its latest assessment of the industry, aerospace research firm Teal Group Corp. estimated that worldwide drone spending would almost double over the next decade, to $11.4 billion in 2022.

Anticipating the trend, the Congressional Research Service warned in a report last year that foreign competitors were getting a jump on U.S. firms.   [Emphasis added]

Now, we can't be having that, can we.  I mean, it's our technology of death.  We should reap all the benefits.

Like I said:  Mr. Droney has many friends.  Some of them in high places.

I'm thinking about going back to bed, covers drawn over my head, for good.

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