Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Assassins

Comedian Bill Maher's career took a nosedive after making comments about the courage of the 9/11 terrorists who at least were willing to die in the name of their cause. Maher shouldn't have been surprised by the fallout from his comments. They were, without a doubt, ill-timed, tasteless, and crude. Even so, his point, even if expressed badly, was well taken.

I was reminded of his comments this morning, by this L.A. Times article concerning a UN report critical of the CIA's use of drones in assassinations.

The campaign of CIA drone strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan has made the United States "the most prolific user of targeted killings" in the world, said a United Nations official, who urged that responsibility for the program be taken from the spy agency.

Philip Alston, a New York University law professor who serves as the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, made the comments Wednesday as he released a report on targeted killings. The report criticizes the U.S. for asserting "an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe" in its fight against Al Qaeda and other militant groups. ...

"This strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions," Alston said.

Sadly, the focus of the article seems not to be the use of unmanned aircraft in the Great War On Terror, nor the fact that the US is engaged in assassinations ("extrajudicial killings"). Instead, the piece seems more concerned that it is the CIA that is engaged in the deplorable practice, an organization that lacks real oversight because of all the secrecy surrounding it.

While I agree that the argument against allowing the CIA to run such a program is a valid one, that any such program exists in the first place offends me. The military also uses the drones extensively, often with disastrous effects when it comes to civilian deaths. But both agencies are still engaged in the practice of killing people presumed guilty of acts of terrorism against the US. And now they get to do so from the safety of thousands of miles from the intended target.

Ain't technology grand.

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