Awkward Drone Questions for Obama

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

A MQ-1B Predator aircraft takes off on June 12, 2008. If you hear a Predator hovering above you in Pakistan, you're probably in for a very bad day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/Released)A MQ-1B Predator aircraft takes off in Iraq. If you hear a Predator hovering above you in Pakistan, you’re probably in for a very bad day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter.)Just where in the Constitution and laws of the United States does President Obama locate the power to have people in nominally friendly countries blown up by our armies of flying robots? On Wednesday, spurred on by reports of the increasing use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan (and corresponding reports of increased civilian casaulties), the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) seeking information about the government’s legal justifications for its drone program. In a post on the ACLU’s “Blog of Rights,” Jonathan Manes explains why the ACLU is doing this:

The use of unmanned drones to target and kill individuals is a profoundly new way of waging war. For the first time, military and intelligence officers can observe, track, and launch missiles at targeted individuals from control centers located thousands of miles away, without any significant U.S. presence on the ground. The technology also permits the United States to target individuals nearly anywhere in the world….

The ACLU believes that the use and proliferation of this tactic must be the subject of public scrutiny and debate. But the government has released essentially no information about the legal basis of and limits on the drone program, or its scope and consequences. The public has been kept in the dark and is therefore unable to assess the wisdom or legality of the strikes. Commentators on all sides agree that these are not questions that should be decided solely by technocrats behind closed doors.

In order to fill this void, the ACLU is asking the government to release basic information about its use of drones to execute targeted killings.

This seems like an eminently reasonable request that can be mostly complied with without violating national security. We’ll see what the Obama adminstration thinks.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate