Regarding the Feb. 5 Point of View “ Drones a deplorable evil”: A policy of targeted extrajudicial assassination using drones is by its very nature “immoral,” as argued. But it is not necessarily invalid from a strategic perspective.
When observing the nature of the “jihadists” in ISIS and Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula – not to exclude Boko Haram in Nigeria – and the means employed by these death cultists who would hijack religion for nihilistic ends, I support the strikes, if properly vetted, in coordination with allied governments.
Oversight laws require presidential notice of (significant, anticipated) covert operations to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. It is important to understand, however, that there are no operative checks and balances over such matters outside the executive branch, if the chairman of the Senate committee, Sen. Richard Burr, and ranking minority member, Sen. Dianne Feinstein – and their House counterparts – lack the courage and information to raise questions.
Burr has mortgaged his political conscience to the intelligence community. With his bizarre attempt to recover from the executive branch all copies of the full torture report, he appears to be running the committee as a personal satrap.
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With CIA director John Brennan – and not President Obama – making the final drone strike decisions, the law requiring prior notification of such clandestine operations has been re-interpreted. The written orders are allowed to be open ended – such as permitting a set of drone strikes against suspected terrorists in all of Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. This makes accountability for specific operations elusive.
Contrasted with an authorization for the use of military force in combat – with a public debate and vote – who is to hold the CIA director and the president accountable for covert actions when the notification procedure and the substantive decisions are highly classified?
To paraphrase Christian realist Reinhold Niebuhr, the drone strikes are a vivid illustration of moral man trying to function in an immoral world.
William E. Jackson Jr.
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.