Living Under Drones, Brennan Hearing Preview

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Drone (US Air Force/Wikipedia Commons)

The Obama administration's use of unmanned drones is under intense scrutiny this week, culminating in the hearings to confirm new CIA director John Brennan, which begin this afternoon. Two drone skeptics, Omar Shakir, of the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford Law School, and co-author of the report Living Under Drones, and Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International's Security with Human Rights campaign, discuss the practice, and the leaked memo detailing the legal parameters by which drones could be used to target American citizens.

→Tune In: WNYC will stream live coverage of the Brennan hearings on our website beginning at 2:30pm today. Listen here.

DOJ White Paper on Targeting Americans (via NBC)

Reading List: Drones

In Our Longform Guide: Elisabeth Bumiller on Drone Pilots

    Video: Obama Statements on Drones



    Interactive from the WNYC Data News Team



    Omar Shakir

    Comments [71]

    Angel from Miami, FL

    Killing people by controlling electronic equipment from vast distances. Now we know why our kids stay indoors all day long and play videogames. They're simply training for a future career in government.

    Now for those kids that do go outside the government can take their pick from the ones holding a magnifying glass to ants and provide them with a life long opportunity to torture/murder with impunity. I don't know how safe I will feel living next to the kid who once pull wings off butterflies, now that he gets a paycheck for doing the same to people.

    Feb. 11 2013 10:54 AM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

    I still believe that one day we will see roseellen on TV, being taken away in handcuffs or a straitjacket.

    Feb. 08 2013 02:32 AM

    jgarbuz from Queens: The official AIPAC—and the U.S. military-industrial complex, in general—spokesman for NPR's comments pages.

    I don't know how to break this to you, jgarbuz from Queens, but unarmed innocent children shouldn't be murdered by anyone on any side. The same can be said of innocent adults. Armed soldiers, on the other hand...

    That "All's fair in love and war" is government/military-industrial complex lying propaganda (at least as far as the "war" part is concerned, for this discussion).

    Feb. 07 2013 02:11 PM

    My reference to the cambodian torturers had nothing to do with their or our political ideology.[left or right] You're changing the subject. It was about the like mindedness of rationalizing torture.It was about the moral[immoral] calculation around the evil of torture.[something we previously had no equivication to recognize as contrary to human rights hence evil and unjust].When americans now are all over the media and in governemnt saying that given a choice to torture or kill someone-torture is not death therefore not as bad -hence we should not have opppossed torture as we're now killing people who we previously would have tortured instead- then we're thinking like cambodiam torturers who likewise minimized the evil of torture.[What's wrong with torture compared to death?].And of course most of these americans who think like this have no problem with either torture or killing of anti-americans.So much for americas moral highground self serving narrative of itself.That sham is exposed today as these american spew their tyranical and nazi mindset unabashedly to the world.

    Feb. 07 2013 01:43 PM

    When americans believe that anyone who lives in the vacinity of a "terorrist"[leaving aside that a terrorist can simply mean anyone who expresses an anti american belief]deserves to be killed, then that indeed is nazism.As blatant and tyranical as it gets;you deserve to die if you don't move out when someone in your neightborhood says something anti-american.We're the biggest threat to human rights and freedom of speech on the planet today.

    Feb. 07 2013 01:09 PM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

    At least you'll have Al Gorezerra.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:45 PM

    Welcome to al-Ameriqa.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:33 PM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

    roseellen, If you were serving sweet tea and dates to Anwar al-Aulaqi at the time of his pacification, I would not shed a tear for you either.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:28 PM
    John A

    Guantanamo was order-of-magnitude 250 held without trial.
    Drones (is) order-of-magnitude 3500 killed without trial.
    It's not VietNam nor Nazi Germany nor Rwanda, but it is bad.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:27 PM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

    roseellen, Pol Pot, the dictator of Cambodia was a leftist.

    "Pol Pot, born Saloth Sar, was a Cambodian Communist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1963 to 1981, he served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea"

    You lack of knowledge and introspection is breathtaking.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:25 PM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To RoseEllen

    That is disgusting to compare Americans to those Cambodian communists mass murderers! Shameful to create such lies. Why not compare US GIs to the Nazis while you're at it? What is wrong with your brain?

    Feb. 07 2013 12:20 PM
    peter from vancouver

    what could possibly go wrong?

    Feb. 07 2013 12:18 PM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

    roseellen, I don't see the US issuing death decrees as your friends did to writer Salman Rushdie, or the Danish cartoonists of mohammed, or behead captives and posting video of the murder on the Internet, or stone women to death over "family honor", or assassinate US Senator Bobby Kennedy.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:18 PM

    Americans[right wingers ] now have a similar mindset as those who perpetrated the cambodian genocide;when at trial they were asked why did they torture people-their answer was that since these people were going to be killed anyway-they could torture them too[they were as good as dead].When amerikans now complain about people who objected to torture but not to killing -as if, if you have the right to kill someone in war you should have the right to torture them too-they are expressing a similar view.This is how low we've sunk [perhaps we've always been there but could fein moral superiority and a belief universal human rights and human decency etc., blah.blah blah as we had never been attacked].Americans now reason like the killing- fields- of -cambodia torturers did.Unbelievable!

    Feb. 07 2013 12:17 PM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights


    You've confirmed our every notion of your backwardness.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:12 PM

    jgarbuz ~

    You've confirmed every notion of your diminished capacity.

    Feb. 07 2013 12:06 PM

    This 21st century ideology that we can kill people for simply being anti-american and expressing their views publicaly or to their constituents-makes us 21c nazis.And a terrorist state.And just as it was a lie that on that glorious sept. morn we were just minding our own business and got attacked cause women don't wear head scarves in amerika-so too our professed values which we claim make us morally superior to all human beings who have ever lived- is now exposed as another self serving lie. The world is watching and the world and its people take note.[not surprising egypt talks to iran today-it's not so easy to control the world-no matter how many drone attacks you do!]

    Feb. 07 2013 12:04 PM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights


    Hijacking four passenger planes and flying them into buildings is Terrorism.

    Bombing buses and the underground in London is Terrorism.

    Bombing passenger plane Pan Am 103 is Terrorism.

    Feb. 07 2013 11:33 AM
    Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

    Ban the longbow!

    Back to the saber!


    Feb. 07 2013 11:24 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To Bob

    What "reality" did you see that made you change your mind? Were the Iraqis or Afghans nice to you?

    Feb. 07 2013 11:06 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    dboy - it shocks me that I once shared attitudes similar to jgar about these issues. It was only when I was an eyewitness to reality that my brain made corrections. Thankfully, that correction saved my life and I hope now to show others the folly of their misguided thinking.

    Feb. 07 2013 11:02 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    I don't know about Bob, Jim, and Dboy

    But I am personally happy that the Germans and Japanese were unable to bomb us as much as we were able to bomb them. I see no reason to give vicious enemies "an even break."

    Feb. 07 2013 11:01 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To Bob

    People like yourself always want to give the enemy an "even break." If the enemy is not killing us in the same proportion as they are killing us, somehow that's not "fair." Whew!

    Feb. 07 2013 10:59 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To dboy

    I already stated in a previous post that I think US citizens fighting for the enemy should be tried in absentia, thus giving them some due process. As for American citizens living in the US working for the enemy, they should be tried under military law as regarding spies and saboteurs in any other war.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:56 AM

    Bob from Brooklyn ~

    great observation!

    Feb. 07 2013 10:54 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    The attitude of people like Jgar are the same attitudes and fears the 'jihadists' have of us on the other side of the world. Jgar and the jihadists are part of the problem, not the solution.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:51 AM

    "When the US government decides to brand me a terrorist with no evidence, then I will know the Jihadists have taken over America."



    Feb. 07 2013 10:49 AM

    It is monstrous for anyone to require our soldiers to risk their lives or limbs to perform tasks required by the war we are engaged in. I expect this type of effete "pettifogging" accompanied the abandonment of hand-to-hand combat in favor of long distance firearms. Why didn't we have a representative from the rehabilitation ward of a veteran's hospital to have someone with skin in the game.
    This seems to be the same pettifogging discussion that accompanied the abandonment of hand to hand combat as the primary means for the folly of war.
    (? Was Lincoln somehow at fault for allowing Grant to slay American citizens on American soil without obtaining individually court vetted warrants? I'm sure the "law student" guest would consider that a worthy intellectual question - they usually have mentalities suited for counting how many billable hours can be fitted onto pinheads such as themselves.)

    Feb. 07 2013 10:49 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    The mindset of jihadist fellow travelers is quite amazing. Their brains should be examined for what makes their brains so addled for their knee-jerk support of enemies.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:49 AM

    Make no mistake, this practice of killing with drone is TERRORISM.

    Osama cheers from the grave with the death of every innocent child.

    bin Laden wins when we become the very thing we purport to loath.

    Sick sh*t.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:46 AM
    John A.

    "Gone are the days of good military might vs. evil military might"
    That's amorality and when it's us saying it that makes the moral high ground *outside* the United States. It's a mistake to allow such rationalization and the job of constitutional United states to repair itself and replace weak ideologies with defensible Law, albeit it with an embarrassing lack of timeliness.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:46 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To David

    Why don't you post how many German and Japanese kids were killed versus American kids in WWII by US bombings? You want the number of Israeli or American kids to be killed equal to the number of our enemies?
    Well, how unfair of the US and Israel. We should just now stop and let the jihadists to kill more of our kids, just to make it a fair fight. We should have let the Germans and Japanese bomb us more, just to be fair.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:44 AM

    steve from manhattan ~

    Excellent observation!

    Feb. 07 2013 10:43 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    If Brennan gets confirmed, then I think I may lose the last shred of hope for accountability on the executive branch.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:42 AM

    Israeli vs. Pakistani children murdered.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:40 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    jgar - thank you for admitting your cowardice. Good luck in life you close minded fool!

    Feb. 07 2013 10:40 AM

    Jim from Brooklyn ~

    Bob from Brooklyn ~

    Unfortunately, paranoid ideologues with reduced capacity are really beyond reach.

    Great try, though!!

    Feb. 07 2013 10:40 AM

    Steve, it's War! To suggest that some wars have a "moral compass" and other do not is just ridiculous.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:39 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To Jim

    When the US government decides to brand me a terrorist with no evidence, then I will know the Jihadists have taken over America.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:37 AM
    steve from manhattan

    All we know for sure is that our US government will lie, and do whatever it wishes to do, American and International law be damned. The real question should be -- how can we afford to wage the drone war? Gone are the days of good military might vs. evil military might -- now it's a guerilla war against this tactical strategy known as "terrorism", waged by shadowy peoples without any moral compass. If we have any hopes of winning this, or at least not losing it outright, we will have to appeal to the "hearts and minds" of the worlds populations, the peoples, especially those in areas (such as the Middle East) where history has taught them that we are not to be trusted. Drones are destroying any chance to reach them, to persuade them, or to win their hearts and minds. And for what? What's the advantage that is so crucial that we're willing to give up American's reputation as a protector of human rights, and give up the greater battle of winning people to the side of democracy? With every drone strike, we put every single American soldier, representative, worker, citizen and tourist on any foreign soil in imminent danger for their lives... Is this really what democracy looks like?

    Feb. 07 2013 10:36 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To Bob

    First of all, I will not keep my "propaganda" to myself, and second the charge that all wars are due to war profiteers is an old charge going back to the Napoleonic wars. and for the most part a ridiculous one.

    I am not afraid of war profiteers. I am afraid of jihadists and other terrorists whom liberals are trying to protect, just as they tried to protect the communist terrorists of yore.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:36 AM
    Jim from Brooklyn

    @jgarbuz from Queens: And what happens when the government decides that YOU or a loved one is a terrorist? You'd likely change your mind then...
    The number of innocent people, including US CITIZENS (and this is a documented fact) that have been imprisoned during the war on terror should make us all (your close-minded self included, jgarbuz) afraid of what the government can do without being kept in check.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:34 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    jgar - I did direct my anger at the 'jihadist'. I enlisted after 9/11, did my service, kept my wits and critical thinking, and saw what we were actually doing was not helpful or wrong. I appreciate if you keep your dumb propoganda to yourself because you know nothing about how the military/private sector work to perpetuate war, line their pockets and keep people like you living in fear. They feed off your fear to further their agendas. Wake up, dum-dum.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:32 AM

    At what point in the very near future, are weaponized drones put into service in our domestic skies??

    Feb. 07 2013 10:32 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    to dboy

    US citizens fighting for the enemy should be executed only after a trial in absentia. IN that limited sense, I agree. However we need no judicial process to eliminate terrorists who follow no international laws whatsoever.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:30 AM
    Jim from Brooklyn

    George asked a ridiculous question, and in doing so discounted the lives of women, children, and other innocent civilians in other countries. Drone strikes are as terrorist as anything perpetrated against the United States -- it's big business like anything else that drives our wars in this age.

    Also, DO we all agree on 9/11 as one of the guests implies?

    Feb. 07 2013 10:29 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    To Bob

    If you want to criticize bloodlust, direct most of your criticisms to the bloodthirsty cutthroat Jihadists whose only law is their interpretation of Sharia.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:27 AM

    While I'm no fan retrograde, religious fundamentalist, terrorist, psychopaths (Taliban, Ed from Larchmont, al Qal-Qaeda, jgarbuz from Queens or john from office). I do find it repugnant that extrajudicial killing is being conducted in my name.

    BO has killed more innocents with drones than his dimwitted predecessor.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:27 AM

    Caller "George" asks a question, and the guest states what the actual question is supposed to be. Unlike.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:25 AM
    Amy from Manhattan

    And when you pay people to be informants, they may inform on someone else for the reward money, or because they have a dispute w/them, or because they want their land. That's how a lot of the people in Guantanamo got turned in. That was bad enough, but in this case the US may be killing people based on deliberately wrong info.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:24 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    The bloodlust and support for war crimes of my fellows Americans are a continuing embarrassment.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:24 AM
    John A

    Wonder what George Lucas thinks about all this?
    It would be wonderful John Brennan's nomination were tossed out, but I won't hold my breath.
    Producers: matching caller George with the guest: great. Onair guest: you speak for me, and, Thanks.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:24 AM
    Syd from East Village

    What about the use of military contractors in drone strikes? How do the guests think this affects the legal and moral issues involved?

    Feb. 07 2013 10:22 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    The supporters of Jihad are really panicking. That's a good sign that America is winning, when the enemy starts whining. God Bless the Predator and Abe Kerem, the Israeli-American engineer who invented it.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:22 AM
    Pablo Alto from Brooklyn, Yo!

    How can anyone on either side of the issue speak with such surety. We are in an era of asymmetrical warfare and while I agree that this is extremely difficult and complex issue, to make statements about what these folks KNOW about facts on the ground is dubious.

    I am gravely concerned about these tactics, but the idea that the courts will be managing war strategies seems like a stretch.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:21 AM

    we are 'careful' to avoid civilian casualties. 'sometimes we don't carry out a strike because of possible civilian casualties'...

    wow.. doesn't inspire much confidence...

    Feb. 07 2013 10:20 AM
    Ben from Park Slope

    This guy is really a blowhard and I can't believe Brian is not offering any serious pushback. Yes there may be people in tribal areas who are being surveilled and in some cases killed by drones.

    These are people with whom we are at war. By their decision (in the case of people like Anwar Al Alaki). And in this case Drones are a MUCH better way to wage war than would be invasions of nations that Bush did in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    So I'm delighted that we will have debates, as we need to be active and open in our discussions ANYTIME we go to war and take life. These are serious issues. But to complain on and on that people are living under the threat of attack and surveillance is worth less time than you are giving this fellow.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:20 AM
    Jon Pope from Ridge, NY

    Please ask how this was is any more horrific then loud fighter planes and bombers that constantly flew over Europeans, Africans and Asians during WWII that bombed and attacked just about anything and everything at anytime? Or how the Vietnamese (North and South) felt from our largest bombing campaign ever in he history of man?

    Feb. 07 2013 10:19 AM
    Henry from MD

    To those who vociferously bewailed Israeli attacks on Gaza, now you have an evocative description of how Israeli citizens in Southern towns like Sderot felt under the rain of thousands of rockets fired at them from Gaza.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:19 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    It's absurd to talk about "human rights" for those who hide behind their own children and break every law of international war, and if that were not enough, have a religious doctrine that says that if they die fighting the "infidel" they become martyrs with instant access to Paradise. \

    As for killing US traitors fighting for the enemy, I do think there should be a quick trial in absentia before they are executed. The evidence of their treason should be brought to light first.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:18 AM

    Here is how "careful" Obama is in making sure civilians aren't murdered.

    Obama's Drone War on innocent civilians in Asia

    "The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain has estimated that, in the first three years after President Obama took office, between 282 and 535 civilians were credibly reported killed by drone strikes — including more than 60 children."

    "We’re looking right now at a reality that President Obama has essentially extended the very [drone war] policies that many of his supporters once opposed under President Bush," says Scahill."

    Also, check this out:

    Obama's War on U.S. citizens in the United States with drone attacks

    Feb. 07 2013 10:18 AM

    I'm as liberal as the next BL listener, but come on people. If you are an American, and you're hanging out in Mali or Yemen or Pakistan, you should have a very good reason. Esp' if you're hanging out with Al Q's. Other countries have their drones, so for us to abandon ours would be a white flag. This is the present state of war and the future. Maybe Ed never dreamed of this, but it's not new news. Drones are far better than the alternatives - raiding entire countries like Bush. US civilians should stay away from the bad guys in bad lands or they reap what they sow.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:17 AM
    John A

    Thanks again guys.
    No warcriminal status for my country. That's what this effort is all about.
    Here is that Whitepaper in a, ahem, more accessible form:

    Feb. 07 2013 10:17 AM

    Why do so many American journalists qualify any and all characterizations of the effects of drone attacks on civilians with an emphasis on victims' _opinions_. American journalists rarely if ever offer a qualification like "What's the effect of Taliban attacks, _in your view_?" But impacts on civilians of US drone attacks invariably couch any critical statement with reference to the critic's opinion.

    As for the Amnesty International point: The obliviousness to human rights is shown in WNYC's map of opinion.

    Obama can assert that the people on the list are terrorists as much as he likes. He supposedly studied law, he should know better. WORSE: The president has asserted that _any_ male over age 16 or so is assumed to be a terrorist. We know this.

    Asserting a presumption of guilt, as the president has, is directly repugnant to American standards of justice, including this enshrined in the Constitution.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:15 AM
    john from office

    As a witness to the 911 attacks and living in NY during the aftermath, I live in terror and was expecting further attacks. I don't care about these people being killed. Maybe if they did not entertain these animals in their societies, we would not be overhead. Continue the program and kill as many of these people as possible.

    Those who claim we should arrest these people, you then should be the first in the door, to do that arrest.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:14 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    The kill list should be public so that if someone finds their name on the list, they could at least attempt to defend themselves in some form.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:14 AM
    jgarbuz from Queens

    OMG! Drones are terrorizing the terrorists and their families! OMG! Terrorists can no longer safely sit down surrounded with their many wives and children to a hearty meal just after having sent out suicide bombers.

    The fact is, the defenders of the jihad are really mad! Foiled again!

    Feb. 07 2013 10:12 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    We are witnesses war crimes right in front of our eyes. Even if you're a warhawk, you can't sit by and allow this to happen. Think of the consequences and how these things evolve to hurt innocent people.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:11 AM
    Bob from Brooklyn

    We are creating the Terminator scenario. We are to blame for how this turns out 10 - 20 years from now when our children and grandchildren live under a world dictatorship. This white paper and it's 'rules' are validation of war crimes. THIS HAS TO STOP RIGHT NOW.

    Feb. 07 2013 10:06 AM
    Arthur from Mantoloking, NJ

    Firstly I am not pro war. That said with the huge advances in weaponry technology in the last century how different is a"unmanned weapon" from from other "traditional powerful weapons" (long range missile, Battleship cannons accurate from miles away,manned jets/Helicopters). I mean really!Can we really say one is better or more acceptable than the other.

    Feb. 07 2013 09:57 AM
    Ed from Larchmont

    We thought that torture, to whatever degree it was used during the Bush Administration, was terrible. But we didn't dream of drones.

    Feb. 07 2013 05:45 AM

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