Obama’s Drone Legacy

In the waning months of his presidency, the Obama administration has finally released an assessment of civilians killed in its drone strikes outside areas of “active hostilities.” An Executive Order accompanying the assessment also promises the protection of civilians in counter-terrorism operations, an acknowledgement of responsibility for civilian casualties, and financial compensation for victims or their families.

According to the three-page summary released by the Director of National Intelligence, the US has killed 64 to 116 “non-combatants” in 473 US drone strikes since 2009. It is impossible to compare the government’s aggregate assessment to much more thorough, case-specific information compiled by independent sources such as the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Even still, the government figure is absurdly low and previous reporting on civilian deaths in just a handful of drone strikes already approaches the high-end of casualties admitted to by the government.

And yet to quibble with the numbers, even as it is necessary, would be to miss the point. The release of the assessment and the Executive Order has precious little to do with the long-awaited transparency. Instead, it is a calculated attempt to ensure Obama’s legacy is untainted by a program of extrajudicial murder and wanton killing, one which extends beyond any recognizable battlefield.

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Terrorism: Theirs and Ours

One esteemed scholar of terrorism is very worried. William Braniff is concerned about the possibility of the Islamic State exploiting technology for nefarious ends. A mercilessly violent ideology aided by thoroughly modern technological means will spell disaster for the US in this latest phase of the War on Terror. The FBI’s recent battle with Apple illustrates how important it is to underscore exactly what technological platforms law enforcement should be able to monitor if it is to prevent this horrific disaster from unfolding.
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New Article: The Cost of Secrecy

I have a new article on antiwar.com on the implications of secrecy in US military operations in the targeted areas. An excerpt:

Over the past thirteen years the U.S. has been involved in a perpetual war that includes covert operations spanning the globe, at times pursued unilaterally and other times in collaboration with local regimes. These operations require extreme secrecy, preclude all attempts to redress grievances, and ultimately uproot any semblance of democratic accountability. The intimidation, torture, and even murder of journalists and activists seeking to document and publicize these policies are crucial components of an embedded imperative to secrecy. While legal and human rights groups in the United States argue for more transparency on covert operations and drone strikes, it is usually forgotten that challenging secrecy in targeted areas involve much deadlier stakes.

Read more here.