Congress Isn’t Overseeing Drone War Either
This weekend, The New York Times’ public editor wrote about unanswered questions in the drone war the United States is waging overseas. She’s unsatisfied with the quality of information her paper—and the media generally—are reporting. And guess what: Congress isn’t overseeing drone war either.
We’ve been looking around for new, uncovered subjects and things not covered in the political debates. In the face of an upcoming election, America is most concerned with the economy, and for good reason. But when everyone else zigs, we zag, so let’s talk about drones.
To the extent it has, the issue began to crystallize when in late September Atlantic columnist Conor Friedersdorf wrote an impassioned column titled, “Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama.” He is not anti-Obama, but the “needless killing of innocent kids” in America’s drone war is a deal-breaker for him. He won’t vote for anyone who maintains the current policy of the United States in Pakistan.
People had a lot of strong opinions with respect to Friedersdorf’s voting plans, but few people have opinions about the drone war policy. Why? They don’t know about it.
Go looking for drone policy in Congress and you won’t learn much more. Not a single bill introduced in Congress over the last two years talks about the military use of drones. (Three bills deal with domestic spying via drone: S. 3287 and H.R. 5925, both known as the “Preserving Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act of 2012,” and H.R. 6199, the “Preserving American Privacy Act of 2012.”)
There is a thing called the Unmanned Systems Caucus chaired by Congressmen Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX). The two are cheerleaders in Congress for unmanned aerial vehicles, not only for their uses in warmaking, but in border control, science, and law enforcement.
McKeon introduced H.R. 4310, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. In floor debate on the bill this May, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) offered an amendment to the bill that would have prohibited Joint Special Operations Command from “conducting signature drone strikes, drone strikes against targets whose identity is not known or based solely on patterns of behavior.” The amendment failed on a voice vote.
So maybe drone war is being overseen by Congress. Maybe we’re all happy with it, and it’s plain ol’ non-controversial. But one has doubts, given the public debate that Friedersdorf and others, such as Glenn Greenwald, are spurring.
When we call for more transparency, it’s so that information about all the things government does, including drone warfare, is more apparent to everybody. And so we don’t have to nibble around the edges of policies that are mostly hidden from you. In the meantime, did you know the U.S. government is conducting a drone war on your behalf?