TheBlaze recently reported that a journalist for The American Conservative was promptly "thrown" out of the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday for asking White House adviser Valerie Jarrett about the Obama Administration's drone use policy. That same evening, President Barack Obama speaking with CNN shed light on the rarely talked about criteria for launching a drone attack.
Now, Wired writes some experts are calling out Obama on his answers to CNN's questions, while a military expert told TheBlaze his responses were appropriate.
First, Obama in the interview said the criteria for using drones is "is very tight and very strict." Here are Obama's answers for using the unmanned aerial vehicles in attacks (via the Bureau Investigates):
- "It has to be a target that is authorized by our laws."
- "It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative."
- "It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States."
- "We’ve got to make sure that in whatever operations we conduct, we are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties."
- "That while there is a legal justification for us to try and stop [American citizens] from carrying out plots… they are subject to the protections of the constitution and due process."
Wired called at least two of these points "half-truths." The ones it questions most specifically are 2, 3 and 5. Wired reports Micah Zenko, an analyst who has tracked the use of drones in wars for the Council on Foreign Relations, saying it is "simply not true" to say every drone launched in an attack was for "some operational plot against the United States."
“The claim that the 3,000+ people killed in roughly 375 nonbattlefield targeted killings were all engaged in actual operational plots against the U.S. defies any understanding of the scope of what America has been doing for the past ten years," Zenko said in an email to Wired.
Zenko also takes issue with Obama clarifying at the beginning of the interview that he needed to be "careful" with what he said since some information is "classified." To this, Wired writes:
But, as Zenko notes, “that is total BS. The president has the authority to declassify anything. That authority was reaffirmed by the White House in one of its first executive orders,” issued in 2009. If the president felt like talking about the drone approval process, he could. Obama doesn’t have to leave the discussion up to unnamed officials, former subordinates, and authored leakers. He chooses to do so, presumably because the issues involved are so thorny.
Siding with Obama protecting classified information, Brandon Webb, a former Navy SEAL and editor-in-chief of SOFREP.com, said in an email to TheBlaze that since drone strikes include sensitive intelligence collection, providing too many details could give the enemy an advantage.
"Some things are better left unsaid," Webb wrote.
With regard to Obama's criteria as a whole, Webb told TheBlaze Obama laid everything out in plain language and "anything further would be too much."
"The administration is under the microscope already for sensitive information leaks, I think they are going to have to walk a very thin line in the future," he said.
Still, it is with regard to Constitutional rights that Webb says Americans need to be wary. With Congress tasking the Federal Aviation Administration to update its drone regulations to open up the sky further for military, commercial and private UAVs, discussion of the technology's use above American soil has been a strong topic in the media and among civil liberties advocates of late.
"The larger concern I have as an American citizen is total lack of privacy," Webb wrote. "Example: using drones to collect intelligence on American soil and on American citizens (already happening in some cases) in the name of homeland defense. We are becoming more Orwellian as a society by the day and it bothers me. American citizens need to vigorously band together to protect our constitutional rights or face a future of living in a government fishbowl where everything is monitored."
Watch Obama's interview on CNN: