Where Rand Paul and John Brennan can agree on US drone program (+video)
Sen. Rand Paul's epic filibuster raised valid concerns about the US drone program, delaying the vote to confirm John Brennan as CIA director. Turns out Mr. Brennan also values transparency and accountability and may support the transfer of CIA drone operations to the US military.
Sen. Rand Paul's epic 13-hour speech-turned-filibuster on the Senate floor yesterday raised serious – and valid – concerns about the US drone program. Mr. Paul's remarks delayed the vote to confirm John Brennan as CIA director, but as it turns out, Mr. Brennan also values transparency and accountability. Though he is known as the architect of America’s drone program, as newly-confirmed CIA director, Brennan may, in fact, challenge the current reporting structure.Skip to next paragraph
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At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, Brennan said unequivocally, “The CIA should not be doing traditional military activities and operations.” This is in keeping with insider reports that Brennan has repeatedly advocated for President Obama to transfer drone operations from the CIA to the Pentagon.
And Brennan would be right to advocate for such a shift. As America enters the next decade of the fight against Al Qaeda, strategic and ethical considerations require that the government refocus its attention on high-level leaders, avoid civilian casualties, and remain accountable to the American public. To do so, it needs to capitalize on the military’s superior expertise, relative transparency, and overall effectiveness by giving the Pentagon command of all armed drone operations.
Brennan is well positioned to push for this change. A staunch advocate of transparency, who even objects to using the blind carbon copy (BCC) function on emails, Brennan recently told the Washington Post, “I think the rule should be that if we’re going to take actions overseas that result in the deaths of people, the United States should take responsibility for that.”
Brennan’s call for enhanced transparency conflicts with the culture of secrecy that is often cited as the primary advantage of the CIA-led drone program. The agency’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny its covert operations, and as long as the US government declines to acknowledge drone strikes, so can other countries. From 2004 through 2007, Pakistani authorities frequently claimed that the blasts produced by drone strikes were a result of bomb makers inadvertently blowing themselves up. And in recent years, the Pakistani government continues to deny that it has consented to US drone operations.
But the facade of deniability has, in reality, long since disappeared. The CIA drone program is the worst kept secret in Washington, largely as a result of the Obama administration’s eagerness to claim credit for its successes.