Friday, January 29, 2010

Drone Strikes & Secrecy

I happened to notice an article at MSNBC called, "Secrecy of U.S. strikes in Pakistan criticized." There are some legitimate concerns about the drone assassination program. Are the results worth the collateral damage, the public relations problems, and the destabilizing effects on Pakistan? That's a difficult question to answer. But one thing that shouldn't be in question is the need for secrecy. 

You'll hear many people claim that we need more transparency from the government, that secrecy is dangerous, and that openness is the best policy. What we actually need is far more secrecy, particularly when it pertains to the secret operations of secret intelligence agencies. Many of our problems in the intelligence arena stem from the fact that we have failed to keep secrets. But getting back to the article,

More information about the CIA-run program could help offset opposition in Pakistan and also assuage concerns that the strikes violate international law.
How ridiculous is that assertion? First, opposition in Pakistan has nothing to do with not having enough information. The fact that foreign drones are operating in their country and killing Pakistanis, whatever portion are innocent victims, is going to produce opposition. Providing information that shows that a high proportion of militants are being killed, will simply be dismissed as U.S. propaganda. Second, intelligence agencies such as the CIA are designed in part specifically to violate international law. Obviously assassinating people is going to be interpreted as being against international law. If it is in the U.S. interest to eliminate these targets, international law is irrelevant except for public relations purposes. And that's another reason to maintain as much secrecy as possible.
"I think the main concern for those of us looking at it from the outside is we don't know what the criteria are for the individual decision of whether to pull the trigger or not," said Paul Pillar, a former senior counterterrorism official at the CIA.
Here's someone that should know better. As a former member of the CIA, he should be aware that he doesn't have a need to know. Sorry, Paul. Operational security is far more important than your desire to feel good about the drone assassination program. And then of course there are the usual suspects.
Several different groups, including the U.N. and the American Civil Liberties Union, have pressed the U.S. to reveal who it is killing in the strikes but have so far been rebuffed.
And they should continue to be rebuffed. The ACLU is an open supporter of terrorist rights, and the UN clearly can't be trusted with any sensitive information.
The U.S. government refuses even to acknowledge the drone program in Pakistan
The Obama administration is doing exactly the right thing in refusing to release more details. The less revealed the better. 

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