Friday, April 05, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #102 - Part 1

Good news #1: Not-so-secret drones

I've talked some about the White House drone program, and how it is so wrapped up in secrecy that it's hard to know just what's going on and how that's just how President Hopey-Changey likes it.

Well, now, not quite so much.

About two weeks ago, a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, ruled that the CIA, which until now has been running the targeted killing program on behalf of Obama, can no longer refuse to respond to Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, requests on secrecy grounds.

The ACLU had filed an FOIA request in January 2010, over three years ago, seeking to learn
when, where, and against whom drone strikes can be authorized, and how and whether the U.S. ensures compliance with international law restricting extrajudicial killings.
The CIA responded with a so-called “Glomar” response - a “neither confirm nor deny” response - arguing that it couldn't release any documents because even acknowledging such documents exist (and therefore acknowledging the existence of the program) would harm national security.

Initially, a district court agreed - and when the ACLU appealed, the White House continued to make that argument even after Obama's nominee to lead the CIA, John Brennan, spent hours before the Senate Intelligence Committee praising the CIA's targeted killing program and discussing how he would oversee it!

But the Appeals Court has overruled that lower-court decision, taking the astonishingly reasonable real-world attitude that the CIA cannot deny the existence of a targeted killing program that has been the subject of mainstream political discourse, Senate hearings, filibusters, and even remarks from Obama himself.

The drone program has already killed more than 4,000 people - nearly the number of US troops killed in the Iraq War - in an unknown number of countries. Quoting the ACLU,
The public surely has a right to know who the government is killing, and why, and in which countries, and on whose orders.
Now, it will be harder for The Amazing Mr. O. - who wanted, bizarrely, the courts to have to act as if no one knew what everyone knew - to hide behind a veil of secrecy. At least on this. And that is good news.


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