headlines that the dead were ”militants” – even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed. They simply cite always-unnamed “officials” claiming that the dead were “militants.” It’s the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it’s true.
This practice continues even though key Obama officials have been caught lying, a term used advisedly, about how many civilians they’re killing. I’ve written and said many times before that in American media discourse, the definition of “militant” is any human being whose life is extinguished when an American missile or bomb detonates (that term was even used when Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after a drone killed his father, even though nobody claims the teenager was anything but completely innocent: “Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen”).
This morning, the New York Times has a very lengthy and detailed article about President Obama’s counter-Terrorism policies based on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.” I’m writing separately about the numerous revelations contained in that article, but want specifically to highlight this one vital passage about how the Obama administration determines who is a “militant.” The article explains that Obama’s rhetorical emphasis on avoiding civilian deaths “did not significantly change” the drone program, because Obama himself simply expanded the definition of a “militant” to ensure that it includes virtually everyone killed by his drone strikes. Just read this remarkable passage:
Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.
This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.
“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”
Yet, somehow we don’t have enough money for schools, healthcare or food to feed the hungry.
The police state is becoming more apparent everything single day. The government isn’t even being sly about it anymore. It is just out in the open now and most people just don’t care which is the scary thing.
Earlier this week, the federal government announced that the Air Force might be dispatching drones to a backyard near you. The stated purpose of these spies in the sky is to assist local police to find missing persons or kidnap victims, or to chase bad guys.
If the drone operator sees you doing anything of interest (Is your fertilizer for the roses or to fuel a bomb? Is that Sudafed for your cold or your meth habit? Are you smoking in front of your kids?), the feds say they may take a picture of you and keep it. The feds predict that they will dispatch or authorize about 30,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles across America in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, more than 300 local and state police departments are awaiting federal permission to use the drones they already have purchased — usually with federal stimulus funds.
The government is out of control.
If the police use a drone without a warrant to see who or what is in your backyard or your bedroom, or if while looking for a missing child the drone takes a picture of you in your backyard or bedroom and the government keeps the picture, its use is unnatural and unconstitutional.
I say “unnatural” because we all have a natural right to privacy; it is a fundamental right that is inherent in our humanity. All of us have times of the day and moments in our behavior when we expect that no one — least of all the government — will be watching. When the government watches us during those times, it violates our natural right to privacy. It also violates our constitutional right to privacy. The Supreme Court has held consistently that numerous clauses in the Bill of Rights keep the government at bay without a warrant.
Even when we don’t have an expectation of privacy, we do have a right to be left alone. But merely watching us in public isn’t enough for the police, as many street corner cameras are equipped with listening devices and tiny megaphones. We can expect that these devices will soon bark commands: “Put down that BlackBerry.” “Look to your right before crossing.” “Don’t kiss her; a car is coming.” Actually, Big Brother is coming, and he’s not smiling.
Big Brother is watching from the skies, as well as the streets. This started when the Department of Defense decided to offer help to police — and they are prepared to accept. Never mind that the military may not lawfully operate within our borders, except in the case of rebellion, and then only when publicly authorized by the president. Never mind that the military may not lawfully be used for law enforcement, except in the case of disaster, and then only when publicly authorized by the president. And never mind that this use of drones by the Air Force was not the result of legislation debated and enacted by Congress, but was done under the authority of the president alone.
Add to all this the use of drones to kill people. President Obama has argued that he can use drones to kill Americans overseas, whose deaths he believes will keep us all safer, without any constitutional due process whatsoever. His attorney general has argued that the president’s careful consideration of each target and the narrow use of deadly drones are an adequate substitute for due process. Of course, no court has ever ruled that way. The president’s national security adviser has argued that the use of drones is humane since they are “surgical” and only kill their targets. Of course, that’s not true, but it misses the point. Without a declaration of war, the president can’t lawfully kill anyone, no matter how humane his killing.
How long will it be before the Air Force and the police adopt the unconstitutional arguments of the president’s wrongheaded advisers and use the drones not only to spy but also to kill Americans in America?
The whole reason we have a Bill of Rights is to assure that tyranny does not happen here, to guarantee that the government to which we have supposedly consented will leave us alone. Do you think the government accepts that? Would you feel safe with a drone in your backyard? Would you feel like you were in America?