Last Thursday, the Obama Administration came forward with the news that a drone strike back in January killed an American and an Italian, along with the four militants who were holding them hostage. The American, Warren Weinstein, is the 8th American killed by the Obama Adminstration’s drone program. Of those eight, only 6 were even suspected of being part of a terrorist network.
As numerous reporters have noted, there’s hardly any transparency when it comes to how the CIA is carrying out these attacks. It would be one thing if the secrecy of these attacks served some practical purpose, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anywhere.
In Somalia and Yemen, our drone strikes have only compounded the instability. And in Pakistan, where the Obama Administration has given the CIA even greater leeway – and where Weinstein and Italian hostage Giovanni Lo Porto were killed – not even the most strident domestic opponents of the Islamic radicals think it’s working. Writing recently in the Globe and Mail, former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Husain Haqqani writes about the Obama Administration’s misguided belief that they can win the war on terror by dropping bombs from flying robots:
The fascination with drones reflects the desire of leaders to be able to fight wars without risking casualties to their own side. The Obama administration has preferred using unmanned aircraft, armed with cameras and missiles, in locating and eliminating terrorists over committing troops or even intelligence officers in the field. The death of hostages, coupled with the fact that terrorists continue to recruit and multiply despite drone strikes, points to the folly of that approach.
His piece gets at the heart of why drone warfare fails and why there’s so much official secrecy around it. Drones didn’t become a popular method of battling radical groups because of their effectiveness in war. They became the primary means of battling radical groups because of their effectiveness in selling us on war. The lack of transparency – and of dead Americans – keeps this disconnect alive and keeps public support for drone strikes at a much higher level. If Americans fully understood how this method of dealing with groups like Al Qaeda isn’t just a failure, but actually counterproductive, there might start to be some momentum to wind it down. But for now, there’s still a widespread belief that this method of waging the war or terror actually works. If you’re a drone manufacturer or a politician afraid to challenge the CIA, the less said about these failures the better.
More news items from the last two weeks…
Justin Wolfers, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy write about the phenomenon of 1.5 million “missing” black men, arguably the most significant civil liberties issue in modern-day America. Will Bunch discusses the impact of this phenomenon in Philadelphia. Tony Newman explains how the drug war is largely to blame for it. Mike Konczal reviews Naomi Murakawa’s book on liberal complicity in this mass incarceration crisis. Bill Clinton says “My bad“. Hillary Clinton says she’ll clean up his mess.
An FBI Forensics team gave false testimony regarding hair analysis at numerous trials over decades. Daniel Rivero writes about a case where a man was sent to prison for 28 years based on hair that was supposedly his but actually came from a dog. Conor Friedersdorf adds some additional thoughts on how depressingly common these stories are. Radley Balko provides a history of forensics.
Senators Ron Wyden and Rand Paul, along with Representative Zoe Lofgren, introduced a bill that would amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to prevent the kinds of misguided prosecutions that led to the suicide of programmer and activist Aaron Swartz. In response, Senators Kirk and Gillibrand announce a bill that would stiffen those penalties, but don’t actually release the text of the bill.
Bruce Schneier writes about Stingrays and other IMSI-catchers used by law enforcement to be able to track us by our cell phones. In Tacoma, a defendant who was challenging the use of Stingrays agreed to a settlement.
Trevor Timm writes about the lack of internet security knowledge in Congress.
Jonathan Blanks discusses some recent Supreme Court decisions regarding the 4th Amendment.
Gary Legum reminds us why Jeb Bush shouldn’t be allowed to get within 1000 miles of the White House.
James Ridgeway writes about long prison sentences as the modern day equivalent of the old practice of banishment.
Government-backed violence against labor organizers doesn’t appear to be a violation of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Jacob Hornberger writes about how drug laws and individual freedom can’t co-exist.
Let’s say it all together – bulk surveillance of our communications is more than just a violation of our privacy, it’s a largely useless waste of time and resources. Greg Sargent gives us some hope that NSA’s bulk metadata surveillance may be ending soon.
Zeeshan Aleem writes about the success of Seattle’s drug offender diversion program.
Eli Saslow reports on the firing of Orting’s only black police officer.
A gay California corrections officer was locked in a room with a dog by a crackpot psychiatrist after complaining about discrimination at his job.
Victoria Kim writes about several southern California towns that are using forfeiture laws to steal millions of dollars from their own residents.
Federal prosecutors are trying to prevent a Singapore-based tech expert from testifying in a trial against a California man accused of jailbreaking XBOX 360s.
An Albuquerque police officer has allegedly been caught on video turning off his body camera before administering a beating.
In Texas, a man has been held in state custody since 1983 after a previous conviction had been overturned.
A Texas police officer was caught on video violently throwing a DWI suspect to the pavement and knocking her unconscious as her 6-year-old daughter looked on.
Dominic Holden writes about what Texas legislators are planning to do in order to stop gay marriage in the state.
Oklahoma intends to use nitrogen asphyxiation to administer the death penalty.
Law enforcement officials in Garden City, Kansas insist that their decision to kidnap the 11-year-old son of a medical marijuana user is in the child’s best interest.
Law enforcement officials assigned to Ferguson referred to protestors as “enemy forces”.
In Wisconsin, police have been raiding conservative activists and telling them to stay silent about what transpired.
A Chicago police officer was acquitted of a murder that he committed while off-duty. The reason given for the judge’s ruling doesn’t appear to make any sense, and the prosecutors appear to have given zero fucks about the case (or even purposefully tanked it).
Also in Chicago, the city will soon be paying reparations to the victims of police torture.
Sheriff’s deputies in Chicago are accused of stripping a deceased DUI victim and taking nude photos of her by the side of the road.
Michigan governor Rick Snyder opposes having the state of Michigan recognize the marriage of a gay man who’s terminally ill and married his partner in 2013 in New York.
A woman from Ohio has won a settlement from the federal government after being strip-searched at the Detroit airport.
A family in Ohio is unable to get effective medicine for their daughter’s seizures because Ohio still doesn’t have a medical marijuana law.
Vaidya Gullapalli reports on the root causes of the recent hunger strike at Youngstown, Ohio’s supermax prison.
Near the University of Mississippi, local law enforcement is targeting low-level drug offenders to play the very dangerous role of confidential informant in order to avoid life-altering criminal records.
Anti-choice extremists in North Carolina are trying to implement a 72-hour waiting period for women to have an abortion.
A 94-year-old in North Carolina was arrested on marijuana charges.
Susan Ferriss writes about an 11-year-old autistic boy in Virginia whose treatment by both his school and the criminal justice system is raising some troubling questions.
A Baltimore man named Freddie Gray died of a severe spine injury after being arrested in Baltimore. This incident, after years of horrible relations between police and citizens, exploded into city-wide rioting. Like other cities that have recently seen unrest, Baltimore aggressively polices minority communities for petty crimes and has a history of using excessive force. David Simon points his finger squarely at the drug war.
Police in Harrisburg, PA will be releasing a video of a police officer shooting an unarmed man in the back as he laid face down.
In Philadelphia, suspects being injured in police vans is also a widespread problem.
A Philadelphia narcotics officer is being charged with perjury after repeatedly lying in court under oath.
Joel Anderson writes about the case of Shaneen Allen, the black single mom whose plight after violating New Jersey’s gun laws drew large support from gun rights supporters.
New York City is tracking cars throughout the city via their EZPass boxes, even far from where tolls are collected. And the New York Times editorializes against the city’s biased and unfair summons system.
Prince Edward Island is the only part of Canada where abortion services are not available.
Mexico has recently been deporting record numbers of Central American children fleeing their home countries.
The British government is starting to consider ways to assist refugees trying to escape Libya’s violence on boats across the Mediterranean that are sinking at a high rate. Dara Lind writes about the legal obligations that European nations have with respect to helping these refugees.
Jeremy Scahill writes about the role that the U.S. military base in Ramstein, Germany plays in America’s drone wars.
A pro-Russian journalist was shot by masked assailants in Kiev.
Israel’s Supreme Court has given a green light to confiscate property from displaced Palestinians. Young activists in Gaza planned an international day of solidarity for the victims of Israel’s occupation for April 29.
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was sentenced to 20 years in prison for inciting violence, illegally detaining people, and torture – all things that the regime that’s prosecuting him is also doing.
Sudan is trying to keep international observers out of Darfur.
Human rights activist Rasul Jafarov was sentenced for 6.5 years in Azerbaijan.
Iran has provided no evidence at all to the Washington Post to explain why their Tehran-based reporter, Jason Rezaian, is facing trial.
Indonesia is facing international condemnation for the execution of 8 alleged drug traffickers.
The Committee to Protect Journalists have named Eritrea and North Korea as the two most censored countries in the world.