March 10, 2013
WANT REAL TRANSPARENCY?
How a U.S. Citizen Came to Be in America's Cross Hairs (MARK MAZZETTI, CHARLIE SAVAGE and SCOTT SHANE, 3/09/13, NY Times)
One morning in late September 2011, a group of American drones took off from an airstrip the C.I.A. had built in the remote southern expanse of Saudi Arabia. The drones crossed the border into Yemen, and were soon hovering over a group of trucks clustered in a desert patch of Jawf Province, a region of the impoverished country once renowned for breeding Arabian horses.A group of men who had just finished breakfast scrambled to get to their trucks. One was Anwar al-Awlaki, the firebrand preacher, born in New Mexico, who had evolved from a peddler of Internet hatred to a senior operative in Al Qaeda's branch in Yemen. Another was Samir Khan, another American citizen who had moved to Yemen from North Carolina and was the creative force behind Inspire, the militant group's English-language Internet magazine.Two of the Predator drones pointed lasers on the trucks to pinpoint the targets, while the larger Reapers took aim. The Reaper pilots, operating their planes from thousands of miles away, readied for the missile shots, and fired.It was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, intense deliberation by lawyers working for President Obama and turf fights between the Pentagon and the C.I.A., whose parallel drone wars converged on the killing grounds of Yemen. For what was apparently the first time since the Civil War, the United States government had carried out the deliberate killing of an American citizen as a wartime enemy and without a trial.Eighteen months later, despite the Obama administration's effort to keep it cloaked in secrecy, the decision to hunt and kill Mr. Awlaki has become the subject of new public scrutiny and debate, touched off by the nomination of John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama's counterterrorism adviser, to be head of the C.I.A.The leak last month of an unclassified Justice Department "white paper" summarizing the administration's abstract legal arguments -- prepared months after the Awlaki and Khan killings amid an internal debate over how much to disclose -- has ignited demands for even greater transparency, culminating last week in a 13-hour Senate filibuster that temporarily delayed Mr. Brennan's confirmation.
Why not televise the strikes? The ratings will be astronomical. Want to know what the American people think of them? Have viewers vote on whether to launch.Posted by Orrin Judd at March 10, 2013 10:17 AM