This Drone Assurance Brought to You By Northrop Grumman

Dianne Feinstein gave a speech to the World Affairs Council yesterday. As part of it (after 9:10), she gave the following reassurances regarding the oversight of drone strikes.

We have a special effort on the CIA Predator program. The staff has made 28 visits to various facilities, attended intelligence gathering, we have looked at the intelligence. The key to these, to minimize collateral damage, to go for the targeted individuals, but to have intelligence which is just as good as it can be to be totally actionable. And so the collateral damage is really greatly reduced beyond what you may read in the press. I have asked, “please please please can I release these numbers?” And the answer is [laughs] “no, they’re classified.” So that’s about as far as I could go on that.

Ah, well, that’s about as far as you can go! If the CIA tells you it can’t release its claims about civilian casualties publicly so they can be reviewed by people on the ground, so people who aren’t getting all their information from the same people pressing the trigger double check those claims, I guess that’s as far as you can go then!

What I like best is the prominent role drone manufacturer Northrop Grumman (they don’t make the Predators used in CIA’s assassination program, but they do sell drones to the CIA) had in the talk. In his introduction of her, NG’s CEO Wes Bush hailed her “absolute integrity in addressing the facts.” (Though maybe Bush was talking about DiFi’s recent misrepresentations in support of the NSA’s hoovering of telecom communications, given that NG has a big chunk of the data storage contract.)

These convenient, unverifiable “facts” on drones delivered by someone proven to misrepresent such “facts” brought to you by the drone (and wiretap) industry.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

17 replies
  1. JThomason says:

    Seems to me her assumptions about the epistemological integrity of targeting protocols merits intense scrutiny as well, but if one spends all their talk time going on about how one can’t talk about the collateral damage numbers I guess this topic never actually finds the light of day. How convenient.

    Edit: Judicious killing is such a painstaking science.

  2. allan says:

    “the collateral damage is really greatly reduced beyond what you may read in the press”

    My brain doesn’t even know how to process this.

  3. emptywheel says:

    @JThomason: Right. DiFi’s idea of good oversight is to make sure the intelligence on collateral damage is good. That’s important, except if we’re hitting people who are relatively minor, or if we’ve got bad underlying intelligence, that’s a problem.

  4. LM Lewis says:

    NG Corp’s concept of “ethics” and “oversight” is a vague promise of review by the same folks who run the show.

    “Northrop Grumman Corporation, a leading provider of solutions that protect our national security, is also engaged in the democratic process to elect leaders and participate in the political environment at the federal, state and local level. In keeping with our principles of good governance and the highest standard of ethics, the processes for direct corporate contributions, political action committee contributions and membership in trade associations are subject to detailed oversight by the corporation.”

  5. LM Lewis says:

    Americans can rely on Wes Bush to protect our national security interests–for example, making certain that US troops do not one day become targets of drones themselves.

    “Export restrictions are hurting this industry in America without making us any safer,” Wesley G. Bush, Northrop’s chief executive, said at a defense conference this year. “The U.S. is struggling to sell unmanned aircraft to our allies while other nations prepare to jump into the marketplace with both feet.

    The defense industry may want to sell more drones overseas, but arms control advocates are alarmed. The potential for these weapons to fall into enemy hands is great, they say, and easing restrictions could result in remote-controlled killing machines being used in some of the most volatile regions of the world.”

  6. BSbafflesbrains says:

    @LM Lewis: If we donated $61,000 to her campaign could we get her to come out in favor of upholding the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

  7. EH says:

    The CIA has a “special effort.” An ‘A’ for effort should be enough for everybody! There are so many weasel words coming out of DiFi’s mouth that I can only think their purpose is to lower standards and expectations.

  8. thatvisionthing says:

    @emptywheel: “That’s important, except if we’re hitting people who are relatively minor”

    16-year-olds comes to mind. Dianne? Please please please does that count?

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    I have asked, “please please please can I release these numbers?” And the answer is [laughs] “no, they’re classified.” So that’s about as far as I could go on that.

    Speech and debate clause? Senator Mike Gravel? Not a special carveout, the thing itself?

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Oversight? Congress gave that up when it failed to publish the Pike Committee Report, the House analog to the Church Committee investigations, in about 1976. (Daniel Schorr made up for that by publishing a leaked copy, and paid for it by being fired from CBS, forcing him to restart his career from scratch.)

    Ms. Feinstein would have us believe that Woodward and Bernstein, Church and Pike, and their actions were routine instead of aberrations that virtually all of Washington, especially including the Fourth Estate, washed its hands of decades ago. Ms. Feinstein’s pretense about congressional oversight is so unbelievable, it makes Joe Lieberman’s years of failing to oversee the DHS look good by comparison.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Savvy observers were saying in the mid-1970’s, post Church and Pike committee hearings, that the press inquisitiveness about Nixon/Watergate was an aberration, not a signal that the press was taking seriously its obligations as the public watchdog. They were right.

    They also observed that congressional committees had given up their oversight role in exchange for quietude, money, and the job of protecting the ministries they were charged with overseeing. Ms. Feinstein (as was Mr. Lieberman) is the poster child for that change. She deserves to be retired at the next election.

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