Why Not Have a Hearing on Civilian Drone Casualties?

Yesterday, I suggested that Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger’s certainty that public accounts of drone casualties are overstated may say more about our failed intelligence oversight than it does about the number of civilians who have died in our drone strikes.

Later yesterday, Steven Aftergood posted a must read reflection on how our intelligence oversight has backed off public accountability. I’ll have more to say about Aftergood’s post, but for the moment I wanted to look at a measure of public accountability he uses: the number of public oversight hearings, particularly those with outside experts.

Over the past decade, however, the Committee’s priorities appear to have changed, to the detriment of public accountability.  In fact, despite the Committee’s assurance in its annual reports, public disclosure even of the Committee’s own oversight activities has decreased.

In 2012, the Committee held only one public hearing, despite the prevalence of intelligence-related public controversies.  That is the smallest number of public hearings the Committee has held in at least 25 years and possibly ever.  A non-governmental witness has not been invited to testify at an open Committee hearing since 2007.

Breaking! Under Dianne Feinstein’s leadership, the Senate Intelligence Committee has had its fewest public hearings in at least 25 years!

Aftergood’s point, though, suggests one remedy for the problem with Mike Rogers’ boasting (or more lucrative assurances from DiFi that her oversight is all we need on drone strikes).

Why not have a public hearing at which the major contributors to the discussion of drone casualties testify in the same place?

The Intelligence Committees could invite both The Bureau for Investigative Journalism and the AP to explain how they conducted independent assessments of civilian casualties and what those assessments showed. They could invite Peter Bergen to explain his dubious numbers publicly (at one point, after all, Bergen actually knew as much about Osama bin Laden as the people hunting him in secret).  They could invite Pepperdine professor Gregory Neal–who has a paper saying that when the government uses its collateral damage estimation process, it does a remarkably good job at keeping collateral damage low, but admits that “due to the realities of combat operations, the process cannot always be followed.” Hell, they could even invite John Brennan to lie publicly about civilian casualties, as he has done in the past. Maybe, too, Brennan can explain how all militant age men are treated and counted, by default, as militants.

The point is there is a partial remedy to the grave problems with the cognitive challenges overseers like Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein face. One of those is to publicly accept the testimony of those who have different investments than the intelligence community.

Right now, continuing to rest the drone program’s legitimacy on repeated public calls to “trust me” actually undermines its legitimacy.

Sadly, resting our national security policy on repeated “trust mes” appears to be what Rogers and Feinstein like.

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

5 Responses to Why Not Have a Hearing on Civilian Drone Casualties?

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @adamjohnsonNYC The Big-B business of dictating what the Big-F future will be?
4mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @adamjohnsonNYC I think he means big-F Future.
6mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Today I'm celebrating freedom from another arsonist rat who met his fate last night in my electric tunnel of doom. http://t.co/EGYA5Bz09J
25mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV To celebrate July Fourth, how about a little truth in advertising? Let's change DHS to the Fear Department. Attention @FearDept
38mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @jjmck79 I went to market, plan on cooking (though spouse just made me pancakes). Will clean up sewing table I rarely use.
39mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @jjmck79 Oh, I would have been cooking and cleaning and sewing, not having benefitted from equality or an education.
42mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @ExumAM: What an incredible, ambitious human experiment. So proud to be a part of it. http://t.co/FteKYAMyT9
53mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel May everyone have the kind of fearful Fourth that would have prevented us from winning Independence if our forefathers thought like that!
59mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @RaysBaseball: Twelfth inning. Time for ice cream, obviously. http://t.co/VsFMJqOWvz
10hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @RPullen @stephenlemons @Steve_Irvin That is pretty much an incoherent response. But whatever.
11hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @pastordan REALLY not a fireworks fan, especially living in place where everyone sets them off. Was interesting learning abt buying process
15hreplyretweetfavorite
January 2013
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031