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
bmaz @AZCardinals @ERIC_WATSON @RealPeterson21 @EAMaddenNFL Uhhh, why would you want that?? It is a curse!
2hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz Will be lot easier for defense if they can shift venue to a nice white suburb, which they are already trying to lay ground for
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz I think prosecution will be fine, tho may lose a few counts along the way. We'll see; too early now.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz Quite true. I checked into background of the two prosecution team leaders, Janice Bledsoe+Michael Schatzow, and they are superb
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz @AP Had forcefully taken him down, subdued him on ground for while, handcuffed him, then sat him up and then checked his pocket
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz @AP The facts as stated by Mosby and, by my understanding witnesses and the cops.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz @AP Not a new phenomenon, but yes, trust me I know..
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz @AP Oh i'm sure they are going to try, but it appears they have a problem with the facts in trying.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @walterwkatz @AP Not sure how get around the apparent fact Gray had already been arrested before they were even aware of knife.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @imraansiddiqi That's the comment of the week so far Imraan.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @imraansiddiqi: Kids, if an instructor ever tells you "Oh, there are no stupid questions." Reply back: "Clearly you have never seen Don …
3hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @JoeRoganEXP @SusieMadrak Hahaha, you have to be kidding. The "Tesla Battery" is not even particularly new technology. Just packaging+spin.
3hreplyretweetfavorite
January 2013
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031