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 @lisapease Even that rule, "accredited to major org" has a lot of play w/in in. @TimothyS
48mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Um, @adambonin You did NOT properly tell me about the awesome appearance of Elsbeth Tascioni tonight. @GoodWifeWriters
7hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Hey @emptywheel "noodle armed" Peyton Manning was 22 of 16, for 318 yards, 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions in 3 qrtrs. How bad is that?
8hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @tomphilpott But pumpkin-spice has nothing to do with actual pumpkins.
9hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @BloombergNews: Here’s a list of break-even points for some of America’s biggest shale-oil regions: http://t.co/7a5fHOAXhI http://t.co/y
9hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel .@chrisgeidner Seriously? Not a single "progressive" NGO said they thought banks should be subject to same laws rest of us are? @evanmcsan
9hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @chrisgeidner Progressives are looking for another person who'll immunize bank crimes (and torture and illegal wiretapping)? @evanmcsan
9hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @Matt_Cagle: MT @MikeScarcella: Justice Dept. moves to dismiss @ACLU_NorCal suit over database of 'suspicious’ acts http://t.co/JLGI7No
9hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @twolf10: To honor Peyton Manning's TD record, Papa John's will be cutting benefits to 50% of its employees.
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @twolf10: To honor Peyton Manning's TD record, Papa John's will be cutting benefits to 50% of its employees.
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @sluggahjells: BREAKING: Eli Manning still has more Super Bowl rings than Peyton Manning. #PoorlyMadeTweets
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Dock the Broncos 14 points bc announcer actually said, "Congratulated your QB."
10hreplyretweetfavorite
January 2013
S M T W T F S
« Dec   Feb »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031