The Drone Rule Book Has Made It Easier for Our Partners To Drone Kill With Us Again

As I noted earlier, one of the questions that National Counterterrorism Center nominee Nick Rasmussen got asked in his prehearing confirmation questions pertained to the Drone Rule Book.

He was asked about his role in writing the “US Policy Standards and Procedures for the Use of Force in Counterterrorism Operations Outside the United States and Areas of Active Hostilities.” He replied that he participated in “very initial drafts” of the document in May and June 2012 while at NSC, and then participated in the interagency process before it was approved in May 2013.

He was then asked, “Has the Presidential Policy Guidance made our counterterrorism operations more effective?”

Click through to read his full answer to question 17, but he basically talks a lot about institutionalizing the process, all while emphasizing that the Drone Rule Book simply recorded the swell procedure that was already in place. After several bullets of that, he finally answers what was ultimately a yes or no question.

By refining and documenting the careful and deliberate way in which these operations are approved and conducted and by contributing to greater transparency in our CT operations, I believe the PPG has made it easier for some of our key allies and CT partners to support those operations by sharing intelligence and/or providing other forms of support for our CT operations. I believe PPG had likely contributed to making some of our CT operations more effective by making critical forms of CT cooperation with key partners more sustainable. By standardizing and institutionalizing the considerations and processes that inform our policymaking on direct action operations, we have become more effective in reviewing these operations and ensuring all appropriate national security equities are considered prior to approval.

In response to a question about whether the Drone Rule Book “is a good long term solution for this type of irregular warfare,” Rasmussen talked about how it combined flexibility with a framework to balance many issues.

Obviously, I’m most interested in the benefit Rasmussen says the Drone Rule Book has brought: that it makes it easier for key partners to cooperate with us on drone strikes and other lethal operations.

That’s particularly interesting given the lawsuit by a Yemeni man against British Telecom for its role in a drone strike that killed his brother. He bases his suit on BT’s role in providing cable service between a base in the UK and Djibouti, from where some of the drone strikes are launched.

And here we come to find out that the Drone Rule Book is an effort to make it easier for partners — which probably includes both the UK and Djobouti (because I can’t imagine the Saudis, Yemenis, and Pakistanis much care) — to help out on our drone killing program.


8 replies
  1. C says:

    Why do you think that the other groups wouldn’t care?

    As I see it Pakistan’s cooperation is institutional and, to the extent we get it from ISI, is dependent upon knowing that we won’t kill their jihadis only the other jihadis. In that case I think a nice document detailing how we decide whom to kill would make it easier for ISI to predict what we will do and thus to know what to feed us or not. This applied equally to the Yemenis and the Saudis.

    It would also have the added advantage of providing yet another legalistic framework that the officialdom in those countries can use to shield themselves with claims of a process.

    • emptywheel says:

      Interesting argument. I was sort of imagining the drone rule book as a human rights shield for countries that cared, which is why I dismissed them. But I guess, yeah.

      That said, I think the Saudis, especially, loved to be able to coopt our drones to hit non-AQAP targets (they had been asking since at least December 2009 for drones to hit the Houthis). That’s less likely to happen with more systematized review.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    Speaking of killing civilians, the Connecticut Office of the Child Advocate has today released a 114 page report on Adam’s Lanza’s upbringing, family life, disorders, treatments, lack of treatment, and his life in general. I plan to read (or at least skim) it this weekend. I’m guessing it will end up saying, “He was sick, and he wasn’t helped enough.” I wonder if additional state involvement is called for by the report, in parenting; or, perhaps, identifying “bad guys” early on then keeping a fleet of drones in the air at all times ready to snuff them should they be sighted leaving home with bags full of unknown stuff. “Suspected militants”, you know. Would they partner with the exasperated parents, or with the scared neighbors? With the bullied friends, or with the evil school psychologists? So many difficult decisions; certainly nothing like the ease with which the CIA and DOD find appropriate targets.

    Download the report here.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I hate to a nit picker… But is there a reason the title is grammatically incorrect? I can’t make sense of it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Nitpick away. Absent real editorial review, I appreciate it, and I often look least closely at titles, because they don’t get spell checked by WP.


    • wallace says:

      quote”But is there a reason the title is grammatically incorrect?”unquote

      bartender..give me a bottle of TwoRollingEyes.

      sheezus. Innocent human beings are getting incinerated because of what this article is about…and you nitpic about a TITLE? No wonder the US is the Dumbest Fucking Country on the Planet.

  4. wallace says:

    Yeah, well I don’t give a damn about any USG document that purports to justify this:

    In fact, I’d give my right nut to slam this degenerate scumbag’s face in a pool of these childrens blood. He just might get the message then. But I doubt it. Psychopaths who write bullshit ephumisms for covering war criminal’s ass’s won’t ever get it. If anything, this asshole is just another Murkan war criminal doing exactly what the Nazi’s tried to claim at Nuremberg. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing good enough for these bastards is a firing squad.

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