Why Not Have the Intelligence Agencies…

you know, gather intelligence? The editors of the Washington Post come down on a side reasonably close to my position, touched on here and here:

Threaded through many of these issues is question of whether the CIA, rather than the military, should be carrying out acts of war. In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, there was some reason to rely on the agency’s paramilitary activities. But with the expansion of the military’s special operations, the justification for such CIA activity, which feeds the secrecy problem, is no longer apparent. Mr. Brennan should be asked why he should not refocus the agency on intelligence collection and leave military operations to the generals.

There’s another question I have about the use of drones. If their use against targeted individuals in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, or Mali is necessary for national security, would their use against those same individuals within the borders of the United States be equally necessary? Would the use of armed drones by those who are being targeted by them against our president be legitimate?

I’d actually like to see some quantifiable measurement of national security but anything other than tiger repellent appears to be beyond the state of the art.

12 comments… add one

  • If their use against targeted individuals in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, or Mali is necessary for national security, would their use against those same individuals within the borders of the United States be equally necessary?

    But Dave, you said such a thing was unthinkable. Clearly, the U.S. government would never do this. Look at Obama and Michelle, they are such lovely people.

    Seriously though, reading the articles on the police using drones, arming said drones (with non-lethal weapons), and now the targeted killings of Americans simply for being affiliated with terrorist organizations abroad, the idea of using drones to kill Americans within U.S. borders strikes me as a rather small step now.

  • michael reynolds

    Steve:

    Have you dug a back yard shelter yet? Remember to include a PVC pipe so you can communicate with the outside world.

    There’s nothing hard to understand here. We use drones in countries where we can’t use the government, either because there is no government (Somalia) or the government is friendly to the terrorists (Pakistan) or the government has lost control of parts of its country (Yemen, Pakistan, Mali.)

    We do not use drones in France. Because they have a competent government that has actual and not just asserted sovereignty. If we knew of terrorists in France we’d call up their security people. End of story.

    What’s needed is some structural oversight on use of drones. Raging paranoia is just silly.

  • PD Shaw

    Steve V:

    If police officers discover drug residue outside of a property of people known to be associated with convicted drug dealers and believed to be armed, would it ever be appropriate for a judge to deny a no knock warrant on the grounds that an armed drone could provide entry without the danger to the occupants or the police of an armed shoot-out?

    I believe that, in a nutshell, is the problem with your previous link to using armed drones for criminal law purposes. The ACLU representative implausibly argued that existing law enforcement methods are adequate without drones. To the extent, law enforcement methods can be improved with drones, they are coming.

  • steve

    I have a hard time seeing why the use of small wheeled robots with cameras or small hovering drones with cameras would be problematic in hostage situations or other situations where intelligence could prevent shooting.

    Steve

  • PD Shaw

    I’m not sure I understand Dave’s questions, but if I understand correctly:

    1) Can the U.S. use armed drones against (for example) the Yemen branch of al-Qaeda, if they entered the territorial borders of the U.S.? I’d say “yes,” the 2001 AUMF permits “necessary and appropriate force” to protect U.S. citizens “home and abroad,” which presumably would authorize nuclear strikes inside the country if it were ever proportionate and tactically necessary to the situation.

    2) Can al-Qaeda legitimately launch drone attacks against the POTUS? I’m not sure what the concept of legitimacy implies here. To some extent, when two states enter into armed conflict, it is still appropriate for people to take sides as to who is fighting for the higher purpose or good, or as to who is the belligerent power. As a more practical matter, the U.S. will never fully recognize the legitimacy of irregular combatants and al-Qaeda can be expected to use whatever weapons available to attack the U.S. regardless of what international law or norms legitimizes.

  • If police officers discover drug residue outside of a property of people known to be associated with convicted drug dealers and believed to be armed, would it ever be appropriate for a judge to deny a no knock warrant on the grounds that an armed drone could provide entry without the danger to the occupants or the police of an armed shoot-out?

    Yes, because that is boiler plate language used to justify many no-knock warrants…which in reading Radley Balko’s blog is a surprisingly large number of raids (and this post).

    Now, if perhaps it wasn’t used as boiler plate, and it was indeed the case that the police were going and checking the trash, and providing evidence to the judge, and the evidence could be later produced (in court), and there was legitimate reason to suspect the person was indeed armed (i.e. an actual gun permit, receipts of a purchase, something), then that might be a different story.

    And let me point out that the use of SWAT teams was supposed to be against things like the deranged sniper, hostage situations, and the like. Situations where normal police and procedures are ineffective. Now we use SWAT teams merely to preserve evidence. In Baltimore country they did 120 raids in 2010 one about every three days. In Baltimore itself they did 289.

    The notion of mission creep certainly seems alive and well with regards to SWAT. And SWAT tactics are dangerous and raise the possibility of violence and death to very high levels.

  • steve

    @Steve- But what about those vicious Golden retrievers they need to shoot?

    Steve

  • This is not new. If you join an enemy army or armed group in wartime – and the conflict with AQ is a war under domestic legislation and under International Law – you are a combatant, not a civilian non-combatant criminal. You don’t have due process rights as a combatant until you are a captive and how the USG should treat enemy captives -including US citizens – is delineated under the Geneva Convention and by SCOTUS in the Ex Parte Milligan, Ex Parte Quirin, Eisentrager and most recently Hamdi decisions.

    We have ample precedent from prior wars including Korea and WWII on how Americans who went over to the enemy were dealt with after the war. No one suggested at the time that immunity from attack during the war was in the cards until ppl who lost the policy debate on drones started looking around for a second bite at the apple by having judges review military operations ( the CIA only operates some of our drones so this would interpose civilian Federal judges into the military chain of command as well. Federal judges are not excited by this idea BTW)

    The other question regarding the legality of using military force against civilian citizens here is generally almost always no except in cases of insurrection or invasion or temporarily where civil courts have ceased to function, as in the Confederacy during the Civil War (Ex Parte Milligan). Posse Comitatus imposes further constraints. If we are looking for threats to American lives or liberty by government agents, there’s a host of far more likely (and ongoing) abuses than a Global Hawk or Reaper drone attacking Omaha or Portland

  • This is not new. If you join an enemy army or armed group in wartime – and the conflict with AQ is a war under domestic legislation and under International Law – you are a combatant, not a civilian non-combatant criminal.

    Unfortunately we use the “war” rhetoric in regards to domestic crime too. And we have had two or more administrations quite willing to extend executive power in rather disturbing ways. The rather sanguine nature of just about everyone here so far suggests there is rather good reason to think the use of drones will be extended.

  • I think it’s more complicated than that, zen. Al Qaeda doesn’t exactly have membership cards and when you use drones, say, in Mali against Tuaregs trying to cut out a section of Mali for themselves, is that a legitimate activity? They may or may not claim Al Qaeda affiliation and even if they do they haven’t been involved in attacks against us or, unless we pick a fight with them, do so in the future in all likelihood.

  • Yeah, the police would never use a bomb dropped from the air. Why that is just crazy talk.

    In 1985, the group made national news when police dropped a bomb on the Osage house from a helicopter in an attempt to end an armed standoff. The explosion ignited a fire in which 11 people died, including five children and the group’s leader, John Africa. Only two occupants survived, Ramona, an adult and Birdie, a child. In addition, 65 homes were destroyed as the entire block burned.[2]

    […]

    The firefighters were stopped from putting out the fire based on allegations that firefighters were being shot at, a claim that was contested by the lone adult survivor Ramona Africa, who says that the firefighters had earlier battered the house with two deluge pumps when there was no fire.[11] Ramona Africa and one child, Birdie Africa, were the only two survivors. Police shot at those trying to escape the house[14]

  • PD Shaw

    @zenpundit, I differ a bit on the conclusions in your last paragraph, though it may depend upon how broadly one defines “invasion.” Were the 9/11 attacks conducted as part of an invasion? Were the German saboteurs in Ex parte Quirin invading the U.S.? If military jets were able to intercept any of the hijacked planes, would they (or armed drones) be able to shoot them down to avoid greater loss of life? If intelligence discovered that Anwar al-Aulaqi was planning to sneak into the country across the Mexican border to conduct terrorist attacks, could armed drones patrolling the border execute al-Aulaqi if they found him?

    My answers are “yes.” The Posse Comitatus Act has more to do with the military engaging in traditional constabulary activities of law enforcement, like arrests for civilian crimes. In my examples, the military would be engaging in military activities against members of a hostile power with which the U.S. is at war. Not that many of these scenarios seem very plausible; terrorist cells in the U.S. are likely to be uncovered by traditional gumshoes on the ground, the targets are too valuable for intelligence purposes, and the risk of killing bystanders is too great for public acceptance. (The human rights concern is the indifference of Americans to what happens in far away places nobody’s ever heard of)

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