On trusting Obama’s kill list program or “the best intelligence”


Dexter Filkins on unintended consequences and kill lists bwo Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Later, when I spoke to American officials, they seemed genuinely perplexed. They didn’t deny that a large number of civilians had been killed. They felt bad about it. But the aerial surveillance, they said, had clearly showed that a training camp for militants was operating there. “It was a terrible outcome,” an American official told me. “Nobody wanted that.”


But, as the details from the Al Majalah show, even the best-intentioned public servants operating with what appears to be decent intelligence can get things horribly wrong. Maybe Al Majalah was indeed an Al Qaeda training camp–maybe those aerial surveillance images were spot on. But, in retrospect, we know that the cameras missed the women and children.

I’m sure Obama trusts John Brennan. I’m sure John Brennan trusts these soldiers and CIA operatives who’ve sacrificed so much. I’m sure these soldiers and CIA operatives trust that they double checked, and re-checked all their information. And I trust that the overwhelming majority of them aren’t happy or ok with the collateral murder of innocent children and adults.

When we trust the Bush and/or Obama Administrations implicitly, with no due process and no oversight, to decide who is sentenced to life in Gitmo or death by drone you are also throwing your trust down this chain no matter what the links are. I think when dealing with the lives of American citizens more verification is needed.

Mind you, in the short term this is a congressional problem. The congress needs to pass laws to include these actions in the FISA court or create a new court for these “kill list” directives. The problem here is the Republicans have been lobbying for this kind of extra-presidential power for Bush’s term and have had moderate Democrats along for the ride.

This will only start after folks do the leg work of interviewing people in these villages and find out who died when the attacks occurred because it seems internally the policy as is “if we didn’t think there were kids when we fired the missiles, then no kids died”.