Phone Taps and Drone Strikes

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

US foreign policy and diplomacy is taking a beating today. First, news broke from the Edward Snowden files that the USA has monitored the personal phones of 35 world leaders. (Surprisingly, there was little intelligence of value in the tapping, presumably b.c. of the formality of relations to world leaders, real shit being dealt with through back channels and such).

Secondly, the friendly terms of US-Pakistani relations over drone strikes, which has been presumed for a long time, is now exposed through reporting in the Washington Post.

Despite repeatedly denouncing the CIA’s drone campaign, top officials in Pakistan’s government have for years secretly endorsed the program and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts, according to top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos obtained by The Washington Post.

The files describe dozens of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region and include maps as well as before-and-after aerial photos of targeted compounds over a four-year stretch from late 2007 to late 2011 in which the campaign intensified dramatically.

This is most of all awkward for Pakistan, of course, as the country is publicly shamed both for its failure to have a monopoly on violence and for the failure of the ISI and the Pakistani police to deal with their disorder problems.

More importantly, for me at least, is that this shines a light on the US drone program. My own opposition to the drone program is very strong. While I recognize the difficult problems of dealing with the kind of enemy that international terrorism represents, the current system of attacks represents a basic violation of human rights, of customary law and international humanitarian law. I have a fairly long argument about this, which I don’t really have the energy to write out now. Maybe later.

I read the recent Amnesty report on drones this afternoon. I encourage everyone who thinks seriously about drones and the war on terror to engage with it. It is a sober, well-researched and undeniable argument which will do much better than me, in the meantime. You can read it here, along with several other documents. There is also a trailer for Jeremy Scahill’s documentary Dirty Wars, which I’m going off to watch now.


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