Oct
23
2012

Morning Joe's Drone Debate: Whose Four-Year-Old Girls Should Be Killed?

joeklein-drones

MSNBC's Morning Joe had a  remarkable discussion of U.S. drone attacks today (10/23/12). Here's a clip of the most intense moments of the exchange between the conservative-leaning Joe Scarborough and Time columnist Joe Klein, who is occasionally mistaken for a liberal: Scarborough offered up a more passionate critique of drone attacks than you're likely to hear from his left-leaning MSNBC colleagues: "If you're between 17 and 30, and you're within a half-mile of a suspect, we can blow you up." When Klein interjects to argue that drones are "decimating bad guys," Scarborough responds that the attacks are "taking out a […]

Jul
30
2012

The Toll of Drone Wars…on U.S Pilots

There are plenty of worthwhile things media could try to tell us about U.S. drone wars. But does the world need another uncritical piece about the difficult life of a drone pilot? Apparently someone at the New York Times thought so, and so readers get a story (7/30/12) headlined "A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away." Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller (perhaps best known for a testy C-SPAN appearance where she explained that New York Times reporters "can't just say the president is lying") gives us a glimpse into the struggles of the pilots who spend hours–even days–tracking […]

Jun
06
2012

NYT: Drone Strikes 'Combat Militancy' by Increasing Militants

In today's New York Times article (6/6/12) about the apparent drone killing of Al-Qaeda "deputy leader" Abu Yahya al-Libi, Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt write: If his death is borne out this time, it would be a milestone in a covert eight-year airstrike campaign that has infuriated Pakistani officials but that has remained one of the United States' most effective tools in combating militancy. That's revealing. It's inarguable that the drones kill people the U.S. government wants to kill, and some it doesn't intend to kill. But does this really qualify as "combating militancy"? In Yemen, the increase in drone  […]

Jun
01
2012

MSNBC: No Time for Obama's Kill List?

The New York Times' lengthy report (5/29/12) on Barack Obama's drone "kill list" should provoke serious questions: Is such a program legal? How does it square with Obama's criticism of the Bush administration's "war on terror" policies? What does it tell us about how the administration identifies "militants" who are targeted for assassination? But those questions have been raised only in fits and starts–and are basically absent from the liberal cable news channel MSNBC. In fact, a far more interesting discussion of these questions can be heard on Fox News Channel. It's not all good on Fox, naturally. Host Bill […]

Apr
13
2012

On Drones and Democracy

Yesterday (4/12/12) Pakistan's parliament unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that, among other things, calls for an immediate end to CIA drone strikes in their country. The Washington Post's account of this news included this curious observation: From Washington's perspective, the debate in Parliament was a healthy exercise in democracy but one that is unlikely to affect the drone war. The military leaders of both nations see the drones as efficient and effective in eliminating hard-core Islamic militants that plague both the U.S. and Pakistani armies. I know that the Post is merely conveying "Washington's perspective," but let's think […]

Mar
19
2012

NYT's Anonymous Drone Defenders

There is a big piece in the New York Times today (3/19/12) on the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. And, as has been the case before, the U.S. perspective comes via anonymous government officials: A senior American official in Washington said that the CIA had consistently taken precautions to reduce the risk to civilians, and noted that some strikes had killed Pakistan's insurgent enemies, too. "These efforts have been extremely precise and effective," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the program's covert status. And later readers get this: "The overriding concern is to avoid […]

Feb
24
2012

NYT Public Editor on Anonymity and Drone Story

After our new alert (2/24/12), the New York Times public editor's office contacted FAIR to let us know that Arthur Brisbane responded to readers who complained about one of the articles discussed in the alert. Below is that response, which was emailed to readers. It was not published on the Times' site. Thanks for your message, one of a number I received about this story. I have had an opportunity to ask the reporter, Scott Shane, about it and reflect on the circumstances. On the positive side, I applaud the Times for covering the findings of the Bureau of Investigative […]

Feb
08
2012

LAT: Where's the Drone Deaths Coverage?

A Los Angeles Times editorial (2/7/12) begins: When the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism released a report Sunday claiming that U.S. drone strikes have killed dozens of civilian rescuers and mourners in Pakistan, the American media scarcely noticed. It's a good point.The Bureau's report got remarkably little media attention. A New York Times story (which included an anonymous U.S. official smearing the researchers as Al-Qaeda sympathizers) might be the only story in the mainstream media; the only stories coming up in the Nexis news database are from Antiwar.com (2/5/12) and papers in Pakistan. The report was covered on Democracy Now! […]

Feb
06
2012

NYT Lets Nameless Official Smear Drone Researchers as Al-Qaeda Fans

Not even a week after Barack Obama declared that not too many civilians die in the CIA's drone strikes in Pakistan, a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism finds that "at least 50 civilians" have been killed in rescues attempts, 20 in strikes on funerals, with at least 282 total civilians killed since Obama took office. That much you learn from the New York Times report by Scott Shane (2/6/12): WASHINGTON – British and Pakistani journalists said Sunday that the CIA's drone strikes on suspected militants in Pakistan have repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of […]

Jan
31
2012

Loose Lips Sink Drones

Barack Obama did something yesterday that government leaders tend not to do: He talked about the CIA drone war in Pakistan. This admission–which, it should be pointed out, happened in a Google-sponsored Q & A with the public, not a session with reporters–made it into the papers. The New York Times (1/31/12) flagged civilian deaths as the most newsworthy aspect, headlining a report by Mark Landler "Civilian Deaths Due to Drones Are Not Many, Obama Says." Landler writes: Mr. Obama, in an unusually candid public discussion of the Central Intelligence Agency's covert program, said the drone strikes had not inflicted […]

Jan
03
2012

Time Cheers the Drone War

The new issue of Time magazine promises on its cover "Essential Info for the Year Ahead." One apparently essential report: U.S. drones are awesome. The report–written by Mark Thompson, available to subscribers only explains that a "hot military trend" this way: Today's generals and admirals want weapons that are smaller, remote-controlled and bristling with intelligence. In short, more drones that can tightly target terrorists, deliver larger payloads and are some of the best spies the U.S. has ever produced, even if they occasionally get captured in Iran or crash on landing at secret bases. And also, you know, kill innocent […]

Oct
14
2011

Great Moments in Fox News Assassination Plotting

Last night's O'Reilly Factor (10/13/11), with guest Megyn Kelly, talking about how to deal with Iran: BILL O'REILLY: What do we do? MEGYN KELLY: It's a political question for President Obama and a military question for him, but it's not really much of a legal question because legally he can do it. O'REILLY: OK. KELLY: If he wants to do it…. O'REILLY: Let me stop you there. So there's no difference between killing bin Laden, Al-Awlaki with a drone? OK. Just today they killed another big terrorist guy in Pakistan with a drone. We could drop a drone right down […]

Aug
12
2011

Drones in Pakistan: Equal Time for Killers?

The New York Times has a long piece (8/12/11) looking at the question of how many civilians in Pakistan are killed by CIA drones. The agency doesn't even speak about the program on the record, except to make the far-fetched claim that no civilians have died in the past year or so. The article, written by Scott Shane, includes some useful criticism of the CIA, and it's hard not to conclude that the agency's claims are not very credible. But the real problem with the piece is that it gives much weight to the CIA's defense at all, using their […]