Critics of the Obama administration’s increasing reliance on the controversial drone program will get a chance to hear more details since the program’s architect, John Brennan, has been appointed by President Obama to be his new CIA director. U.S. drone missiles have killed nearly 20 suspected militants in Pakistan since the start of the new year.
The drone question is sure to be probed in detail during Brennan’s confirmation hearings. Particularly since there is evidence that with Brennan’s guidance the administration has stepped up the use of drones in Yemen and Mali, even as it has decreased in Pakistan because of widespread anger over the program.
Pakistan officials said missiles from American drones killed eight suspected militants earlier today in a compound near the Afghan border. On Sunday, missiles from several drones hit three military hideouts in South Waziristan, killing nine. And last week, another drone killed a top Pakistani militant commander, Maulvi Nazir, who was accused of carrying out deadly attacks against American and other targets across the border in Afghanistan.
As evidence of the growing unpopularity of drones in Pakistan, the Pakistani parliament last April voted for the first time to end the approval for the CIA drone program. But in Yemen, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi struck a different tone, saying in a September interview with The Washington Post that he personally signs off on all U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, and that they hit their targets accurately because “the drone technologically is more advanced than the human brain.”
U.S. officials have defended the drone program by claiming it is not illegal if they are going after militants.
But LaSalle University professor Michael Boyle, a counter-terrorism expert who advised President Obama during the 2008 campaign, has released a report viciously criticizing the Obama administration for the drone program. Boyle claims the program is responsible for killing far more civilians than the administration has acknowledged and it is ultimately ineffective because it radicalizes the young men in the countries where it is used — primarily Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Afghanistan.
According to some estimates, the CIA and the U.S. military have undertaken more than 300 drone strikes and killed about 2,500 people.
Boyle said Obama pledged to end the “war on terror” and to restore respect for the rule of law in U.S. counter-terrorism policies.
“Instead, he has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor … while President Bush issued a call to arms to defend ‘civilization’ against the threat of terrorism, President Obama has waged his war on terror in the shadows, using drone strikes, special operations and sophisticated surveillance to fight a brutal covert war against al-Qaida and other Islamist networks,” Boyle said in his study.