Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said on the record yesterday that the CIA operates Predator armed drones from a base inside Pakistan. The Washington Post reported the base’s existence nearly a year ago, but Feinstein’s comments “marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land,” The Chicago Tribune pointed out.
The blogosphere is all abuzz over the news. “My complete and utter disdain for this senator,” one commenter wrote at Information Dissemination. “So much for OPSEC,” was the title of ID‘s post.
Here’s why Feinstein’s (old) news is a good thing, in my opinion.
The American people should know in which countries we, as a nation, are bombing and killing people — and which nations we’ve cajoled into hosting the bombers. If that makes it harder for the CIA and military to do their jobs, fine. It’s a small price to pay for the only form of oversight that really, truly matters: democracy.
Next, can Feinstein confirm for us where else we’re engaged in covert air wars, and brief us on some of the details? How many air strikes have we launched in Somalia? What about the Philippines — has U.S. involvement in that country’s counter-insurgency included air strikes? If so, were any civilians killed, as they undoubtedly were in Somalia?
Robot aircraft are all the rage in the U.S. military, and for good reason. They promise to save American air power from the U.S. Air Force’s incompetent force management. But there’ve been some nasty side effects. For one, robots such as Predator and Reaper (pictured) are small, silent and require a minimal maintenance team, allowing you to operate them in places where larger, more powerful manned aircraft would represent a political liability. The advent of killer drones has enabled the U.S. military and CIA to run lethal air campaigns without a lot of people noticing.
That’s bad. It’s all too easy to push ethical boundaries when nobody’s watching.
So open up those verbal floodgates, Senator, and shine some sunlight on our secretive air wars.
(Photo: BW Jones)