The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 23, 2013

Our View: Drone policy needs stricter oversight

In his 1953 inaugural speech, President Dwight Eisenhower — a warrior famous for helping lead the Allies to victory in World War II — said “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Today, our warfare technologies are advancing to the point where combatants never have to face the horrors of war. And so it is with the accelerated use of drones by the United States. We have escalated their usage, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan as we pull our troops out of harm’s way.

The use of drones became more controversial when we learned the Obama administration was secretly ordering such strikes, bypassing the Pentagon, and the controversy grew when it was learned such attacks were being leveled against American citizens overseas. Since then, the president has agreed to give the intelligence committees of both chambers access to a classified legal opinion it is using to justify use of drones to kill U.S. terror suspects on foreign soil.

The administration says it is justified in killing such Americans so long as an “informed, high-level official” determines that individual is an “imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.” This is so vague it was argued that even low-level functionaries in a Mideast desert could make the call. It further argues that this is an executive decision and as such is not subject to external review.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has said he wants a federal court, not Obama, to make that decision. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said a court deciding such matters would be “the worst thing in the world.” Meanwhile, some Democrats are more incensed about a movie’s depiction about America’s use of waterboarding than they are about the use of drones.

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