Awkward Drone Questions for Obama

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A MQ-1B Predator aircraft takes off on June 12, 2008. If you hear a Predator hovering above you in Pakistan, you're probably in for a very bad day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/Released)A MQ-1B Predator aircraft takes off in Iraq. If you hear a Predator hovering above you in Pakistan, you’re probably in for a very bad day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter.)Just where in the Constitution and laws of the United States does President Obama locate the power to have people in nominally friendly countries blown up by our armies of flying robots? On Wednesday, spurred on by reports of the increasing use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan (and corresponding reports of increased civilian casaulties), the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request (PDF) seeking information about the government’s legal justifications for its drone program. In a post on the ACLU’s “Blog of Rights,” Jonathan Manes explains why the ACLU is doing this:

The use of unmanned drones to target and kill individuals is a profoundly new way of waging war. For the first time, military and intelligence officers can observe, track, and launch missiles at targeted individuals from control centers located thousands of miles away, without any significant U.S. presence on the ground. The technology also permits the United States to target individuals nearly anywhere in the world….

The ACLU believes that the use and proliferation of this tactic must be the subject of public scrutiny and debate. But the government has released essentially no information about the legal basis of and limits on the drone program, or its scope and consequences. The public has been kept in the dark and is therefore unable to assess the wisdom or legality of the strikes. Commentators on all sides agree that these are not questions that should be decided solely by technocrats behind closed doors.

In order to fill this void, the ACLU is asking the government to release basic information about its use of drones to execute targeted killings.

This seems like an eminently reasonable request that can be mostly complied with without violating national security. We’ll see what the Obama adminstration thinks.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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