Reaper drone

The controversy over drones and their use by the U.S. government in targeted killings continues. President Obama signaled last spring that he would shift control of the drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. But the move is being met with resistance by Congress, which is trying to block the transfer of control. We’ll talk with Eric Schmitt, national security correspondent for the New York Times, about the hot-button issue of drones.

Eric Schmitt, senior writer and national security correspondent for the New York Times; and co-author of "Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda"

  • Commentor

    Steven Aftergood in SECRECY NEWS, from the the Federation of American Scientists Project on
    Government Secrecy, today writes:

    The term “secret law” is most often used to refer to executive
    branch actions that mandate national policy without public notice, or that
    existing statutes in dubious or counterintuitive ways that are not
    disclosed to the public. But in this case, an important national
    policy measure was literally written into law by Congress in secret.

    In his January 16
    floor statement, Sen. McCain had this to say:

    away in the classified portion of this bill is a policy rider that has
    serious national security implications and is a prime example of the
    appropriators overstepping their bounds. This provision will halt the
    transfer of the U.S. drone counterterrorism operations from the CIA to the
    Department of Defense. In doing so, it summarily changes a very important
    policy that guides how we do certain counterterrorism operations abroad
    from a direction that the President has specifically prescribed. And how
    did most of us become aware of this major policy change? By reading this
    morning’s Washington Post; that is how.”

    “This is outrageous,
    and it should not have happened. While there may be differing opinions on
    who should control drone counterterrorism operations, we should be able to
    debate these differences in the committees of jurisdiction and eventually
    on the Senate floor. The fact that a major national security policy
    decision is going to be authorized in this bill without debate or
    authorization is unacceptable and should not be the way we legislate on
    such important national security issues.”

    But it is the
    way that this Congress legislates. And though Senator McCain voted against
    the measure, the full Senate approved it, 72-26, and the President signed
    it into law on January 17.

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