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U.S. Drone Strike Policies

Speakers: Admiral Dennis Blair, Former Director of National Intelligence, and Micah Zenko, Douglas Dillon Fellow
Presider: Jonathan Masters, Deputy Editor
January 22, 2013

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JONATHAN MASTERS: Hi. Good morning, everyone. This is Jon Masters. I'm a writer with the Council on Foreign Relations, and I'm very pleased to be joined by two distinguished participants today for this media conference call on U.S. drone policy. Micah Zenko is CFR's Douglas Dillon Fellow and expert on conflict prevention and U.S. national security policy. He recently authored a council special report focusing on reforming U.S. drone strike policies that's now accessible on CFR.org. And we also welcome another distinguished guest, former Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis C. Blair.

And to begin, I'd like to give both participants a chance to give a few opening remarks. Admiral Blair, can we begin with you?

ADMIRAL DENNIS BLAIR: Sure. I can -- I could start, Jon. Everybody had the advantage of reading Micah's report, which I -- which I think is very important, because it takes on a subject which, in my opinion, has -- needs public discussion.

If the United States is a -- is a democracy, we want our people to know how we use military force and that we do it in accordance with -- and in ways that the United States is -- can be proud of and that can be effective. And so -- and there's been far too little debate on it.

Let me make -- let me make three points, though, at which I -- at which I come to slightly different conclusions from Micah, and then I -- where I agree with him.

The first point is I'm less persuaded that international norms really have much of an effect when it comes to the use of force against the United States. My experience is that nation-states are generally either encouraged or deterred by their sort of cost-benefit calculation, and so I -- as other countries develop drones of their own, I think that they will make their own decisions on how they -- on how they use them, looking at the United States' experience but drawing on their own -- on their -- on their own interests and fears. I think that nonstate organizations, terrorist groups, extremist groups, are not deterrable, and they look at U.S. norms in order to find weaknesses in them, not to -- not to be led by them. And they -- if a terrorist group can get hold of drone technology, it will use it against us every way we can. So I'm not so much persuaded that norms can be set by the United States in this area.

Second, the recommendation that Micah has that what he calls signature strikes should be -- should be halted -- I have to be very careful talking about this, of course, because this aspect is still classified, and I'm still -- I'm still subject to having to protect classified information.

But let me say it this way, we should think about drones as long-range snipers in the military sense. For years, the United States and other countries send small teams behind lines in order to try to shoot at forces that are declared hostile connected to the battlefield. And the process for declaring forces hostile and giving snipers a guidance on who they can shoot at and who they can't is a well-known process. It can be made by military commanders.

And I don't think it's any different for drones. If we are in a -- if we are fighting in Afghanistan, for example, and we know that across the border in Pakistan there are Taliban groups who are gathering and training, and then I think we could authorize either snipers -- people with rifles -- or drones to shoot at armed men who we see getting into pickup trucks and heading towards the Afghanistan border or who are in a -- in a training exercise because they've been declared hostile, having those characteristics.

So I think that these -- I think that drones can and should be used, like many military weapons, under the normal procedures for law of war, not simply for killing identified terrorist leaders who are -- who have been plotting against us.

And the third point I'll make, and then turn it over to Micah, is that they say on law, of course, that hard cases make for bad law. And I think that Pakistan is probably the hardest case of all and we should not think about our overall drone policy simply in terms of -- simply in terms of Pakistan.

There's something about Pakistan and covert action that is -- that is -- never led to good results. That the arming of the mujahadeen through Pakistan, another widely known covert-action program, was successful in the short term but in the long term caused great problems for us in terms of -- in terms of enabling a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan over the Soviets -- after the Soviets were driven out.

The current open secret covert-action drone program in Pakistan, which does nothing except enable the Pakistanis to allow us to do it, unofficially, and then officially to attack us for it and thereby make us extremely unpopular in Pakistan and interferes with all sorts of other objectives with Pakistan, is also anomalous. So let's not -- I wouldn't make all of our policies for the use of drones dependent on what goes on in Pakistan.

Let me stop there, Jon.

MASTERS: OK. Thank you, Admiral Blair.

Micah, do you -- he mentioned the characterization of long-range snipers. How do you -- how do you think of that characterization? And do you have some opening remarks you'd like to make?

MICAH ZENKO: Well, thank you so much for the opportunity and for the privilege of speaking with you all and for speaking alongside Admiral Blair, who has had a long, distinguished career of actual operational and command responsibilities, versus myself, who has the privilege of just essentially thinking and writing for a living, with no consequences of what I say.

What I try to do in this report is look at the -- to try to articulate the scope and intensity of U.S. nonbattlefield targeted killings since September 11th. You know, if you had told anybody, even soon after 9/11, that the U.S. would be -- have conducted something like 425 targeted killings in at least three countries, killing over 3,000 people, nobody who -- nobody would have believed you, even after 9/11.

And the United States has sort of merged into this policy of drones being the pre-eminent counterinsurgency tactic against a range of threats that its intended to face.

One of the biggest problems which Admiral Blair gets to is that the Obama administration's strategy for how it uses drones is poorly articulated and not very transparent. But for example, the United States and the Obama administration makes the claim that every individual targeted -- and they do this for legal purposes -- is a senior al-Qaida leader who poses a significant and imminent threat of attack to the United States homeland. Now, that's not who the United States actually targets -- and this gets to the issue of signature strikes, which the Obama administration has never, on the record, acknowledged that it conducts. So there's poor -- there's poor articulation of it.

It's also poorly coordinated with other elements of national power in the countries where it's being -- where it's being used, and you can talk to the U.S. ambassadors to Pakistan or Yemen and you can talk to the USAID contractors who are trying to do sort of soft power efforts there, and they will tell you that when you go to the tribal areas of Pakistan or you go to southern Yemen, drones are the face of U.S. foreign policy. Because we don't articulate and describe our vision for how these are used very well, we essentially -- again, to echo Admiral Blair -- we allow the Taliban and the ISI and the Pakistani government to tell our story about drones, which is a -- which is a tremendous strategic communications lapse.

And then finally, I'll just say that I slightly disagree with Admiral Blair about whether or not international norms matter. If that's true, then the administration should do -- shouldn't lay out its policies at all.

It should, you know, close down its websites, close down its spokespersons, not address people in press conferences if you don't think how you articulate these policies matter. It is the position of the Obama administration, and President Obama has said this on the record several times, that how the United States is using drones will have some normative impact on others, and they could emulate how we use them, not just emulate how we use them in the field, but the justifications we provide. So though there are plenty of potential near-term threats, or -- either to the U.S. homeland or to the governments where these strikes occur, and the United States, I think correctly, in some instances is using lethal force to deal with those threats, there is not the longer-term discussion about what impact U.S. drone use today will have on emerging drone powers once they have the technology.

MASTERS: OK. Thanks, Micah. And for those of you who may have joined us late, this is a CFR media conference call with Admiral Dennis Blair and CFR's Micah Zenko, focusing on U.S. drone policy. So at this point, operator, I think we can open it up to questions.

OPERATOR: At this time we will open the floor for questions. (Gives queuing instructions.)

MASTERS: OK. Hi there. Do we have a first question?

OPERATOR: Yes, we do.

MASTERS: OK. Please proceed with your question.

OPERATOR: Our first question comes from Gopal Ratnam with Bloomberg News.

QUESTIONER: Yes, hello. Thanks for taking my question. Appreciate it.

So I wanted to ask both of you if you would talk a little bit about the context of this report in the sense -- there was a story out in The Washington Post yesterday talking about the administration preparing a playbook for counterterrorism drone strikes that carves out an exception for the use of these drones in the Pakistan and border areas.

I was wondering if -- you know, Micah, if you could talk a little bit about whether this is a step in the direction of what you call in the report for more clarity and articulation of policy, and also to Admiral Blair, if this addresses your concern that, you know, you cannot make Pakistan and the use of drones in that area as a case for drawing up these rules, because this seems to sort of carve that out for the -- for the time being.

ZENKO: Thank you for the -- for the question. Very briefly, I think having a process that codifies and institutionalize and bureaucratizes how the U.S. will conduct targeted killings or when it will decide to kill versus capture and what degrees of cooperation they can hope for and support they can get from host nations in doing some of these operations is a useful thing. If nothing else, it simplifies the process for the executive branch and for all the various interagency players who are using it. However, if the playbook is simply an executive-branch, closed process, then it doesn't provide any transparency or oversight in how the U.S. does it. It's essentially the White House saying, trust us; we have a better process and how to do this.

And I would add that if the United States decides not to apply the, quote, playbook to Pakistan, it's essentially meaningless, because 85 percent of all the targeted killings that the U.S. has conducted in nonbattlefield settings since 9/11 have occurred in Pakistan. So the vast majority of targeted killings and drone strikes will not be covered under the playbook.

And Admiral Blair, would you like to follow up on that?

BLAIR: I agree with Micah on both those -- both those counts. A classified playbook does not reassure the -- reassure the American people, who I think are the -- are the primary ones that need to be convinced that their government is doing the right thing. And again, I think that you can't write general procedures, applicable in other countries, for Pakistan, but I think that what we -- our use of -- our use of drones in Pakistan has to be consistent with international law and the laws of -- the laws of war and so on. So Pakistan certainly doesn't get a pass for all of the laws that -- of -- and the legal use of force, which we are -- which we are pledged to both in international treaties and the way Americans think about the way they want to use our armed forces. So I think that we've got to do better than a classified playbook.

MASTERS: OK, thank you. Can we have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Siobhan Gorman with Wall Street Journal.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thanks so much. I was actually wondering if it was possible to look at the drones a little bit more broadly outside of Pakistan, just because obviously, everyone's focused on North Africa at the moment. And I was wondering, particularly Admiral Blair, but both of you, what your sense is of the applicability of drones as part of a CT strategy in North Africa at this point or down the line for the U.S. or, I guess, in conjunction with other countries.

BLAIR: Siobhan, as you know, I'm just not quite as much a believer in how drones are wonder-weapons --

QUESTIONER: Right, right.

BLAIR: -- as some are. I think they combine a bunch of useful characteristics of different weapons systems that we -- that we already have; they can hang there longer, they can react quickly because the surveillance platform carries a -- carries a bomb and so on, but I don't think that, you know, we've suspended the -- we've suspended the laws of physics because we have this drone.

So I think drones should be -- if we are supporting the Mali government, the French -- and the French and African troops who are supporting them with drones, we use them for the things that drones can be used for under the -- under the effectiveness and rules of law.

They would -- they are excellent surveillance platforms to find out what's going on in your enemies' territory; they can be used to attack hostile forces directly. If there is a convoy of Tuareg dissident al-Qaida gunmen heading towards French forces, then they can be declared hostile, and you destroy them with drones just the way you would with artillery or fixed air or others.

So I see them as being a very useful and -- weapons system that can be used for the surveillance and attack program to -- purposes that we always do under the laws of war and the command and control procedures we've developed.

QUESTIONER: Do you -- do you think that it would be better for the military to use them rather than for sort of a whole a new CIA program in that area, that if we're providing support to the French or others there, that it would be easier or better to do it under military auspices?

BLAIR: Right, I strongly -- I strongly believe that a great majority of the use of drones should be done by the armed forces under the -- under military command. The reason that we have covert action is to be able to deny it. We need to go back to the foundations here. It was set up during the Cold War so that the United States could take action and U.S. officials could deny that we had done so. That simply does not apply in -- to long campaigns undertaken in areas of -- where other nations cannot enforce their own -- their own laws.

And I think we tie ourselves into all sorts of legal knots and we put ourselves in bad situations, like we are in Pakistan, by running these as covert action under Title 50 and then only selectively talking about them in way which, I think Micah's very eloquently said, has put us completely on the -- completely on the defensive in taking actions which I think are eminently justifiable and most Americans and most of the rest of the world would support.

ZENKO: Can I just add -- one point on that is that -- you know, which a lot of people seem to forget -- is that the United States currently does not fly armed drones off carriers, which means there needs to be airfields which they can be flown from, which means the United States needs the basing rights of coast countries to fly them from and, in the case of potential strikes in Mali, needs overflight permission from either Algiers or Mauritania or one of the neighboring countries to conduct strikes there.

And right now there is no country in Europe who supports U.S. drone strikes, and we could not fly these from any NATO bases in Southern Europe. The U.S. (sic) would not allow the U.S. to conduct lethal strikes at -- with the scope and intensity that it has in places like Pakistan and Yemen from its bases in Southern Europe. So you're tied there. And then you -- then you're essentially looking for basing rights somewhere in North Africa, and then you need overflight rights to do this. It's not clear that those -- that countries will allow the U.S. to use themselves as aircraft carriers to conduct (drone ?) strikes sort of in perpetuity.

Drones are a very effective and useful tool, as Admiral Blair points out, for surveillance, for -- you know, for route surveillance, monitoring bases, monitoring bad guys. It can conduct lethal strikes as well. But the U.S. opinion is that AQIM specifically does not -- does not pose an imminent threat to the U.S. homeland. And if the U.S. is going to conduct drone strikes against them, it should at least acknowledge that it is intervening on behalf of a domestic insurgency and on behalf of the French to do this, because then you need a whole different set of legal justifications than what you find under the AUMF, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which is about essentially protecting the U.S. homeland from strikes.

BLAIR: Yeah, I agree with Micah. And of course this is something that we deal with all of the time. Just to cite a European example, back in -- back in 1987, when the United States conducted the strikes against Libya, the Air Force aircraft actually had to fly around France from their bases in England in order to conduct a strike there; it was called El Dorado Canyon. So it's absolutely true that countries will decide to give basing overflight rights based on -- based on the purpose and the conditions under which a U.S. -- those U.S. forces would be used, those airplanes would be used.

And their own public opinion will be a factor, although not the only factor, in making that -- in making that decision. So to that extent, the United -- the degree to which the United States can make its case for what it's -- for what it's doing, it becomes extremely important.

MASTERS: OK. Thank you. Can we have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Scott Shane, with The New York Times.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thanks for having this call. To follow up a little bit on what Siobhan was asking about, right now, as everyone knows, the CIA is running the targeted killing program in Pakistan. Both of you seem to think that the CIA should sort of get out of that business, at least in ongoing sort of public -- more or less public targeted killing programs like that. What -- and what should happen now in Pakistan? And also, if both of you could offer any opinion on the appointment of John Brennan at CIA and what the Senate might want to ask him about, you know, sort of on this topic.

MASTERS: Micah, do you want to --

BLAIR: Yeah, I'll start.

MASTERS: OK.

BLAIR: And then on John Brennan, I've got -- I've got nothing to -- nothing to say. But on the Pakistan, what we should do in Pakistan, the -- my concern with our use of drone in Pakistan, which can be denied by Pakistan -- in fact, the legislature can pass laws that say that we can't do it, and meanwhile their government actually gives us permission to use their airspace, Pakistan could shut us down anytime (they want ?), so they have their -- they have what they think is the best of all worlds; they get attacks against militants who are a threat to them as well as to us in Afghanistan, and they get to blame us -- blame us for it.

So that is not a -- that is not over the long term how we are going to control the threat to Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States coming from the -- from the northwest areas of Pakistan. So we need to constantly be offering to Pakistan to make a better deal in which we cooperate in establishing law and order in those -- in those tribal areas, and we should offer to let go of the unilateral drone strikes which we conduct there in return for a combined campaign against those areas and then imposition of regular Pakistani law and order the way it was done in the Swat Valley, the way it was done in South Waziristan.

And we should -- we should be constantly striving for a long-term strategy which will hold down the threat from those areas and will minimize all the downsides of what we're doing now. And I'm out of government now, so I don't know the extent that we are doing that, but based on the public statements of the government, there's way too much of this, oh, drones are the best game in town; we're really killing them. And it's just a very short-term, myopic view of what is going to be a long-term problem.

ZENKO: I would just add, you know, as -- Scott (sp), as you know, the fact that the CIA is even involved in the armed-drone game is an artifice of history. You know, if you go back and read the 9/11 Commission and some of the staff statements and you talk to, you know, the people who worked at the counterterrorism center and Richard Clarke and the director of operations, Admiral Scott Fry, et cetera, you know, the CIA was tasked with the ability to track and locate bin Laden as a response to the -- what was the cruise missile problem of the four to six hours it roughly took to try to find bin Laden.

And the decision to put what was an anti-tank helicopter missile on a Predator drone and to give the CIA -- make the CIA the lead executive authority was essentially a case of bureaucratic infighting. And when 9/11 occurs, the CIA sort of has this mission.

But if you were starting from scratch today, you would put almost all of these under Title 10 DOD authority, and I think that's where they belong, in part because it gives you one single chain of command, one single justification. It -- there -- the JSOC strikes at least are reported under the biannual War Powers Resolution reporting from the White House to the Congress, so there is a slightly more transparency, and the White House could decide to give them even more transparency if they wanted to. So that's what should occur.

You know, we had the Pakistani foreign minister, who did an on- the-record press conference here at CFR last week, who, you know, was -- the first, second, third thing they were asked about is drone strikes. And so drones -- the use of drones become the sort of articulation of all U.S. actions towards Pakistan, which is a tremendous mistake. You need to think about the U.S. relationships with Pakistan in a more comprehensive, coordinated way and to think about how it is -- you know, the fact of the matter is that most of the strikes in Pakistan have to do with protecting U.S. service members serving in southern Afghanistan, and when the U.S. significantly reduces its combat footprint there, the U.S. will be able to, sort of by definition, reduce some of the strikes that occur in Pakistan, but there still will be threats to the U.S. homeland and to Europe and to other plots that emanate from the region.

But the notion that you're going to hit these guys in perpetuity and not create intense resentment from the government of Pakistan and from the people, not to mention some of -- some of them living in tribal areas, I think, is a mistake in strategy.

You can fly above these areas and target them in perpetuity, but the ground sort of burns beneath your feet as you do it, and you never get to the underlying cause of what -- why these threats emanate from there.

MASTERS: OK, thank you, Micah.

Can we have the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from David Wood with Huffington Post.

QUESTIONER: Good morning, gentlemen. Is there evidence that as you're targeting horizontally networked terrorist groups, that targeted killing really works? Does it really blunt their operational capability when you remove one of their leaders?

BLAIR: Yes.

ZENKO: I'll give you the academic answer, is there's a huge debate in the academic journals, like Security Studies, International Security, about how effective targeting terrorist leaders are -- people like Patrick Johnston at Rand, and Jenna Jordan at the University of Chicago. And I invite you to look at some of the evidence that they present whether or not targeting leadership leads to a reduction of threat or the collapse of terrorist groups. The evidence, as is often the case is academic studies, is quite mixed, but it's clear that there is many instances where targeting has a significant impact in ending the existence of some terrorist groups.

QUESTIONER: Could I ask Admiral Blair to elucidate on his one-word answer, which I thought was pretty interesting?

BLAIR: There are two -- I'd say there are two aspects to it. One is the competence of those who take the place of those who are killed. And so there are senior leaders who have either charismatic and inspirational qualities or who have specific operational skills which will be lost if they are replaced by someone else with either less charisma or less experience.

On the other hand, sometimes in organizations freeing up promotion is a -- is a good thing. And you get people who come in who are -- who are, in fact, more skilled, more charismatic and more energetic than those they replaced.

The second thing is that having to conduct your operations under attack makes them not impossible -- especially air attack -- but a lot more difficult than if you're not. And I would choose two extreme examples, look at the way the 9/11 attacks were planned and conducted: Long meetings in Kandahar; conferences around the world in places like Bangkok, Hamburg, Germany; long reconnaissance journeys to check things out in the -- in the target countries.

And these were all possible because al-Qaida was not under attack, in part by -- in part by drone attack and also -- and also other intelligence and security activities. Now, in large part because of the use of drones, there are not sanctuary areas where the essential functions of intelligence planning, logistics coordination and training can all be -- can all be conducted, and the drones requires these organizations to go underground, to take a long time.

So my evaluation is that on those two factors -- the quality of the leaders who are moving up to replace those killed and the difficulty of actually conducting attacks against the United States that al-Qaida has been -- has been substantially weakened by the overall measures, but -- of which the drone attacks on leadership have been a part.

MASTERS: OK, thank you. Can we have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes from KT McFarland with Fox News.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thank you very much for doing this.

Has anybody, either you or others, given thought to what happens next? I mean, the United States owns the drone wars now, but technology tends to only trump temporarily. What happens down the road five years from now when other countries get drones, other countries have the ability to target American diplomats traveling around in cars in rural Yemen? Are we -- are we -- have we really thought through what kind of a world it's going to be when we have proliferating drone powers?

BLAIR: I think that --

MASTERS: (Micah, you want ?) --

BLAIR: This is Dennis Blair again.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Dennis.

BLAIR: I think we've partly thought that -- thought that through, but this is a -- this is a familiar syndrome in the sort of military technology cycle. When a new weapons program comes in, it's often introduced by the more advanced countries, the high-tech ones, and -- who take full advantage of that while they can and don't worry too much about what happens when others -- when others get it.

When you -- when you think about it, there are a couple of things that make me believe that this -- when drones do proliferate, they will not be as effective weapons against us as we are able to use them against others right now.

One is that they are -- that they are very dependent on a -- on an intelligence system which is incredibly worldwide, complicated and expensive. It uses the entire U.S. global intelligence system. No other country can afford that. It's not just the -- it's not just the money; it's the years of practice it takes to do that.

The second one is that -- what I do fear the most, though, is that a terrorist -- and let me say I don't fear too much other nation- states that gain this capability. It's very -- you know if another country has it and is using it against you and then you can use the full -- the full array of both defensive systems and of retaliation to keep it from being used against you effectively.

I do fear that -- and if al-Qaida can develop a drone, its first thought will be to use it to kill our president, senior officials, senior military officers. And it's possible, without a great deal of intelligence, to be able to do something with a drone that you can't do with a -- with a high-speed -- with a high-powered rifle or with -- driving a car full of explosives or the other ways that terrorists now use to try to kill senior officials

And I think that there are ways to deal with that that -- but it -- and I also think that whether we use them or not -- the way in which we use them or not won't affect the zeal of terrorists groups to be able to get them and to be able to kill senior officials for all of the reasons that we are familiar with.

So I think this is not opening up a huge Pandora's box which will make us wish that we'd never invented the drone, but it will cause us to have to take some more defensive measures in the future.

ZENKO: Just briefly, I agree with Admiral Blair. The -- I mean, the United States is the only country with the global architecture of intelligence communications satellites, et cetera, tacit or explicit host nation support that allows us to conduct these strikes globally. And I'm not so much worried about other states using them against the U.S., because the principles of attribution and deterrence could still adhere.

What I'm mostly worried about is when these proliferate. What we learned about drones because of their inherent advantages of responsive persistenceness (sic) without putting your own pilots or our personnel at risk is that states use lethal force more often. So the United States conducted -- 97 percent of all the targeted killings done has been with drones because of the inherent advantage of the weapons platform. And so if you think about ways state use lethal force outside of their borders today, whether this is Turkey in Northern Iraq or Democratic Republic of Congo into Rwanda or vice versa or some cross-border skirmishes, you could see uses of force outside of countries either against bordering states or regional states much more likely and -- to occur with greater scope and intensity just as they have as the U.S. has used them for strikes.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

MASTERS: OK, thank you. I think we may have time for one or two more questions. Can we have the next question, please?

OPERATOR: Our next question comes with -- from James Kitfield with the National Journal.

QUESTIONER: Thanks, gentlemen, for doing this. Since I've talked to you, Micah, I wanted to ask Admiral Blair about whatever insight he has about the resistance of the administration to putting this program under a sort of sounder footing in terms of transparency and perhaps judicial review.

When you talk to civil rights types, you know, the idea that the president can target even Americans like al-Awlaki for assassination or for killing without any judicial review, with no due process, just drives them crazy. And they point out that, you know, you have to get a warrant from a FISA court for wire taps but not to kill someone.

I'm just curious if you can give me any insight into why there is such resistance to having even a sort of perfunctory review of this program so Americans would feel a little more comfortable that -- you know, that -- of how it's conducted.

BLAIR: You're asking why there's resistance to perfunctory judicial review?

QUESTIONER: Or basically any review that I have been able to see in terms of, you know, transparency in this program.

BLAIR: Well, I think there's a difference between review and transparency. Which one are you interested in?

QUESTIONER: Review, I guess.

BLAIR: There is review, both in the military chain of command and in the intelligence community chain of command -- designated levels of approval, review by JAG lawyers in the case of the Department of Defense and by general counsels in the case of the intelligence community. So there is a -- there is a, within the executive branch, internal process to decide who can -- who can be a target and who can shoot.

And in addition, Congress does receive briefings on both programs -- on the armed forces side and on the intelligence side -- and so they know what is happening and they have all the powers that Congress has to delve deeper into them if something doesn't look right. So I think there's plenty of review.

I don't think there is enough transparency and justification so that -- so that we remove not the secrecy, but the mystery of these things. And I -- and I think that the reason it's not been undertaken by the administration is that -- is that they just make a cold-blooded calculation that it's better to hunker down and take the criticism than it -- than it is to get into the public debate, which is going to be a hard one to win but I think in the long run is essential.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

MASTERS: OK. I think given time constraints, we'll have to leave it there. I want to thank both participants. And again, this was a Council on Foreign Relations media conference call. Thank you all for joining us. Thank you to Admiral Blair and Micah Zenko. And that concludes our call.

ZENKO: Thank you very much.

OPERATOR: Thank you. You may now disconnect.

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