from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

You Might Have Missed: Drone Pilots, Press Freedom, and CIA Accountability

January 16, 2015

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Daily Press Briefing, U.S. Department of State, January 15, 2015.

MARIE HARF: So clearly, we think that media organizations should have the right publish what they want. Doesn’t mean they have to prove that they can. It’s obviously a decision for them to make.

(3PA: The same day the State Department spokesperson said this, FBI director James Comey wrote a letter to the New York Times, which stated: “Your decision to grant anonymity to a spokesperson for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula so he could clarify the role of his group in assassinating innocents, including a wounded police officer, and distinguish it from the assassination of other innocents in Paris in the name of another group of terrorists, is both mystifying and disgusting…I fear you have lost your way and urge you to reconsider allowing your newspaper to be used by those who have murdered so many and work every day to murder more.”  The hypocrisy between championing freedom of the press and demanding censorship never ceases.)

Cyber-crime and business: Think of a Number and Double It,” Economist, January 17, 2015.

But how many businesses suffer from cyber-crime, and how much it ultimately costs them, are huge unknowns…If there were more disclosure, and thus more information on the amount, types and costs of cyber-crime, companies would know better how to spend their information-security budgets. It would also be easier to work out what sort of insurance cover to buy...

Consider one from a 2014 study by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank in Washington, DC. Cyber-crime, it concluded, bleeds between $300 billion and $1 trillion from businesses worldwide each year. One of the study team says that good data were so scarce, they had joked about publishing the findings along with an online random-number generator that readers could click on until it produced an estimate to their liking. “That was a little depressing”, he says.

The study was sponsored by McAfee, a large American seller of antivirus software. Its own 2009 calculation of the global cost to businesses produced the figure of more than $1 trillion. This was roundly derided as bloated, even by researchers who had provided McAfee with data from which the estimate was extrapolated. One of them, Eugene Spafford, a Purdue University computer scientist, said he was “really kind of appalled” by the exaggeration. McAfee republished the number in 2011. It still circulates.

State of the Air Force, U.S. Department of Defense, January 15, 2015.

DEBORAH LEE JAMES, SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE: The airmen who perform this essential mission do a phenomenal job, but talks with the RPA pilots and the sensor operators, and their leaders certainly suggested to me, that this is a force that is under significant stress from what is an unrelenting pace of operations.

Now, these pilots, just to give you a little color on this, fly six days in a row. They are working 13-14 hour days on average. And to give you a contrast, an average pilot in one of our manned Air Force aircraft flies between 200 and 300 hours per year. Again, these are averages.

But in the RPA world, the pilots log four times that much, ranging from 900 to 1100 flight hours per year. And again, this is very stressful operations because mistakes can cost lives.

Finally, I learned that many of our experienced operators are nearing the end of their active-duty service commitment, which means they will have a choice in the not too distant future to either stay with us or leave the Air Force.

QUESTION: Has the pressure and the strain on the RPA pilots led to a decline in the number of caps that you can put out there at any one time, or a slow-down in any hoped-for growth that you had in the number of caps? Has there been an operational effect? Obviously on these individual pilots, a lot of extra hours, but have you had to reduce what you can provide combatant commanders in terms of...

GEN. MARK A. WELSH III, AIR FORCE CHIEF OF STAFF: No, we had not. We’ve met the operational demand signal, but we’re doing it by putting people in a position where they’re now having a debate whether they want to continue doing this. And that’s not a healthy debate for us over time or for the combatant commanders over time…

Final Report of the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Network Agency Accountability Board, Central Intelligence Agency, released January 14, 2015.

There is some confusion as to who in Senior Leadership authorized what action and when they issued these directives. The OIG told the Board that [name redacted] conveyed the D/CIA’s interest in the matter before [name redacted] had received feedback from the D/CIA, but other information before the board makes it appear there was regular dialogue with leadership as events unfolded. (p. 26)

Remarks by Secretary Hagel at a Troop Event at Marine Corps Station Miramar, California, U.S. Department of Defense, January 13, 2015.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: The other part of what I’ve learned on this is you can’t force the United States value system and our values and our standards and our structures and our institutions down anybody’s throat. And we make huge mistakes when we think we can go around and make many USAs all over the world. It just won’t work, never has worked.

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