“The Most Transparent Administration In History”: Obama Administration Quietly Strips Senate Bill Of Provision Requiring Disclosure Of Annual Drone Kills

220px-MQ-9_Reaper_-_090609-F-0000M-777President_Barack_ObamaThere is yet another victory for the national security state under President Obama. The Obama Administration has succeeded, with the help of Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, in quietly removing a provision that would seem unobjectionable to a President who pledged “the most transparent Administration in history.” The provision simply required disclosure of the number of people killed each year by U.S. drone attacks. Not the details mind you. Just the figure. That sent the intelligence community into outrage over having to tell the public how many people have been killed in just this one area. The result was that it was simply stripped out of the Senate bill without a vote or debate.


The person demanding the change was James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence. You recall Clapper’s last notable appearance before Congress was to lie about surveillance programs — an act viewed widely as perjury but Clapper has not been even investigated let alone prosecuted by the Obama Administration. Instead, he is now working to strip out provisions requiring the most basic form of disclosure. That must certainly be a comfort to an official who admitted to previously giving false information to Congress. If no disclosure is required, there could be no new charges of perjury.

The provision, passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee last year as part of its authorization bill, required Obama to annually disclose “the total number of combatants killed or injured during the preceding year by the use of targeted lethal force outside the United States by remotely piloted aircraft.” Note that it did not require details on countries, identifications, or operations. Just a number.

Intelligence officials demanded that the provision be removed. Once again, they got their way in a back door agreement. No debate on the floor of course. The decision was made by the intelligence community and demanded by the White House. That is all.

220px-James_R._Clapper_official_portraitOf course, President Obama just got finished promising the public last May that this time he really means it: he will demand transparency from intelligence operations. The change this week reflects that little has been done on this promise which (like the one made earlier) has been honored primarily in the breach. But don’t worry, the White House sent out Clapper to assure the public that he is exploring ways to “provide the American people more information about the United States’ use of force outside areas of active hostilities.” Now if that is not reassuring, I cannot imagine what would be.

Source: New York Times

36 thoughts on ““The Most Transparent Administration In History”: Obama Administration Quietly Strips Senate Bill Of Provision Requiring Disclosure Of Annual Drone Kills”

  1. This is simply a tempest in a tea pot. Just HOW will the intelligence agencies KNOW how many were killed, injured, and what possible relevance does that have to anything? I think that before you denounce this, you need to answer those questions FIRST! Then assuming that one CAN get such intel, why do we need to know this? This is simply absurd and I am reminded of the “body count” of the Vietnam era. It is a foolish idea to begin with, and is only designed to make political points rather than any legitimate knowledge for us to use.

  2. There is also “mission-creep” and excessive secrecy only creates more incentive for further mission-creep.

    According to former FBI agent, Michael German, since about 2005 the top domestic terrorist threat was “environmental rights activists” although to date they have never killed anyone. What about African-American separatist groups or right-wing groups? Would members of the Sierra Club, Tea Party or NAACP be fair game?

    There is always mission-creep in every government program, will these programs shrink in proportion to the real threat or just find other targets?

  3. Jonathan,

    Obama is doing good job from my point of view, we all know the big fail scenario bush left on the table that this government still working to fix after all this years.

  4. What should most concern us is the judicial process – the accuracy rate that the person is actually guilty is likely less than 50% – making drone pilots potential war criminals in the decades to come.

    The most accurate judicial process is the pre-2001 American domestic court system – where the “accused” is confronted by his “accusers” (under penalty of perjury) and confront all evidence against them including exculpatory evidence. Where grand juries and juries can “check” potentially corrupt prosecutors and judges. This is the most accurate “judicial process” for determining guilt or innocence and it’s not 100% accurate.

    That’s why the USA shouldn’t be in the assassination business at all!

  5. “Someone said above that revealing numbers of KIA by drones should remain secret so as not to give indications to Al Qaeda of how many they are losing — I could not agree more. ”

    Yes – but I was kidding. I have a horrible suspicion that you are not.

    Let’s just assume that Cousin Ali had this hut in which he was assembling a nuke that he was going to detonate in a US city….
    It’s easy really. You just build a nuke, put it in your checked luggage and fly to America,
    Everyone is quite excited about this plot.
    All of a sudden, there’s no word from Ali.
    People reported a whoosh-bang – that might probably have been a meteroite landing on Ali’s house. You’d be surprised how often meteroites fall on people’s houses. If Ali was away at the time, then there’s no problem for the nuke plot. Everybody just waits around for a few years doing nothing until Ali gets back from wherever he was.

    Then the US reveals that its drones have killed 200 people world-wide.
    Then people get to wondering if Ali had been one of the 200. Like it’s been two years and still no word from him, Not even a postcard.

    There’s the problem.
    If AQAP think that Ali had just gone off on a holiday and forgot to tell them, there’s no danger that they will get someone else to build nukes, etc.
    However, the moment they realise that Ali was actually droned, then it’s gonna be mushroom clouds everywhere.

    (I’ve done this one to death – haven’t I? Yes I have. I’ll stop now)

  6. Paul,

    Nope! AQAP are weeping and gnashing their teeth over not knowing how many of their leaders have been droned.

    OK.
    People in the area reported a whoosh and a bang coinciding with that usual buzzing noise overhead.
    Cousin Ali hasn’t been heard from for some time.
    Those bits of legs and arms could belong to anybody. They could be innocent women and children – and not Cousin Ali.
    Cousin Ali could well have just gone off fishing or on holday and forgotten to tell people. It happens.
    If only the Americans could say how many of those bodies left lying around after the whoosh-bangs were killed by drones – opposed to meteroite strikes – then terroristic life would be so much easier.

  7. Someone said above that revealing numbers of KIA by drones should remain secret so as not to give indications to Al Qaeda of how many they are losing — I could not agree more.

    I sympathize that sometimes “innocent civilians” are killed — and in some aspects that is true.

    But let’s dissect this a bit as well and relate back to history’s greatest war –WW II . The German populace was “seduced” by Hitler’s rhetoric for the most part in supporting the Nazi war machine. We bombed Germany until we reduced their war-making capabilities to rubble but also to break the spirit of the German people to show them that supporting Hitler was wrong.

    Today, whether it’s seduction or “by force”, Al Qaeda has a large support structure which also must be dismantled. Ever watch the videos from all over the Mideast late in the day on 9/11 ….?? All manner of civilians whooping it up over the fact that OBL had killed 3K plus Americans.

    No (USAF) “drone controller / pilot” in our modern age goes to work salivating about how many “innocent” civilians s/he will kill on the work shift today. The military’s hierarchy would remove any individual in a flash who displayed that propensity.

    Instead, they work after compiling intelligence to eliminate Al Qaeda who just the other day in Yemen proclaimed that they are still highly interested in eliminating the USA from existence. These Al Qaeda soldiers are supported by an infrastructure just as the German army was…. Whether they ( the support infrastructure) do it voluntarily or because women are treated like chattel by men under Islamic traditions remains to be seen. But until Al Qaeda completely stops all attacks and denounces its ambitions against America then these soldiers and unfortunately their willing or unwilling support structure are fair game and must be pursued. That is unless you desire to see suicide bombers in Times Square and / or mushroom clouds appearing over one or more American cities.

    America CANNOT have it both ways. We are at war with radical Islam. Please note I caveated the term with the adjective “radical”. Radical Islam shows no inclination of going away and unfortunately given our free and open society is already festering here in America.

    Support our military, please!!! They take an oath to support and defend the Constution and do so most admirably every day.

    I know … I did it for 24 years myself once up in a time.

  8. Sling – you don’t think the terrorists have cell phones and satellite phones? They keep up. They don’t need this report to tell them who is not answer his phone.

  9. Oh dear, you mean when a Republican (Joe Wilson) yelled “You Lie” he was telling the truth about or wonderful, cheerful, truth telling, savior, President?

  10. This is a real political vacuum – both parties have embraced excessive secrecy and shadow government – unAmerican government!

    In a healthy 2-party system the other national party would be competing for these votes but they both embrace unchecked power.

  11. I’m surprised those who squelched the disclosure didn’t say that they opposed it because it required too little disclosure. Perhaps that trick is useful only to those who are running for re-election.

  12. It is vital for US security that the numbers killed by drones remains secret.

    Terrorists have absolutely no way of knowing how many of their comrades have been killed by drones – other than the US telling them.
    If terrorists had this knowledge, it would enable them to …….. eh…..well… do stuff.

    On the other hand, if people knew how many people have been killed in Yemen in the course of the US supporting yet another totalitarian regime, people might start to wonder if that all of that number were actually a clear and present threat to the US.

  13. You got two people here that we must get out of power: 80 year old senile Feinstein and screwball shaved head Clapper the liar whose pants are on fire.
    Bye bye Ms American pie, sold my Chevy to the levy and the levy was dry….
    Good ol boys drinking whiskey and rye
    Singin this could be the day that I die,
    This could be the day that I die.

    I forget the rest. Ms Feinstein might remember it but she was old when it was written.

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