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Clinton approved CIA drone assassinations with her cellphone, report says (salon.com)
151 points by titzer on June 13, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments

She could have approved drone strikes using smoke signals or carrier pigeons... - it all boils down to the same thing - execution of human beings without a trial...

Cellphones are functionally equivalent to laptops and desktops-- they're computers.

Now, independent of that, if the regulations and law do not treat them equally, they are not legally equal.

I think the issue here is she used her unsecure cellphone and presumably "private" email server to approve these strikes in which case it might have caused operational information to leak.

This isn't about someone using a cellphone or a laptop, this is about someone using any communication device that wasn't clear for the transmission of classified information to approve strikes which i would only presume to be classified if only due to operational reasons.

It leaves the impression of a quick and weakly informed decision (especially so in the context of executing people).

I personally would never respond to an important inquiry on mobile because the relatively limited screen and input interface (e.g. auto-correct) would make me anxious that I am missing some crucial piece of information.

Not really a lot of times this can be a "last moment" highly time sensitive decision based on who exactly is identified at the strike target.

Allot of people are involved in the decision making, various heads of agencies, the joint chiefs, cabinet members, the president, the vice president, members of congress, the speaker of the house etc. all can be involved depending on the strike.

You also have variables that can change for example a large than expected number of non-combatants or an unexpected high value target and when those parameters change the mission planners and operators usually have to refer up to notify people like the Secretary of State and have them make a decision to proceed, abort, change mission parameters (e.g. from survey to kill, or from kill to capture) etc.

Like it or not from all aspects these aren't decisions that can be open to lengthy debate this isn't how combat works, and having to make a time sensitive decision is something that people at those levels of government and the military have to do all the time. So sorry I don't see how the fact that a cellphone has been used is some how makes it look worse than what it already is, it's just a tool like anything else.

Question is are you in a state of war? Are these considered casualties of war? If yes, then execution without trial is a given.

The US stopped having wars with nations and instead has gone onto wars against ideas and things. The war against terror and the war against drugs being two of them. This way they can pick and choose which country to war with those elements without warring with a nation.

Things that look like colonialism are no longer considered acceptable in this era.

While I'm not a big fan of drones and other shadow warfare type approaches, it's not like the U.S. just decided this on its own. The terrorists are choosing the kind of warfare because they know they can't win a standup shooting war with the U.S.

The drug war is kind of a completely different thing as well because so much of it is a fight against our own citizens, and "victory" is pretty much unobtainable, which is maybe how the SWAT-team industrial complex wants it.

Last I looked the US weren't at war with Pakistan.

Are they at war with the Taliban?

The US haven't formally been at war with anyone since WWII[1], so we must rely on an informal definition of war (otherwise even Vietnam would be excluded).

A middle-ground definition of war that requires parties to be nation states but doesn't require a declaration of war, seems a bit arbitrary.

Instead of declaring war, the US now has Congress-sanctioned "use of military force". This includes the current "conflict" with the Taliban regime.

In this context the line between war casualties and assassination is very blurry. I think the blur itself might be one of the worst things about this new way of waging war.

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/08/all-the-...

Well, congress has the other legal tool alongside "War", which is to 'grant letters of Marque and Reprisal'. They both grant war, either on a country, or individual scale.

The actual quote from the Constitution is thus:

"To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;"

If ISIS isn't a state-level entity (which I believe it is, but does not follow agreed upon definitions of countries) then these Letters of Marque are sufficient if levied against their organization.

Letters of marque aren't an alternative to war for non-state enemies (no such alternative is needed; war precedes the concept of the nation-state).

Letters of marque are a means of authorizing private vessels to act as naval auxiliaries (such that they are portrayed by and subject to the laws of war, rather than legally pirates.)

But the U.S. is at war with ISIL, as part of a joint task force involving the Pakistan armed forces.

It's not total war, so the real issue is whether or not the CIA drone assassinations killed innocent civilians. The article mentions how drone attacks have killed civilians, but it doesn't specify if those are the CIA requested attacks or if they were approved by Clinton.

By the same logic, China could declare war at certain dissident groups, say Tibet activists (which I think China assumes to be terrorists) and then drone strike their members in the US, if the US refuses to act against those.

I don't think this is the standard a civilized nation should hold.

EDIT: spelling

Assuming that the U.S. Military is allied with China against (and at war with) the Tibeten activists, and the drone assassination was of a leader in that group - then yes, your hypothetical slippery slope is analogous.

It's not really a good analogy simply because, in many cases the U.S. strikes, while not always condoned by the governments controlling the land, they are at least not unwelcome. If China pulled that same thing on the U.S., or vice-versa, it would likely start a war. But if they pulled that in Mongolia or Nepal, and those governments were willing to turn a blind eye, it wouldn't.

This kind of situation isn't good, but it's why the State department has the lead instead of Defense.

> By the same logic, China could declare war at certain dissident groups, say Tibet activists (which I think China assumes to be terrorists) and then drone strike their members in the US, if the US refuses to act against those.

China obviously could do that, though they equally obviously would be unlikely to because of the likely consequences of doing so.

I too, believe that war should not exist.

ISIL isn't acting active in Pakistan. The US is at war with several Taliban factions and what's left of Al Qaeda and its support groups in Pakistan.

ISIL and Al Qaeda are more enemies than friends at this point in their histories.

One could reasonably argue that the location of the strikes were regions which were not under the writ of the Pakistani govt.

Didn't the Pak army launch a major operation is recent years to retake control of FATA and NWFP from the Taliban / local armed tribals?

Civilians, lot of civilians were killed! Period!

More civilians (mostly muslims) are killed by the Taliban / ISIS etc. than by the United States.

True. However senseless killing by Taliban/ISIS doesn't justify killings of civilians happening by drone attacks...

You are so last century mate!

It isn't 1918. That question is meaningless.

We are at war with drugs, terrorism, and poverty, among many other abstract entities. Anyone, any time, any place can be killed for national security.

The US can declare it's at war with "bad behavior", and its executive would believe it's legally covered, no matter who they're killing over it.

There are war laws too you know. And execution without a trial is a war crime.

Death in combat is another thing altogether.

Serious question: is there a definition of the difference between execution and combat?

Sure. Execution is where the victim is captured, disarmed and has no means of retaliating.

So would like... the UN consider a drone strike an execution rather than combat?

Godwin's law or not, it's very tempting to see analogies with the Nazi Germany in an era where we are seriously and casually asking questions such as for the difference between "execution" and "combat" -- or re-legitimize torture...

This description fits almost any action that you can perform when you're at war. So, either you advocate that war courts review cases of all the enemy soldiers before aithorizing an attack, or you have to come up with a more precise definition of what is exactly wrong here.

Clarification: I'm not a fan of CIA assasinations, far from it; but "execution without a trial" isn't logically justifiable complaint: we do it in a lot of situations no reasonable person would argue with.

Edit: my original comment was pointing out errors in someone's logic. Sadly, everybody seems to think that this means that I've taken a certain side in drone debate. This is not the case; please, read my comment and understand what exactly am I saying — and what I'm not — before reacting.

enemy soldiers

There is a legal obligation in the Geneva protocols 1949 to identify who you're targeting and refrain from targeting civilians.


"refrain from deciding to launch any attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated;"

Article 52 para 3:

"3. In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used."

The US has taken an extremely lax approach to this with the intelligence-based targeting. Air strikes in the course of combat are probably defensible - if you see someone running into a house carrying a weapon it becomes a military objective - but the intelligence-based targeting lacks that confirmation.

The very words you quote authorise "incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects" as long as it's not "excessive", and the treating of a "place of worship, a house or other dwelling or school" as a military target as long as you're fairly sure it's being used for military purposes.

Obviously you can argue about what is "excessive" and what is a "case of doubt" but whoever wrote these lines was clearly anticipating blowing churches and civilians up and it being within the rules.

I don't say this to make drone killing seem more humane, but to make war in general seem like the everyday insanity that it is.

Most of the deaths in drone strikes have been civilian.

We're talking like 70%+ of the casualties being 'incidental'.

That should warrant a description of 'excessive' I think.

A lot of comments with similar sentiments, so I'll reply just to yours, because it's on top.

Basically, you're making my point for me: there's nothing inherently wrong with remote strikes or drones in particular. It's just a tool; and as a tool, it can be used rightly and wrongly. So, the fact that Clinton used that tool doesn't make her bad. But if you would have information about her using that tool to authorize a strike which she would've known would cause significant collateral damage, and which wouldn't save as many innocent lives as it would take — this would. But the article presents no such information, so all emptional reaction you can have to such a headline is not really justified.

The Reprieve report 'You Never Die Twice: Multiple Kills in the US Drone Program' (November 2014) provided the first estimate of the number of people – including children – killed each time the US attempts to assassinate a ‘high value target.’ For example, drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed as many as 1,147 unknown people in failed attempts to kill just 41 named individuals.

That was a while ago. Things have continued in much the same way and the civilian death toll is much higher, compared to a comparatively small number of jihadis successfully targeted.

Point is, Clinton knows how destructive these things are to the innocent populations in the area they operate.

> For example, drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed as many as 1,147 unknown people in failed attempts to kill just 41 named individuals.

So? If you're trying to make a point that this is a bad situation, this information is not enough — to judge that, we would need to know who these targeted individuals were and how much destruction could they bring.

Also, who are these unknown people statistically? Example to clarify what I mean: if you execute a drone strike on a terrorist training camp, most of the casualties will likely be "unknown", and of course will include innocent civilians as well, but it's reasonable to assume that on average, more of them will be "bad guys" that were just unknown to you than if you execute a strike on a regular village.

Saying that the US is at war with various groups of people in the country side of Pakistan is a rather generous definition of the concept of war, isn't it?

It's more like "the US is blowing up people who may or may not be those intended, but it's kinda hard to tell since they're doing it all by remote control".

Also, congress hasn't declared war since WWII, which is required by law.

No it's not. They came up with the interpretation that the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Powers_Resolution allows them to engage into limited armed conflicts without Congress authorization. Which is dearly needed, because that's what they are doing since decades, with the CIA and friends. And several such CIA wars happened even without the President's authorization, but usually the just lie to the president to able to engage in such armed conflicts.

What this War Powers Resolution does not authorize is a formal declaration of war (Clinton did not care) and any engagement voiding the Geneva conventions. All those drone killings are of course war crimes. This is one of the reasons the US does not recognize international law.

There are a number of reasons why this has happened. Some more nebulous than others. There are a number of extra powers granted to the Executive during a time of war that Congress didn't want activated. There are a number of requirements that kick in when war is "legally" declared that Congress didn't want activated as well.

I'm not saying drone strikes aren't shady, but they aren't strictly illegal. This is a case where Congress needs to get it together and start overseeing if they want it to stop happening. Otherwise, we're just left depending on diplomacy or the UN trying to put a stop to it, which likely won't happen either.

They are happy to use weasel words, this is a declaration of war:


"the US is blowing up people who may or may not be those intended, but it's kinda hard to tell since they're doing it all by remote control".

Sounds like a good description of war to me. It is pretty common in conflict for civilians to suffer higher casualty rates than actual combatants. Mostly leaders don't mean that to happen, but that is hardly any excuse.

There has always been a disconnect between the moral intent of leaders and the actions of men on the ground. I am sure many Kings of England were good christians but there men still raped and pillaged. At least drones don't rape people.

> Saying that the US is at war with various groups of people in the country side of Pakistan is a rather generous definition of the concept of war, isn't it?

Nobody's saying that though.

Any action? Lets look at some specifics and ask which ones should count as murder. A reasonable person might see a different degree of justification in each case.

A person wielding a gun is running and firring their weapon towards a solider. The solider shoots back and kills them.

A boat full with military weapons enters an areas which marines are defending and refuse to turn back. The marines sinks the boat.

A tank drives into a town. The Solider defending the civilians attacks the tank and the tank driver dies in an explosion.

A bomb plane that drops bombs on military facility with tanks, airfield with bombers on them, and docks with military ships.

A bomb plane that dropping bombs on a factory that produce tanks and guns, killing workers.

A bomb plane that fire bombs on housing districts to demoralize the population.

A person is driving down the road in uninhabited area, and a solider sends a remote missile.

A person is celebrating a wedding in their own house, and a soldier sends a remote missile to kill everyone in the wedding.

I don't see what degree of difference there is in your first 4 examples: They're all armed people in a situation of war.

Of course the last 3 are murders (although we know that the Allied erased most of German and Japanese cities, including the civilian neighbourhoods, for morale and retaliation) and the 4th before the end (killing military workers) is debatable.

Last point, concerning French nationals who went to Syria twice to train in military camps and came back to lead the terrorist attacks with actual killings: Can we please extend the Geneva convention to consider them ennemy military corps (and thus, prisonners of war)? I have zero tolerance for police investigating innocents or listening to everyone, but once we know what they've done, I wonder why they just face some penal law (a few years in jail, max, like a driver in a car accident).

I don't mind the downvotes, please explain first how parent's 8 examples are different, and how people being trained in enemy military camps and coming back doesn't raise the POW legislation.

I'm sorry — what point, exactly, are you trying to prove right now, and how do you think this point contradicts my original comment?

Whose soldiers? Whose civilians?

> This description fits almost any action that you can perform when you're at war. So, either you advocate that war courts review cases of all the enemy soldiers before aithorizing an attack, or you have to come up with a more precise definition of what is exactly wrong here.

What everyone else said. What you can do to people you're at war with isn't relevant; there is not even a pretense of being at war here.

The description doesn't even match what happens in war; execution implies sentencing, which does happen here but doesn't in war, where there would be no point.

> no reasonable person would argue with.

By framing it like this, that's where you take a wrong turn.

"This description fits almost any action that you can perform when you're at war."

Except there is no man in the loop in the kill chain.

   "where the maimed survivors of a mistaken drone 
   strike on unarmed civilians in February 2010, 
   which killed 23 people, describe what happened 
   when they were attacked. The juxtaposition of 
   the appallingly gung-ho attitude of the drone 
   operatives, re-enacted from a transcript of 
   the event, and raw footage of the dead bodies" [0]
How do you confirm ground-truth? That truck you targeted with a high statistical chance of having X leader also is surrounded with non-combatants. Eyes on the ground will be responsible and wrestle with this and take responsibility. [1] Even if it's personal.

Death by algorythm, remote control, sanctioned higher up the command chain, does not.

[0] "National Bird review – chilling film reveals truths about drones" ~ https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/apr/17/national-bird-r...

[1] "Into the Fog of War" ~ http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-23/soldier's-story-exp...

It's one thing to shoot soldiers without a trial.

It's a far different thing to bomb random folks living their lives in Afghanistan, then retcon all male casualties to terrorists.

It's one thing to shoot back at people who are shooting at you, but we're talking about blowing up people in remote places who aren't currently attacking anyone or doing anything obviously bad, along with anyone near them at the time.

International law has always been very careful not to proscribe the bombing of enemy leaders just because they're not in a conflict zone, never mind going so far as to require soldiers to wait until they're under fire before shooting enemy soldiers. There are serious questions about the adequacy of the intelligence reports and whether - as with many conventional military operations - the tendency to cause civilian casualties means the strikes do more far harm than good, but on the other hand more research has been put into identifying that the intended targets were responsible for "obviously bad" things than virtually anyone else killed in warfare.

OK, so come up with a more precise definition than "execution without a trial".

Exactly 0 people have ever been in the category "enemy soldiers" since WWII because we haven't declared war.

Using this results in a lot fewer civilian casualties compared to carpet bombing the area.

War will always have civilian casualties and it will always be with us.

Carpet bombing results in a lot fewer civilian casualties compared to nuking the population centres.

So does not performing drone strikes.

Easy to say when your side is the one causing them...

Whenever I hear something about US drone Strikes I always think how long until the other side starts getting drones developed and and easy way to mass produce them and smuggle them into the US assemble them and start launching drone strikes from within the US on US persons of interest like politicians and CIA officials.

Drone parts are getting cheaper and cheaper and easier to get it's only a matter a time someone start using them as assassination tools.

Plus they don't really need to be as big or as powerful as what the CIA uses they can be small and weak and make it up in numbers. I certainly would hate to be on the receiving end of a swarm of assassination drones.

It's a slippery slope and the more they get used the more pissed off people with the know-how and the reason to do it are created like people who have lost family members in these strikes.

Which of course is the only bad thing about drone strikes, right? That they could ever hit the "right guys"?

Who cares that hundreds of innocent civilians are killed, if they are not american citizens?

Disgusting, really.

EDIT, for the downvoters

you'll have to justify what in my comment you do not like. The parent is making the case that what worries him/her is that drone strikes will eventually be used to attack american targets, and by implication suggesting that the current targets are not really something to worry about.

Or he/she is at least suggesting that is not as serious, since what he really is worried about are american targets. Which, if you ask me, is a very widespread opinion, thus my comment.

> you'll have to justify what in my comment you do not like.

<rant> Off topic, but i see this line over and over all the time lately. Nobody has to justify anything. I get downvoted all the time, and would never dream to complain about it. We can disagree without being confrontational/preachy. </rant>

> I get downvoted all the time, and would never dream to complain about it. We can disagree without being confrontational/preachy.

Aren't up/downvotes meant to reflect whether a comment contributes to discussion? Up/downvoting things based on whether or not people agree on them would turn this into a Reddit-like echo chamber.

Ideally that's what I'd like to see as well, but in practice, downvotes are used overwhelmingly to express disagreement here, with little regards for the quality of the actual post. I'd love to see something in the official guidelines to discourage this toxic behavior.

>and by implication suggesting that the current targets are not really something to worry about

I didn't downvote you, but this is your extrapolation and doesn't necessarily imply what you suggest it does. And I am guessing that some people downvoted you because they dislike the idea that you have to add disclaimers to every statement in order not to expose yourself to judgements like yours.

He is technically wondering how long until the first strike hits the US. He is highlighting the risk that the use of drones can get out of control.

Sorry, but he is implying that the fact that currently so many innocent civilians are being killed is not as worrisome. That's what I read: "look what horrible things could happen in the future".

It could be that he is not really implying that, but this is what I read, and I think that this is an extremely widespread opinion, specially among american citizens.

If he is not implying that, sorry but I need a disclaimer. That's what disclaimers are for: to clarify formulations which are not obvious.

Showing concern for one group of people does not imply a lack of concern for another group. You're drawing conclusions that are not supported by the original comment and being needlessly antagonistic. That's why you're getting downvoted.

Sorry but western media (of which this forum is a subset, whether you like or not), is strangely always extremely affected by all attacks performed against western targets, but usually completely oblivious to the attacks that western powers are performing on foreign targets, usually civilians.

This does not look to me like it "does not imply a lack of concern for another group". Once is ok, twice is ok, but whenever you see that "not lacking concern for another group" actually means "not giving a sxxt about them, because they are just second class people and who the hell knows where they live anyway", sorry but I need to point it out.

Because being good on paper means nothing if you are actually pulling the trigger like a madman all around the world.

The commenter you were replying to, as far as I know, is not a professional journalist and does not represent "western media". This is a private individual making a salient observation about the risks of low-tech drone weapons.

I'm not disagreeing that all civilian deaths are a reason to be concerned, but you're coming out of left field and injecting your personal crusade to a completely unrelated comment thread. Make a new top-level comment with your view if that's the point you want to make instead of picking a fight with people who are talking about something else entirely.

We in the west are so convinced that we are speking from high ground, that we go to the extreme to conflate western citizens with "high value people". We are thus not really worried about what happens to the rest of humankind: we are good, and drones are killing some people somewhere, imagine how horrible if the bad guys came to the idea of using drones to kill us good people. That is just horrible!

And you missed this part: this forum is a part of western media. The expressed opinion is not an isolated one, is an extremely widespread one. Call it media, or call it western society, the fact is that it is not a personal opinion: we value the life of "interesting american person" above the life of civilian bystanders in irak, and that is a reflection of what society we are living in.

You call it misplaced rant, I call it pointing a very big fault of our collective opinion, one which is so intrinsically part of our nature that we are even unable to recognize it by what it is: a despicable lack of humanity.

In fairness whenever you hear an American politician speak it's always about saving American lives. You hear them talk about the great tragedy of a few thousand soldiers dying (remember these are professional killers who signed up knowing they will be in the theatre of war) but never a squeak about the million plus Iraqi civilians who died.

All this and we wonder why we have enemies?

Black and white decisions are a luxury that not all people are afforded. Yes it's terrible that innocent lives are lost but it's at least equally terrible, many would argue even more so, that innocent lives of your clan are lost. For many decisions outside the obvious, it is often the case that you're selecting from a pool of bad choices.

> Black and white decisions are a luxury that not all people are afforded.

Specially if you are in a hurry for dinner with your pals and you need to press that "yes, do drone strike" button in your mobile phone while you are getting dressed, even though you never heard about this "Abdulah" guy whose photograph you are seeing in the screen right now, but he is unshaven and looks dirty, and is not looking friendly to the camera, so yes, please just strike, and could I have fries with that, please?

> innocent lives of your clan are lost

No, there are right things, and wrong things, no matter what members of what clan they affect. Repeat with me: all human lives have exactly the same value.

>never heard about this "Abdulah" guy whose photograph you are seeing in the screen right now, but he is unshaven and looks dirty, and is not looking friendly to the camera, so yes, please just strike, and could I have fries with that, please

I get the sentiment — but the commander of military power is basically saying yes or no to military intelligence — it's not their role to be the researchers, just the approvers of the people in command of the research.

There's definitely a 'banality of evil' level of separation there, for sure. And what good is having military intelligence when no one is held accountable for bombing a hospital? Too many degrees of separation.

> it's not their role to be the researchers, just the approvers of the people in command of the research.

Poor Abdulah dies. He was just buying some groceries for his family, and was taken for Muhamed, who really looks like him, but they just were once in a bar drinking tee, just by chance on the same place at the same time. Somebody fucked up.

The gatherers of information on the field are not responsible because they are just collecting facts, which could be used for anything, so they have nothing to do with the death of Abdulah. Errors happen all the time when collecting information, and anyway who would know this one little fact would be used to assassinate poor Abdulah?

The intelligence provider is not responsible because he is not taking any decission, just passing information higher up the chain of command.

The approver is not responsible, because he is just vetting intelligence provided by others.

The one pulling the drone's trigger is not responsible, since he is just following orders.

The drone is not responsible, since it is just a machine.

The politicians designing the whole system are not responsible, since they were doing their best and, you know, shit happens, we can not make perfect laws which cover every possible eventuality.

In fact nobody killed poor Abdulah. I wonder if he is still alive?

> Too many degrees of separation

By design, if you ask me. Now you can bomb anything and kill anybody, since nobody really did it.

Even if you track down the person in the chain of command who's responsible, they just get a slap on a wrist for making the "mistake" of bombing a civilian hospital.

I assure you not everyone shares your opinion (as not everyone shares mine). I'll just state there are lots of inconvenient truths in life and, until, you encounter them, you may not fully understand. The trick is to realize the possibility and not hold an absolute stance when in discussion. We are always learning.

> I assure you not everyone shares your opinion (as not everyone shares mine)

I know. And the only thing I would like from you american leaders is to state this openly: we are only interested in defending our way of life, with wherever means it takes.

This is what is happening all around the world right now, but you are hypocritically pretending that you are trying to uphold an specially pure moral standard in your multiple conflicts around the world.

That's something going for Trump: he does not seem to be hypocritical.

> Black and white decisions are a luxury...

Yes and no. In this case a lot of the 'grey' in these decisions is caused directly by wilful and callous foriegn policy, in which Clinton has played her part.

You don't see the Prime Minister of Sweden executing foreigners on his Apple Watch

Except life is not like writing a program where you've coded down some rabbit hole and realize you should have done X several layers up and are able to go back and fix it. It's more of hack as you go and hope the whole thing doesn't blow up until you, possibly, get a chance to rewrite or build an improved version

> It's more of hack as you go and hope the whole thing doesn't blow up until you, possibly, get a chance to rewrite or build an improved version

That's certainly true a lot of the time. I disagree regarding legal/political cases like this though, since a "the whole thing blowing up" (in the sense of public outcry) is the rewrite/improvement. The aim of the game is to accrue as much power, capability, mindshare and precedent as possible, but slowly enough that the frog doesn't jump out of the water.

> Except life is not like writing a program...

So, your argument is that it's okay to have terrible foreign policy because we don't have time travel. Are you sure you want to go with that?

No if that ever happens i would just think karma is a bitch.

I'm not a US citizen and I don't agree with the use of drones if even one civilian get hurt by it. What's the point of precision strikes if you're still get innocent people involved.

> No if that ever happens i would just think karma is a bitch.

Don't follow you.

> I'm not a US citizen ...

You still seem to be specially worried that drones will target "US persons of interest", which is what my comment was highlighting.

I do not care a little bit more about drones targeting "US persons of interest" than they targeting innocent civilians. Actually, I might care less, since "innocent civilian" by definition is a person with no responsibility whatsoever in a conflict, and that connotation is not lexically present in the phrase "US person of interest".

See this is where you're wrong I'm no worried. You need to see it from my point of view as an outside observer.

They only thing determining the side I choose being my sense of morality no self interest involved at all.

Compered to the previous method of carpet bombing?

Who is comparing what to carpet bombing?

My comment is directly referring to the fact that american targets are something that worries the parent, but foreign targets (civilians) seem to not worry him/her that much.

What do carpet bombs have to do with all this?

Its how before drones and smart munitions they used to use air power to attack targets - luckily my father was out of the house when the Luftwaffe bombed it in WW2 - House was close to the biggest spitfire plant in the UK.

it's only a matter a time someone start using them as assassination tools

Then how would you say they're used now?

Drones are already being used by Hamas [1] and Hezbollah [2] and intelligence companies the problem is how to smuggle advanced UAV on US territory.

[1] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.605...

[2] http://www.haaretz.com/report-iran-admits-supplying-hezbolla...

Well Deash and Al Queda don't seem to have much ability to get the good explosives required for that - Compare them to the PIRA and UDF during the troubles.

I am surprised that they haven't tried the sort of improvised mortars the the IRA used an almost hit the Cabinet at no 10

They don't need to improvise mortars, ISIS is riding on captured M1A1's and has access to pretty decent soviet and western arms including ATGM's and AA.

Both AQ and ISIS and virtually any other terrorist organization in the world has access to pretty much "state of the art" arms the limit is usually lies in logistical operation not inaccessibility, look at the arm shipments that the Israelis have captures at sea over the years those included radar guided anti-ship missiles, terminally guided rockets, and Strela GTAM's.

Compared to that getting good explosive is easy, you can buy military grade explosive on the civilian market for demolition C4, PETN and RDX are commonly used for suicide vests and IEDs nothing ever stopped anyone from stuffing an RC plane with them and run it into the white house other than intelligence and perimeter security.

So why did 7/7 use diy explosive?

The attackers of 7/7 used TATP which you can make if you have sufficient knowledge of chemistry, you can also make RDX and PETN and even C4 at "home", this isn't "diy" explosives that kids make by mixing fertilizer and sugar over a hot plate, this is very potent stuff that requires quite a bit of expertise and experience to make.

Because the UK might have stricter control over it? Because the attack was less funded? Hamas never had issues of manufacturing PETN and C4 for it's suicide vests. The brussels attackers used very high quality / commercial grade TATP and HMDT.

BTW one of the main reasons to use peroxide based explosives like TATP and HMDT is because most "explosive detectors" look for a few specific signatures.

TATP decomposes into hydrogen peroxide and acetone both of which are very common in cosmetics and various cleaning products which is a big problem as it would sound the alarm for every woman that just had her nails or hair done, so while it's technically not hard to detect practically it's virtually impossible to do so effectively unless you are screening very specific items.

P.S. To anyone who've read this post welcome to the watch list :)

For the improvised mortars, I think it's more of a question of strategic priorities (carpet bombing Belfast was never on the table in a way ditto for Raqqa probably is) than capabilities (although the PIRA and UDF did benefit from having a nearby staging area).

That said, it's not like they're lacking in creativity: http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/2169909...

just make a heavy enuff drone and stick glass/shrapnel on it with lighter fluid in it. fly it into the person you want dead and ignite. being near drones freaks me out

> easy way to mass produce them and smuggle them into the US assemble them and start launching drone strikes from within the US on US persons of interest like politicians and CIA officials

Terrorists are a form of those drones.

By then we'll have anti-drone drones.

This is exactly the sort of political crap I'd rather not see on the Hacker News front page.

It's political, but if you think about it, it's really technology/security.

I mean not only about this information falling into the wrong hands, but also the fact that using unsecured channels for these things could lead to hackers approving or even ordering drone strikes themselves.

Everything could be about technology/security. That doesn't mean it should be on Hacker News.

Maybe I'm being nitpicky, but this line really bothers me:

Under Sec. Clinton, State Department officials approved almost every single proposed CIA drone assassination. They only objected to one or two attacks.

One or two? Which one is it? If they have actually gone through a list of requests and vetted which ones were approved by the State Department, then they know the actual number. A hand-wavy figure indicates that someone sat down, skimmed through the list, found "a couple, I think" and wrote the article. Something of this importance deserves rigor.

"There's an app for that!"™

Droneder! Swipe left and you'll never hear from them again.

I finished watching "13 Hours" last night, a movie about the Benghazi events. The use of drones to kill indirect threats is ubiquitous and yet when it came to saving Americans citizens, drones suddenly weren't in use? dafuq.

Drone strikes are arranged and approved weeks and even months in advance it's not like the US has an army of drones waiting to strike at targets of opportunity. Also allot of the "drone strikes" that happen over pakistan aren't actually drone strikes it's just more convenient to both Pakistan and the US to claim that no manned aircraft are used but quite a few released/leaked BDA images show craters that are way too big for AGM-114's and even the GBU-12's which is the biggest thing that US drones can currently carry. While some of the craters might be caused due to secondaries many of them don't show the tell signs of being secondary explosions.

But onto Benghazi drones wouldn't really help, drones won't stop mobs of 100's of people with AK47's storming a compound, even full on CAS with gunships could had very little effect on the end result as far as US casualties go, the people storming the both the embassy and the secondary "support compound" were doing it knowing that they will most likely die in the process. These aren't regular armies that when they suffer even high single digit %'s force depletion sound the retreat because it would be foolish to stay otherwise.

What's scary is that most still don't seem to realize how much worse this will be made by autonomous killer robots.

They're already killing people essentially based on an algorithm, that may have only a 51% chance of identifying the "right target" (that's the logic they use to spy on Americans, too). They've already admitted to targeting people with drone strikes based on the phone SIM alone, which is not much better than targeting someone based on their IP address.

But now they would be able to just build that into an autonomous drone, and allow it to kill anyone it meets that has a 51%+ chance of being a "bad guy".

Truly scary stuff, which many still seem to excuse with nonsense such as "yeah, but they would've killed those guys just the same with Apache helicopters!".

No, they wouldn't. They would only target the most important targets and the ones they are most sure it's who they think they are. With autonomous killer drones they can just launch 1,000 of them upon a country and allow them to kill anyone on sight that has whatever chance of being a target is implemented into their code.

It's also the same BS excuse people used post-Snowden revelations: "But NSA has always spied on a few dictators and rival countries - surely that's just the same as them now spying on everything billions of people are doing every day, storing everything for decades, and from all ally countries as well? Right?!"

And that's without even discussing the possibility of these machines being hacked, or having software bugs (which they'll probably use as an excuse everytime they get caught killing innocent people by the media - "Whoopsie, a software bug just killed 20 innocent people - What ya gonna do? - What's important is that nobody takes responsibility and gets punished for it now..."

How would drone strikes have saved the americans inside the compound? How can drones be deployed so quickly at a moments notice, let alone get near their target in a reasonable time?

You're thinking of Iron Man. We're not there...yet.

Is this against the law, or just the way things are done now? My gut instinct would be there's more examination that goes into a drone strike but after the Snowden revelations I don't know what to believe.

Outside of handling confidential information on non-secure channels, the issue could the authentication. You want to be sure it is actually her approving it.

Another issue could be about the quality of the briefing: if the phone call was all she got, it might mean that she wasn’t briefed enough to review the evidence and make an informed decision.

However, I think that this just goes to the line: she was reckless with confidential information — which, at this level, is against the law.

Read about "signature strikes". It's like Duck Typing, except with murdering.

My bigger problem is with the Secretary of State approving drone strikes than with the "with her cell phone" part. The Secretary of State isn't the Director of the CIA, nor in any chain of command above the Director of the CIA, nor anywhere in the military chain of command.

Original source is the WSJ: http://www.wsj.com/articles/clinton-emails-in-probe-dealt-wi...

(may be paywalled, just google the headline to bypass)

I stopped reading at "An explosive new report reveals..."

Just give me the actual news, not your opinion of it.

The US had some "bad luck" with drone strikes during her tenure. There's been no evidence released to prove it (and it may well not exist), but for people still questioning why this email setup matters: Given that it's abundantly clear any state-sponsored hacker would have no difficulty hacking her server, it isn't exactly a stretch for our enemies to move the targets of drone strikes and put innocent civilians in their place to win the propaganda war. A former State Department aide attached his name to claims that her sloppy comms may have foiled multiple counterterrorism operations. [1]

That said, this isn't "just what it is that the FBI is looking to" as this article says. The FBI director originally said they expected to wrap this up by October 2015. If we were talking about a few emails sent over the holidays, this would've been wrapped up a long time ago. In a separate civil suit, the FBI filed a motion to prevent the release of documents, or even the number of documents, for which a FOIA request had been issued. [2] Even the number of documents would tip their hand? The only explanation that really makes sense there is that they're building a RICO case against the Clinton Foundation - and thus a ton more documents than would otherwise be relevant are in play. The fact that they started investigating VA governor McAuliffe's time at the Clinton Foundation shortly after receiving the backups of Clinton's server from their third-party data backup service makes this kind of obvious. Yes, the backups that Clinton's associates attempted to have destroyed even after the State Department asked them to turn over her emails. [3]

[1] http://www.newsweek.com/hillary-clinton-email-terrorism-slop...

[2] "disclosure of these records [his immunity agreement] could reasonably be expected to reveal the nature, scope, and focus of the FBI’s activities in the investigation.” http://lawnewz.com/high-profile/new-fbi-filings-reveal-pendi...

[3]Despite Boian’s statement that Platte River set up a 30-day revolving retention policy for Clinton’s emails, Johnson’s letter noted that Platte River employees were directed to reduce the amount of email data being stored with each backup. Late this summer, Johnson wrote, a Platte River employee took note of this change and inquired whether the company could search its archives for an email from Clinton Executive Service Corp. directing such a reduction in October or November 2014 and then again around February, advising Platte River to save only emails sent during the most recent 30 days.

Those reductions would have occurred after the State Department requested that Clinton turn over her emails.

It was here that a Platte River employee voiced suspicions about a cover-up and sought to protect the company. “If we have it in writing that they told us to cut the backups,” the employee wrote, “and that we can go public with our statement saying we have had backups since day one, then we were told to trim to 30 days, it would make us look a WHOLE LOT better,” according to the email cited by Johnson. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/articl...

The problem is that we kill at all. This is self-evident.

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