Lawmakers Push Plans to Advance Drone Strikes

McCain Urges Pentagon Takeover of Assassination Program

With the multi-year drone assassination campaign of President Obama suddenly getting some attention in Congress, a number of Representatives and Senators are laying out their personal views on the program and ideas for improving it.

The views are varied in exact position but not so much in substance, as virtually to a man the lawmakers are endorsing drone assassinations in some form more or less unchanged from what it is now, and are just debating the best way to get some formal legal system around the practice of summary, worldwide execution-by-robot.

Sen. John McCain (R – AZ) was critical of the idea of the CIA assassinating people with drones in the first place, mysteriously an issue that he hasn’t discussed much in the past four-plus years of them doing so.

His proposal isn’t to stop assassinating people or to take President Obama’s power to unilaterally do so away, of course. Instead McCain simply believes the drones should be under the Pentagon’s control, saying that it wasn’t a “spy agency” thing to do.

Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) called it “very unseemly” that the president can kill people without any review, though he added that he was “probably for executing” Americans abroad with drones and simply wanted to see the evidence first.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R – MI), the Intelligence Committee Chair, says things are fine the way they are, claiming to have personally overseen every single air strike in the war on terror, whether it was launched by the Pentagon or the CIA. The lack of legal structure which has so confounded his Senate counterparts appeared totally irrelevant to him, leaving him accusing them of exaggerating the problem.

Perhaps the least comfortable with the program was Rep. Keith Ellison (D – MN), who says that it is time for Congressional hearings on the practice and the creation of some sort of legal framework surrounding the killings.

Nominee for CIA Director John Brennan has opposed changes to the program, including calls from some Senators to create a secret court to examine evidence against potential victims, saying that the drones were not for retaliatory killings, but rather killing people for what they will do in the future, something which would be difficult to build a court around.

As with Congress, the concern for killing people simply on the basis that they might do something didn’t bother Brennan, and the only thing that seems to be on the table is whether or not a court to rubber-stamp it is a good idea, with Brennan being of the belief that it is simply too much of a bother. Since the administration has gotten away with such killings with nary a peep from Congress for over four years, the interest must seem quaint to them.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.