Dems to Obama: Be more transparent about drones, kill lists. Obama: Nope.

In a closed door meeting, Democrats demanded that President Obama be more transparent about drones, secret legal memos, and "kill lists." He declined.

In response to a critique by one lawmaker over the administration's failure to show congressional intelligence committee members memos justifying the use of lethal force against American terror suspects abroad, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting the memos. Politico reports:

He also tried to assure his former colleagues that his administration is more open to oversight than that of President George W. Bush, whom many Democratic senators attacked for secrecy and for expanding executive power in the national security realm. “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said, according to Democratic senators who asked not to be named discussing the private meeting.

I realize it's no scientific survey, but my sense from the number of editorials in major newspapers throughout the country over the past few weeks suggests we're reaching a kind of tipping point around transparency and democratic process in America.

There's this op-ed by John Podesta in the Washington Post this week; another by David Keene (former American Conservative Union chief, now president of the NRA) and David Cole (legal affairs correspondent for the Nation) in the Los Angeles Times. [HT: @FreedomofPress]


    1.  I haven’t seen much compromise in any direction from this administration, just executive orders that must override  executive order 12333 from the time of Reagan that prohibited employees of the U.S. Government from planning or conducting assassinations.

  1. I’m kind of dismayed by the sycophants of the political parties, but Obama’s “Look, he’s doing the best he can!” crowd are really starting to wear thin…

    1.  My fear about Obama is that he’s doing the best he can. And I say this as someone who voted for him.

      1.  Ok, off-topic but have to ask; How did you get the italics? It’s one of the biggest rules of emphasis that goes missing from on-line debate. I commend you for using it!

          1. @openid-120721:disqus <- for that I just typed "@heng" and a drop menu appeared that showed your screen name. Then I clicked your name and the box appeared.

          2. @Navin_Johnson:disqus You need to start the quote with “” and finish with “”. (Just without the #’s. If I write them as you should write them it makes a box around the writing in the middle)

  2. If the Conservatives/Republicans where smart (I know that’s a bit oxymoronic, but stay with me for a sec) they would double down on this issue and hammer the administration hard, even going so far as impeachment. (after all assassinations are much more damaging to America and our reputation than oval office blow-jobs, right?)

    Drones, killings, and secrecy are the issues that divide the White House from the bulk of it’s liberal supporters. There are many here in America in both the left and center who would eagerly support Republican, or anyone’s, efforts to make government mostly transparent. (myself included)
    The problem is of course not ideological, but structural. It doesn’t mater what you think going into the office, the power, sycophant-ism, and getting all our advice from the people you are supposed to control (i.e. the military and it’s civilan industries who fund your campaign) would turn any person evil.

    The solution to the problem is to sharply curtail, both by congressional laws and Constitutional Amendments, the power of the Office of the President. We need to forever limit the scope and duration of things that may be declaied “Secret” by our government, and put into place judicial processes that favor the public release of information by default. But first and formost we must radically alter the way political campaigns are funded and carried out, making the politician subservient to their constituency rather than those that paid for them to run for office.

    1. I feel like the problem is that we have LAWS that DO that–“curtail, both by congressional laws and Constitutional Amendments, the power of the Office of the President”–but everybody involved has agreed to pretend like they don’t. 

      1. When was the last time that anyone took that sort of thing seriously? The Eisenhower administration?

    2. If they weren’t so scared of breaking their sacred oath to blindly support anything military related the Republicans could use this as a wedge issue.

      1. Not anything.  They’re happy to screw our veterans.  Actually, soldiers in the line of fire, too.  But not the corporations.

    3.  making the politician subservient to their constituency

      Most polls I have seen show that a majority of the public, while opposed to American boots on the ground, is just fine with drone warfare.

      We’re finally seeing some anti-war activists starting to realize that a Democrat can be a war monger, just the same as a Republican can be.  That’s a huge step in the right direction, but it’s not going to be enough. 

      1. We’re finally seeing some anti-war activists starting to realize that a Democrat can be a war monger

        We’ve never stopped protesting. Your repeated attacks on the left are tiresome and not as clever as you think they are. If you want to talk about middle of the road Obama Democrats then by all means do, but don’t be obnoxious and dishonest and call those people “anti-war activists” when you know they’re not. They didn’t march against wars and they didn’t come out and support the occupy movement. Of course neither did any “liberty” and “rights” obsessed libertarian types either…….these cartoonish people who seem to care about “drones” and “weed” and nothing else…..

        1. i’m definitely not a libertarian, but i’ve realized that democrats are about the quiet, effective kill, while the republicans are about belligerent blustering.

          or: foreign policy is determined by what they can get away with domestically. republicans love thumping their chests, while democrats want to be able to tell themselves everything is peace and love. either way, people gonna die.

  3. Every time they claim another extraordinary war power, I’m reminded that congress never bothered to declare war. Absent that process, all of this stuff is happening in a legal limbo.  What would it look like, I wonder, to bring this government back into compliance with its constitution?

    1. What would it look like, I wonder, to bring this government back into compliance with its constitution?

      I spent a few years working on solutions to this end. I’m sorry to say it’s not possible, short of a total revolution. My time was wasted, except as self-education. And even if it were possible, the Constitution has either caused the current situation or has been powerless to prevent it – the most a re-adoption of the Constitution would do would be to reset the clock for perhaps 60 years. Even Jefferson felt that the borrowing power in the Constitution was a fatal flaw, and that was just fifteen years in.

      The best chance for a peaceful resolution of the current situation is for the States to secede peacefully (I have no worries about New Hampshire drone-bombing Pakistan). The US Dollar is a house of cards at this point and a perfect storm could see it collapse, and there’s no backup plan, so we’re not talking about the very-far future. I’m afraid if that happens the USG will find a reason to go to war with China rather than go peacefully into the night.

      The world we have in 2013 is not the same as in 1789, in terms of communications, population, or technology. With different needs, different solutions are entirely reasonable.

  4. I think Barry is a bright guy.  And he’s more honest than the last 10 guys that had his job.  And he kicks ass – he played stupid with Trump the night he killed Bin Laden, which is one of the ballsier moves of our generation.

      If he’s not talking about this kill list, there’s a reason and I’m willing to have confidence that it’s a good one.  I recognize that I could look dumb for taking that position, but I’m willing to risk it, because I think Barry is generally trying to do the right thing without screwing anyone unduly.

      1.  It sets a president that you don’t want to try and defend. Ever. That power could be turned on Us, on our soil, in our country. It’s scary. I don’t like it one bit.

    1.  When it comes to giving out the power of life and death, I trust no one, especially a politician.

    2. “And he kicks ass – he played stupid with Trump the night he killed Bin Laden, which is one of the ballsier moves of our generation.”

      That must have taken a lot of courage alright.  Usually, when I give the go ahead for other people to risk their lives assassinating somebody in a foreign territory, I just can’t keep it to myself!  Especially when I’m clashing with a reality tv star with a dead hamster toupee.  That takes stones.

    3. If he’s not talking about this kill list, there’s a reason and I’m willing to have confidence that it’s a good one.

      Quite right. If Mitt Romney was issuing those kill orders, the victims would be much deader and the survivors would be much more upset.

        1. I’ve voted in every Presidential election since 1980.

          And I’ve never voted for someone who already had a track record, in that office, of major civil liberties violations and war crimes.

          Anyone who voted for Obama in 2012 did just that.

          BTW, I’ll save this post for re-use the next time you follow me around on a thread, OK??   And just this one time, “Koch-sucker” is so, so 2011.  Can you do better??

    4. Congratulations on your confidence.
      I guess you wouldn’t have it if Romney was in charge.
      And trust me there will be a Romney in charge in the future.
      And guess what the precedent set by the guy you rust so very much will still be around.

  5. It might help if the DoJ would define their terms. What do they mean when they say “combat”? And for extra credit, define “imminent”. (hint: it doesn’t mean “immediate’.)

      1. Oh they have nice clear definitions.   But they change monthly, and you’re not allowed to see them.  Any questions? No? Good.

  6. Hey Democrats here’s an idea: IMPEACHMENT!

    You tried it with Clinton over a sexual scandal, but you won’t try it over a president who thinks it’s OK to drone Americans…

    1. Citizens can’t impeach a President; only the House of Representatives can. And they’re more likely to impeach him for not killing more people.

      1. Note that Rand Paul’s filibuster was joined in by a dozen Republicans and only one Democrat.  If you think that Republicans are in lockstep support of Presidential power to assassinate, you are very much misinformed.

        1. Note that Rand Paul’s filibuster was of a an appointment, not any drone policy (even though he did, yes, make it about drone policy, it was also a good opportunity to throw a tantrum because Barack Obama wanted something).

          1. Don’t quite know why that’s a reply to my post, and I’m not who the question was directed at, so I’ll just say “he’s following party lines.”

          2. Except for turning out to be a gay rights advocate, President Obama is doing exactly what I expected he would do. Not sure why anyone expected him to do anything differently. I would have voted for Hillary, who would be just as bad on warfare issues, but would probably have fought harder on the economy and health care.

        2. Yes, and that’s plausible because the Republicans have such a fantastic voting record when it comes to civil and human rights.

          If you kept a straight face through that then you’re either a stronger person than I am or a much more poorly informed person than I am.

          Chances are pretty good Republicans oppose Obama because he’s Obama and would happily bend over if it was a Republican president claiming these powers.

          1. This dude tries so very, very hard. He really thinks he’s blowing the minds of everybody by pointing out “left” hypocrisy, when most of the time he’s just talking about a bunch of right-ish Democrats and Obama-crats. Whoa dude! You’re blowing my mind! Always careful to not allude to his own political alignment as well…

        3. Confederate garbage like Paul’s completely cool with drones when they’re killing brown people either overseas or at our borders. Even a scummy broken clock who’s against people’s rights when they’re aren’t about securing white priveledge can be right from time to time. Even if it’s for bullshit, dishonest reasons.

          1. Keep an eye on how Rand does consensus building on drones over the next two years.  You may wind up being right, but at least allow the possibility that this is an opening salvo in a larger battle.

          2. Border security, including drones, satellite and physical barriers, vigilant deportation of criminals and increased patrols would begin immediately and would be assessed at the end of one year by an investigator general from the Government Accountability Office. – Rand Paul

            I’m glad that he’s inadvertently bringing attention to this while trying to embarrass The President, but let’s not pretend there’s morality or ethics behind it.

          3. Keep an eye on how Rand does consensus building on drones over the next two years.

            You mean like compromising to allow drones to bomb family planning clinics?

      2.  Ah no, we are allowed to take our grievances to the government. Wouldn’t that be covered under the First Amendment? I would HOPE that would be the case, but no one has the balls to do it.

        1. What, exactly, would be the point of taking our grievances to a political body that’s beholden to moneyed interests, not the citizens?  It might make you feel better, but nothing will come of it.  

        2. One problem with that (apart from @IronEdithKidd:disqus ‘s point) is that in this environment, when anyone with substance between their ears sees “petition for Obama impeachment” they immediately think of agitated (not agitating), confused old white folks who at one point self-identified as “tea baggers” and immediately close tab.

  7. It is really getting to be time to discus impeachment.
    Obomba’s murderous actions and positions are a blatant violation of everything our nation is supposed to stand for.
    If we can impeach a POTUS for fibbing about a BJ, why can’t we impeach one for seizing powers and killing?

  8. so,  maybe its me getting older,  but I feel my vote no longer counts, and my representatives are not really representing me.    on any part of the spectrum

    1.  Think about what would happen if a lawyer tried to represent both sides in a trial, or if a realtor represented a buyer and seller – they would be guilty of professional misconduct.

      Now take any given issue and any “Representative” will have constituents with valid arguments on both sides of it.  He must choose to represent one group and betray the other.  He may think it’s for their own good, that they’re too stupid, or make up some other ends-justify-the-means argument, but nonetheless he is betraying their goals – the opposite of representing them

      The whole construction is built on a fallacy – results are as expected.

      1. Realtors represent both sides all the time. Doesn’t mean that it’s good, but it’s not misconduct.

    2. Trust me, your vote counts.  By voting you show the corporatists that the bewildered herd is at least watching them.

      Without that, they’ll go buck wild and this will seem like nothing.  In other words, it could be worse beyond your wildest nightmares.

      Keep that in mind before you choose not to vote.  It’s also important that you get involved in your government beyond voting as well.

  9. If just the idea of possible drones can trigger the first real filibuster in decades, with even a Democratic senator in support, try to imagine the effect constant hovering drones have on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We are teaching multiple generations of people to despise us.  We are death from above, any time, any where.  It is estimated that we have killed 176 Pakistani children with drone strikes.  It the situation were reversed, how many Americans wouldn’t be looking for a way to strike back?  We will pay for this, in blood and treasure, and it will be a very high price.

      1.  Yes, it’s pretty easy to keep “collateral damage” to a minimum when you declare that anyone killed by drone is by definition a terrorist.

  10. I have to be honest: I am not so worried about drones, per se. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like them…but I think it is because the act of flying around dropping bombs on people is already pretty damn disassociationg. I mean, would we have murdered any more civilians with napalm in, say, North Korea or Vietnam if we had had drones? Those wars were totally analogue, and the civilian death toll in both was horrendous.

    No, what really creeps me out is this new generation of killer robots, ie the DARPA super dogs. Those things terrify me. Up until now, the last line of humanity in war were the actual guys themselves. Somewhat paltry, and they have sure committed fear/PTSD/drug fueled massacres themselves.

    But the idea that we are developing, right NOW, relentless, never sleeping, unable to feel mercy killer robots – which will certainly have the capability to act autonomously, look at DARPA’s other research with driverless cars navigating the Baja – simply terrifies me. Looking at America’s track record of backing up the worst sorts of dictators against civilian population, the idea of made in USA robots hunting down those who see themselves only as fighting for justice and self-rule horrifies me.

    Among Obama’s many failures of leadership and kowtowing to the War Party, I think history will remember these robots being born under his watch with nary a word spoken as among the worst.

  11. A very cynical person might think – Cold War is over. How are we going to keep justifying feeding the military industrial complex? I know. Let’s do some stuff that causes a whole generation of dark-skinned people to hate us and want revenge. – Note: cynical person is not me. Nope. I’m all apple pie and pledge of allegiance (don’t leave out the God part!)

    1. The USA has never stopped propping up dictators as a way to smooth commericial enterprise, then losing control of said dictators and later invading to take them out: Noriega, Saddam, the Taliban…and these are just recent examples. These are not actions to enrich the MIC; taking on the deliberate role of the World’s Police Officer is how that is accomplished. Have you seen the tv commercials for the US Navy? A Global Force…for good

  12. “This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said

    Inconveniently, at that exact moment a man-sized document safe in the corner murmured “Waaaugh.”

  13. I consider myself to be a Hawk on matters of defense.  But I have a big problem with the very idea of drone technology.  They seem cowardly and sneaky (and misusable/ corruptible/ concealable) in a way that regular bombing missions or operations aren’t (or aren’t as much.)

    Yes, I know my opinion on this seems cockeyed, but it’s how I feel.

    I’m betting that our politicians are going to continue to think that drones are just fine and dandy, until one of them becomes the casualty of a drone that was improvised by a private individual (i.e. an assassin.)  Just sayin’…

    1. I bet we disagree on what “matters of defense” means, but let’s work together on the drone warfare problem, and then we can bicker about the rest when that’s solved!

  14. “Increased drone transparency? You mean like equipping them with some kind of cloaking device?”

Comments are closed.