Yet more evidence that we cannot count on the federal government to rein in its own power.
Just before Thanksgiving, the Republican controlled House Intelligence Committee said no to telling Americans how many people drone strikes kill overseas every year.
It wasn’t even close. The committee rejected an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 by a 15-5 vote.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) proposed the amendment. The provision would have required agencies to release both military and civilian casualties resulting from overseas drone strikes, as well as the number of people injured. The provision was approved by a Democrat controlled Senate committee earlier this month.
According to Reuters, congressional Republicans argue that making casualty totals public could…wait for it…wait for it…jeopardize national security.
Congressional Republicans privately have argued that making such casualty totals public is a bad idea because at present, U.S. drone strikes against militants overseas are largely conducted as “covert actions” under intelligence-related legal authorizations.
Acknowledging drone strikes publicly could compromise the ability of the United States to conduct intelligence operations, they argue.
The committee also voted down a second amendment proposed by Schiff that would have required an independent review any time a U.S. person was potentially targeted with lethal force. The review would have been classified, but made public after 10 years.
If Congress can’t even bring itself to force some transparency into the federal drone assassination program, what makes anybody think these Congresscritters will ever do anything to actually end it. Or even restrain it from expanding the program further?
Federal power always expands.
The same goes for all the other unconstitutional actions taken in the name of “national security.” NSA spying and NDAA indefinite detention are here to stay if we count on Congress or the president to rein them in.
And while Republicans threw up this particular roadblock, don’t call this a partisan issue. Trampling on civil rights in the name of “national security” is a bipartisan sport. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and she loves NSA spying. Any reform to that agency will have to go through her. It will never happen. In fact, her proposed reform bill would actually codify current abuses into law. According to a Guardian story, her proposed legislation would “make clear in no uncertain terms that communication records like phone, email, and internet data can be collected without even an ounce of suspicion, pursuant to the so-called privacy rules already in place.”
We cannot count on Washington D.C. to solve the problems created by Washington D.C. We must attack these issues in a different way – through state and local action.
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