Hard on the heels of my post about Living under drones, the joint report from the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic at Stanford and the Global Justice Clinic at NYU, comes another joint report, The civilian impact of drones, this one from the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School and the Center for Civilians in Conflict. Download it here.
It’s particularly valuable for its careful parsing of ‘personality’ strikes (against named individuals) and ‘signature’ strikes (based on ‘pattern of life’ analysis) and, most of all, for its detailed discussion of the blurring of CIA operations and military operations carried out by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
I drew attention to this in ‘Lines of descent’ (DOWNLOADS tab), using many of the same sources, but while I applaud the report for its principled reflections on the ethical and legal implications of these (c)overt operations in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, it does not accord USAF operations in Afghanistan the same level of scrutiny. For reasons I also set out in both ‘Lines of descent’ and ‘From a view to a kill’ I think this is a mistake: military protocols are indeed more public, even transparent, as the authors note, but the space between principle and practice is still wide enough to inflict an unacceptably heavy burden on the civilian population.
And, as I’ve argued before, these issues cannot be resolved by co-ordinated Congressional scrutiny or by demands for ‘transparency’ alone.