The Week in Drones

Friday, February 08, 2013



This week saw a fount of new information come to light about the US government's controversial and secretive drone program. Brooke talks to Stanford Law professor James Cavallaro, author of the Living Under Drones project, in which law students conducted interviews in northwest Pakistan to better understand the full impact of our lethal drone strikes.


Yo La Tengo - Cornelia and Jane


James Cavallaro

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [15]

fred from usa

The professor sort of misunderstands the problem. He says the drones create more terrorists but its like asking what can the jews do to get antisemites to hate them less, such a statement is based on a misunderstanding of what is going on. Conspiracy and ignorance is rife in that part of the world, most people in pakistan think 9/11 was a jewish/cia plot, thats their starting point for viewing the world, so concentrating on the drones misses the real issue and causes for terrorism. The cancer in that region is spreading and while its sad we only have drones which are effectively like a sort of chemo therapy, claiming chemo only creates more cancer just shows a misunderstanding of how things are.

Mar. 14 2013 03:09 AM
Mark Richard

To David from NJ, one should not be surprised at the hypocrisy of OTM. The Obama Administration asserted, in the 'Citizens United' case, that the government should have the right (under 'campaign finance reform') to suppress any book, pamphlet, documentary, or other media deemed to be (a) a 'corporate' product, and (b) endorsing a candidate or cause during the election season. I'm not making this up; you can look it up in the Supreme Court transcripts. The remarkable opinion was in response to a question from the bench. In spite of what sure looks like a frank ideological assault on free speech and the First Amendment (left-wing regimes have always suppressed independent media by labeling it 'capitalist', therefore not under the control of 'the people'), the MSM has absolutely rolled over rather than identify the Administration as unusually ambitious in expanding the power of the federal government over every aspect of your life and mine, maybe with the exception of the right to abortion. OTM has been silent on the issue, preferring the left-wing framing of 'Citizens United' as being all about 'corporate spending' on campaigns. As if Bob and Brooke do not work for a corporation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and one which (re Bob's rant about Bush) is fairly easily sussed out as having partisan positions and agendas.

I wonder if Bob will have the guts to revisit his comments about the Bush administration in light of the Obama administration's record on power-grabbing, transparency, Drones, efforts to 'nudge' away dissenting speech, and relentless attempts at news management. I'm not a big fan of Bush, indeed I think he was a disaster, but Obama is little better. Just better on style points, mainly. Maybe that accounts for why news fashionistas let him skate. OTM does originate in fashion-obsessed New York, after all.

Feb. 13 2013 01:10 PM
Brian Coyle

This is more complicated. Cavalaro says drones increase terrorist recruitment. He points to increased Pakistani anger at the U.S.. Yes, in 2012 more Pakistanis consider the U.S. an enemy ... 5% more, according to Pew, than the 69% in 2011, and 64% in 2009 (but less that the 81% in 2003). It's worth looking at the polls, to recognize Pakistani norms. 2% consider China an enemy, 90% friend; 22% support Lashkar-e-Taiba and 37% oppose it (it's behind the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks). Asked about "unfavorable" or "favorable" views of the U.S., Pakistanis have unfavorably viewed the U.S. for a decade, oscillating between 60% and 80% (don't know about before then.) Pakistan supports the worst insurgent groups in Afghanistan, and has over 100 nuclear weapons. Whether or not drones work to reduce U.S. risk is much more difficult to determine, given this reality. Polls: and

Feb. 11 2013 02:43 AM
David from NJ

St. Louis from St. Louis is right.

It's time for the media to call them on this. Where is the outrage?

Total amount of people waterboarded? 3
TOtal amount of Americans killed by these drones: 3

The people who were waterboarded all survived. They weren't even hospitalized. Those hit by the drones are all... dead.

C'mon, press climb out of the tank, and report!

Feb. 10 2013 07:19 PM
StLouis from St. Louis, MO

I am surprised that there is virtually zero outcry here relative to the irony. This administration has decried the inhumanity of Gitmo, expressed a desire to afford KSM and others trials in American courts in Manhattan (versus the perceived kangaroo court justice of a military tribunal), and has roundly criticized the Bush administration for their brutal interrogation practices. These things they do in the name of ethics and the American ideal. However, when it comes to killing an American citizen suspected of terrorist activity, there is no difficulty whatsoever in abandoning the constitutional right to due process and/or cruel and unusual punishment. If there is a reasonable suspicion and we can take a shot - whack 'em. In fact, they argue that it is not only legal, it is ethical.

Feb. 10 2013 06:14 PM
Henry Norr from Berkeley, CA

Good that you had Cavallaro on. But since you're media critics, it would have been nice if you'd noted that when his team's important "Living Under Drones" report came out last fall, NPR news didn't bother even to mention it. Instead, on the very day the report was released, All Things Considered chose to devote 4 minutes 21 seconds to "National Security Experts Go Rogue For 'Drone Smackdown'," a ridiculous story about a couple of Beltway "security experts" taking their kids to the park to try to crash each other's toy drones!

Feb. 10 2013 05:50 PM

I guess this guy never heard of Tyvaugn Martin or stand your ground laws ....more Americans of color are stopped, killed and questioned in this country than in Pakistan and if the Pakistani controlled their borders dronw would not be a problem.

Feb. 10 2013 03:25 AM
Ramesh from LI

Drone is a new method of killing introduced by US. We can be assured that drone will become mainstream in coming year. This I think is a bigger tragedy than whether drone is constitutional.

I am eager to listen to White House comments when Chinese or Russians use Drones.

US does not want to learn from history. US introduced N-weapon and it is haunting them now.

Feb. 09 2013 11:36 PM
Lenore from Manhattan

I guess that in 10 or 11 minutes, it isn't possible to give all the information that one could give in a long form text or audio report. However, we got to hear again the arrogant Jay Carney assuring us that the drone strikes are "legal, ethical and wise"--wow! Nice rhetorically, but still astounding, like the arrogance of the president.

And new for me, at least, I did not realize that at least 98% of the strikes are "signature strikes," not targeted killings at all, of the kind that Brennan and the President pored over in the killing room, and put on their "kill list," and that are getting all the attention this week.

As Amnesty International points out, everyone has a right to due process before they are targeted for killing, not just American citizens, John Brennan to the contrary.

Contrast the professor's information with the Brookings guest on Saturday's Weekend Edition who didn't see very much wrong at all with the whole thing.

Feb. 09 2013 09:30 PM
Steve from USA

Jim Cavalaro has his head completely twisted. He takes two pieces of data and draws a correlation. He is worse or as bad as the biggest spinmasters at FOX. He says anti-Americanism is up and drone use is up therefore one causes the other! Are you kidding me?

Feb. 09 2013 11:30 AM

There were a number of news stories highlighting blatantly partisan double standards that were "hard to ignore this week" but naturally the media did their best to ignore it.

Isn't a White House Press Secretary in this administration rather superfluous since the news media is already eloquently well versed in the spin, narrative and talking points of this President and eager to disseminate it without Jay Carney's sputtering help?

Nice to see that after dutifully chasing one manufactured distraction after another tossed up by this administration the often credulous news media is finally looking into this drone business because of an interestingly timed post-election / post-inaugural leak.
With Obama safely re-elected and the mid-term elections far off, are the partisan priorities of the news media intact as some causally attempt a little light reporting now to maintain some credibility until another Republican President arrives?

Let the students do the jobs journalists won't do since the professionals may be too busy keeping up with the Obama social calendar rather than such boorish pursuits such as investigating possible unconstitutional acts both foreign and domestic committed by this administration.

Feb. 09 2013 10:27 AM
David from NJ

The last word of my post was meant to be "assassinated;" No ill will was meant to miss Gladstone or the reader by the word that ended up there!!

Feb. 09 2013 09:25 AM
David from NJ

I think OTM missed the obvious “media” story on this. During the Bush administration, this show covered with great regularity the horrors of warrantless wiretapping, rendition and “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Bob Garfield, in one memorable segment, basically chastised the press for not excoriating Bush strongly enough:

There were segments on “Waterboarding” as torture, a word watch segment on waterboarding, the classification of the practice, the legality of waterboarding. Even after Bush was out of office, there were segments recounting the practice. as the current administration released memos from the Bush years. Questions about who wrote the justifications for the policy? Should John Yoo be prosecuted?

This white paper outlines what everyone and certainly the ACLU knew was going on.

But on today’s show, Brooke sounds almost confused. You clearly considered Bush a threat to America’s liberty because of his defense of his war powers, yet here the hero of the press stands on similar ground. How to resolve the contradiction?

The only option is to conclude that you were wrong all those years ago. After all, would you rather be waterboarded or assinated?

Feb. 09 2013 09:21 AM
Paul Magno from Washington DC

How do you do a story on the drone controversy, way overdue for serious investigation and exposure, and reference that there are several reputable studies refuting official minimization of casualties, collateral or intended, but not share any of those statistics. What is the scope of the difference of opinion on how many people have been killed in these attacks?

You made a couple of very important points along the way, that "visceral" resentment is rampant in Pakistan alone, that virtually all of the attacks - 98% - happen without presidential authorization, but sharing the facts and figures would illuminate those points and tell the most important truth about modern "war," that the overwhelming majority of those killed are civilians - over 90%. Help the truth to visibility when you cover an issue, please

Feb. 09 2013 07:42 AM
Hugh Sansom

One of the loudest signals that the Obama administration is trying to hide the number of civilian casualties in drone attacks is Obama's redefinition of what it is to be a combatant:

Obama's deception is two-pronged. First, he maliciously labels all males to be 'militants' or combatants. But, importantly, with the aid of most American media, he redefines American soldiers to be non-combatants. American soldiers in Afghanistan are _combatants_. Yet the US has indicated it may seek war crimes prosecutions against people who have attacked US soldiers (while opposing any kind of prosecution or even investigation of Americans attacking civilians). The administration and the US media, while frequently referring to 'our heroes,' treat US soldiers as if they were innocently delivering humanitarian aid — not soldiers using weapons.

Feb. 09 2013 07:20 AM

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