Jeremy Scahill and Spencer Ackerman talk Dirty Wars and the nomenclature of drone warfare

Yesterday I attended a conversation between Jeremy Scahill and Spencer Ackerman about Scahill's new book Dirty Wars, which spotlights the covert killing operations that permeate the Obama administration. One of the most alarming topics addressed last night was the notion of "precrime" or "signature strikes" that are carried out against potential terrorists in places like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Scahill likened the precrime attacks to Minority Report, saying that the US government has killed hundreds of people because they are considered "imminent threats" to national security. The problem is that these suspects are killed on speculation. Scahill also points out that the CIA, JSOC, and the Pentagon have been using "imminent" in the most liberal of ways, as was the case with Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year old son. Awlaki was the first US citizen killed in a drone strike. While Awlaki, an Imam working in Yemen, did indeed have ties to Al Qaeda his son did not. This is where the ethical threshold becomes blurred. What right does the US government have to predict that Awlaki's 16 year-old-son would be a future terrorist? And then to kill him on bogus conjecture. Even more disconcerting was the CIA's original plot to recruit a wife for Awlaki. The ultimate plan being that they could track and eventually kill her along with her husband using a "surgical" drone strike. Scahill, with good reason, went on to chastise the inhumane gumption of the CIA. Thankfully the oblivious and innocent Czech wife, just by luck, lost the luggage that was laced with tracking devices. It saved her life and her and Awlaki, for the time being, were able to disappear again. The conversation finished with Scahill applauding California Congresswomen Barbara Lee for being the only congressional figure that voted against the Authorization of Use of Military Force following the 9/11 attacks as she said, "We can't go down this road, because if we do there will be no end."

You can watch a recording of yesterday's talk on The Nation's website and the Dirty Wars documentary will be in theaters on June 7th.