Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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You Might Have Missed: Targeted Killings, Renditions, and Hollywood Myths

by Micah Zenko
January 4, 2013

Camp Justice at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters). Camp Justice at the U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters).


Iona Craig and Nico Hines, “Saudi Jets Join America’s Secret War in Yemen,” The Times, January 4, 2013.

The Times has learnt that up to 228 people were killed last year by covert attacks in Yemen, including Saudi airstrikes. “Some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions,” a U.S. intelligence official said.

Legal issues arising from the arrest of enemy combatants intended for trial in the U.S. detention at Guantánamo Bay or local prosecution have become so onerous that the Pentagon has recast its orders “There is no kill or capture any more. It’s kill or kill,” a U.S. official said.

Editorial, “Misplaced Secrecy on Targeted Killings,” New York Times, January 3, 2013.

(3PA: Read the full decision in response to the lawsuit for the Justice Department memorandum and related materials filed under the Freedom of Information Act.)

Craig Whitlock, “Renditions Continue Under Obama, Despite Due-Process Concerns,” Washington Post, January 1, 2012.

Hollywood Myths vs. the Real CIA,” Central Intelligence Agency, December 27, 2012.

Myth: The CIA is above the law.

Reality: The National Security Act of 1947 and multiple Executive Orders provide the authority for CIA activities. The CIA reports to two Congressional oversight committees, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), which ensure that the Agency operates legally and within the scope of its charter.

In addition, the CIA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) provides independent oversight of the CIA. The OIG performs independent audits, inspections, investigations and reviews of CIA programs and operations.

(3PA: This was an interesting press release given the ongoing Senate investigation into how the CIA characterized intelligence that led to the raid killing Osama bin-Laden in the film “Zero Dark Thirty.”)

Gregg Zoroya, “VA Finds Sexual Assaults More Common in War Zones,” USA Today, December 26, 2012.

In the VA study, researchers mailed survey questions to more than 1,100 women who served in or near Iraq or Afghanistan. Some 48.6% said they had been sexually harassed during their time in a war zone. Sexual assaults during deployment, up to and including rape, were reported by 22.8% of women.

In a workplace survey of women across the military by the Pentagon, 4.4% said they were victims of “unwanted sexual contact.”

Graham Warwick, “Darpa Plans Smallsat Imaging Constellation,” Aviation Week, December 18, 2012.

Gregory S. McNeal, “Kill Lists and Accountability,” Pepperdine University School of Law, October 13, 2012.

Data about the U.S. military’s collateral damage estimation process reveals that the system is intended to ensure that there will be a less than 10 percent probability of serious or lethal wounds to non-combatants; In actuality, less than 1% of pre-planned operations that followed the collateral damage estimation process resulted in collateral damage; When collateral damage has occurred, 70% of the time it was due to failed “positive identification” of a target. 22% of the time it was attributable to weapons malfunction, and a mere 8% of the time it was attributable to proportionality balancing – e.g. a conscious decision that anticipated military advantage outweighed collateral damage.

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