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.

Guest Post: Pakistan’s Elections and Drone Strikes

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Thursday, February 28, 2013
Supporters of different opposition political parties during a rally in Islamabad on February 4, 2013 (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of different opposition political parties during a rally in Islamabad on February 4, 2013 (Mian Khursheed/Courtesy Reuters).

On Tuesday, my colleague Dan Markey published a new CFR Policy Innovation Memorandum (PIM), “Support Process Over Personalities in Pakistan. In it, he argues that the United States should avoid playing favorites as Pakistani leadership transitions unfold over the course of 2013. As part of his broader argument, he suggests that the U.S. government should refrain from drone strikes during the campaign season prior to parliamentary elections. I’ve asked him to write a guest post about this aspect of the PIM. Read more »

Leon Panetta’s Legacy

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, February 27, 2013
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on November 14, 2011 (Saul Loeb/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on November 14, 2011 (Saul Loeb/Courtesy Reuters).

On August 4, 2011, six weeks into his tenure as secretary of defense, Leon Panetta gave his first press briefing at the Pentagon. After briefly commenting on the impressive civilian and military leadership in the Department of Defense (DOD), he got right to the point: Read more »

How Many Terrorists Have Been Killed by Drones?

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, February 20, 2013
U.S. Predator drone (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Predator drone (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham, speaking to the Easley Rotary Club in Easley, South Carolina, offered a standard defense of drone strikes: “It’s a weapon that needs to be used. It’s a tactical weapon. A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is now armed.” Graham also noted that without drones it would be hard to attack terrorists groups along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, where “terrorists groups like the [Haqqani] network and Al-Shabaab are residing, very remote regions.” Forget that Al-Shabaab has never been reported to be in that region, Graham also maintained that the drone program “has been very effective.” Read more »

Guest Post: A Framework for Incarcerating Terrorists

by Guest Blogger for Micah Zenko Tuesday, February 19, 2013
A prison cell along cell block "B" (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters). A prison cell along cell block "B" (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters).

Melanie Getreuer is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is writing a dissertation about the global use of criminal justice systems to counter terrorism. She lives and works in New York City. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Targeted Killings, and American Citizens

by Micah Zenko Saturday, February 16, 2013
A drone prepares for takeoff in Afghanistan (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). A drone prepares for takeoff in Afghanistan (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Government Accountability Office, “Cybersecurity: National Strategy, Roles, and Responsibilities Need to Be Better Defined and More Effectively Implemented,” February 14, 2013.

Amanda Terkel and Ryan Grim, “Nancy Pelosi Ambivalent on Drones Program,” Huffington Post, February 14, 2013. Read more »

Obama Discusses Targeted Killing of U.S. Citizens During Google+ Hangout

by Micah Zenko Friday, February 15, 2013
U.S. president Barack Obama crosses the south lawn of the White House on February 13, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama crosses the south lawn of the White House on February 13, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Last March, in a House hearing, Representative  Tom Graves asked FBI director Robert Mueller: “Does the federal government have the ability to kill a U.S. citizen on United States soil, or just overseas?” Mueller responded, “I am going to defer that to others in the Department of Justice.” In light of the leaked Department of Justice white paper that provided some of the Obama administration’s legal rationale for the targeted killing of U.S. citizens, the question has been raised again. In an effort to find an answer, Senator Rand Paul placed a hold on John Brennan’s nomination to become the director of central intelligence, declaring in a statement yesterday: “I have placed a hold on the nomination of John Brennan to serve as director of the CIA until he answers the question of whether or not the President can kill American citizens through the drone strike program on U.S. soil.” Read more »

State of the Union Defends Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko Wednesday, February 13, 2013
U.S. president Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union on February 12, 2013 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union on February 12, 2013 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

Last night, President Obama’s State of the Union address included the following passage:

“Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al-Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drone Strikes, Civilian Casualties, and John Brennan

by Micah Zenko Friday, February 8, 2013
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Effrain Lopez/Courtesy Reuters). A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Effrain Lopez/Courtesy Reuters).

John Brennan’s Confirmation Hearing and Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko Thursday, February 7, 2013
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein meets with John Brennan, nominee for director of central intelligence, on Capitol Hill on January 31, 2013 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters). Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein meets with John Brennan, nominee for director of central intelligence, on Capitol Hill on January 31, 2013 (Yuri Gripas/Courtesy Reuters).

Today, John Brennan, White House homeland security adviser and deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism, will appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) to discuss his nomination to become the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Although he is expected to be voted out of the SSCI and approved by the full Senate, several committee members have raised lingering questions about Brennan. Senator John McCain noted: “I have many questions and concerns…especially what role he played in the so-called enhanced interrogation programs while serving at the CIA during the [George W. Bush] administration.” Last week, after Brennan made courtesy calls to the SSCI, Senator Ron Wyden’s spokesperson said the senator was frustrated by “the lack of transparency from the administration and the nominee,” specifically regarding their legal justification for killing American citizens, which will now reportedly be provided to the SSCI members. Similarly, Senator Mark Udall issued a press release that stated: Read more »