The United States government has been using drones as a weaponized platform since at least February of 2002, when the Central Intelligence Agency launched a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone, killing neither Osama bin Laden—the presumed target—nor any militants, but rather four civilian men scouring an abandoned military base for scrap metal. This intelligence failure was an apt harbinger. More than fourteen years later weaponized drones are still killing civilians under the cloak of secrecy, and the CIA is still making the dubious claim that it is crucial for America’s safety.
Former CIA Chief Gen. Michael Hayden, in a recent New York Times op-ed, writes that it is “fair to say that the targeted killing program has been the most precise and effective application of firepower in the history of armed conflict,” while admitting that the program is not perfect – that “no military program is.” Here lies the fatal error in this assertion, and illuminates the reality that makes the weaponized drone program so dangerous to America’s safety: the CIA should be in the intelligence business, not the military business. The covert nature of the CIA’s drone program shields it from any meaningful discussion, critique, or oversight, and allows Hayden and other advocates to assert, without facts or evidence, that the program works; that despite overwhelming and objective data, civilians rarely get killed; that claims that drone strikes are creating more militants are without merit.