Don’t misunderstand me: It’s not that the Obama administration’s limits on detention and interrogation are wrong. They have applied clear guidelines to what had been, before 2006, a murky area. The problem is that these rules, and the wariness of getting into more trouble, have had the perverse effect of encouraging the CIA to adopt a more lethal and less supple policy than before.
U.S. and Pakistani officials support drone attacks because they don’t see a good alternative to combat al-Qaeda’s operations in the tribal areas. I don’t disagree with that view. But this policy needs a clearer foundation in law and public understanding than it has today. Otherwise, when the pendulum swings, the CIA officers who ran these supposedly clandestine missions may be left holding the bag.
So ask yourself: If you don’t like the CIA tactics that led to the capture and interrogation of al-Qaeda operatives, do you think it’s better to vaporize the militants from 10,000 feet? And if this bothers you, what’s the alternative?