Keep Calm and Carry On

The tragedy this week in Boston, where home­made bombs ripped through a crowd watch­ing the Marathon, is appalling: 3 con­firmed dead so far, over a hun­dred wounded and dozens in crit­i­cal con­di­tion. What can we learn about this attack? Is it pre­ventable? Are we any less safe? Despite Monday’s tragedy, it’s dif­fi­cult to avoid the conclusion […]

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The ‘Jihadization’ of Syria’s Resistance

On Tues­day, the Islamic State of Iraq – an al Qaeda affil­i­ate – offi­ciallyannounced that it had merged with Jab­hat al-Nusra, a Syr­ian resis­tance group with sev­eral thou­sand fight­ers. The new group is called the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria(ISIGS). It is a wor­ry­ing devel­op­ment for a num­ber of rea­sons. The U.S. gov­ern­ment has been […]

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For PBS: The Islamabad Drone Dance

The U.N. Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights,Ben Emmer­son, con­ducted a three-day visit to Islam­abad, Pak­istan last week. Despite his stated pur­pose to inves­ti­gate drone strikes, he did not speak with any of the agen­cies respon­si­ble for those strikes, or even visit any strike sites. Instead, Mr. Emmer­son met with some gov­ern­ment offi­cials, duti­fully reported what […]

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For PBS: Why did the U.S. capture Sulaiman Abu Ghaith?

Last Fri­day, the U.S. gov­ern­ment announced it had cap­tured Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and al Qaeda’s one-time chief pro­pa­gan­dist, in Jor­dan. His cap­ture appeared like a major coup. When the U.S. invaded  Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 2001, Abu Ghaith told Aljazeera, “the planes will not stop,” refer­ring to more 9/11-style attacks. In real­ity, how­ever, his capture […]

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For PBS: The strange politics of human rights conferences

Over the week­end, I attended the Inter­na­tional Forum and Film Fes­ti­val for Human Rights (FIFDH) in Geneva, Switzer­land. They invited me todis­cuss the impli­ca­tions of a recent doc­u­men­tary by Dutch film­maker Vin­cent Ver­weij called “Attack of the Drones,” which pre­miered last year. The doc­u­men­tary raises many impor­tant ques­tions about the use of this weapons plat­form in mod­ern war­fare. But […]

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For PBS: Putting the War on Terror under the law

In early Feb­ru­ary, a Depart­ment of Jus­tice Office of Legal Coun­cil White Paper that sum­ma­rized the White House’s legal rea­son­ing for the war on ter­ror­ism leaked to the pub­lic. While the White Paper lim­ited its dis­cus­sion to why the White House can order lethal strikes against Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, it also con­tains some wor­ry­ing hints about how the […]

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For PBS: Dim prospects for drone accountability

Last week, John O. Bren­nan, Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­nee for direc­tor of the CIA, faced some tough ques­tions from the Sen­ate Select Com­mit­tee on Intel­li­gence. Arguably one of the most inter­est­ing was posed by Com­mit­tee Chair­woman Sen. Diane Fein­stein (D-CA), who sug­gested dur­ing her open­ing com­ments that it might be time for the drones pro­gram to become declassified. […]

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For PBS: The questions John Brennan should face

For my PBS col­umn this week, I dis­cuss what John O. Bren­nan should dis­cuss in his hear­ing before the Sen­ate Select Com­mit­tee on Intel­li­gence. The rev­e­la­tions this week sug­gest an intel­li­gence com­mu­nity that has become badly unbal­anced, in favor of action above all else. The CIA, in par­tic­u­lar, has a fraught record when try­ing to […]

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For PBS: The false fear of autonomous weapons

Last month, Human Rights Watch raised eye­brows with a provoca­tively titled report about autonomous weaponry that can select tar­gets and fire at them with­out human input. “Los­ing Human­ity: The Case Against Killer Robots,” blasts the head­line, and argues that autonomous weapons will increase the dan­ger to civil­ians in con­flict. In this report, HRW urges the […]

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For PBS: A Chaotic Intelligence Community

The Wash­ing­ton Post reported over the week­end that the Pen­ta­gon is send­ing hun­dreds of spies over­seas as part of its rapid expan­sion into espi­onage– an endeavor rival­ing the CIA. The Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) will over­see this effort, expected to top the deploy­ment of 1,600 agents world­wide. And it is the wrong approach. The Intelligence […]

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