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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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. ...

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 ...

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. ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...