NYT’s Anonymous Drone Defenders

There is a big piece in the New York Times today (3/19/12) on the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. And, as has been the case before, the U.S. perspective comes via anonymous government officials:

A senior American official in Washington said that the CIA had consistently taken precautions to reduce the risk to civilians, and noted that some strikes had killed Pakistan’s insurgent enemies, too. “These efforts have been extremely precise and effective,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the program’s covert status.

And later readers get this:

“The overriding concern is to avoid collateral damage,” another senior United States official said.

What’s remarkable about an article like this–written by Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud–is that it will discuss the record of U.S. officials making wildly inaccurate claims about the drone program, but nonetheless print official assurances about the program’s effectiveness:

Of the 10 confirmed strikes so far this year, six hit vehicles filled with fighters that, in several cases, were headed for the Afghan border, a senior United States official said.

“We must protect the troops, and almost all of that stuff is in Waziristan,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the drone program is classified.

Seventeen paragraphs later, we’re told that although White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan claimed that drones had not caused “a single collateral death” over the past year, independent observers counted scores of such deaths.

It’s worth noting the tone the Times uses when it discusses the debate within Pakistan. Readers are told that over there “public discourse rings with thunderous condemnations of breached sovereignty and civilian casualties.” And the paper also picks up “signs are that the Pakistani debate will be dominated by strident calls for an end to drone strikes.”

You almost get the sense that those who demand that foreigners stop using unmanned planes to assassinate people in their country need to stop being so hysterical about it.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.