John Brennan, President Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser once insisted that drone strikes in Pakistan produced no collateral damage - something that was patently untrue. Now, James Joyner highlights another instance where Brennan's assertions run contrary to published reports:
Brennan was at pains to insist that the Obama administration’s targeting policy is judicious enough to pass Rumsfeld’s test. Each and every targeted strike against a militant, he assured the audience, undergoes “a careful review and, as appropriate, will be evaluated by the very most senior officials in our government for decision.” As part of that process, “we ask ourselves whether that individual’s activities rise to a certain threshold for action, and whether taking action will, in fact, enhance our security.” He insisted that there is a “high bar” for action, that strikes are not carried out based on “some hypothetical threat—the mere possibility that a member of al Qaeda might try to attack us at some point in the future. A significant threat might be posed by an individual who is an operational leader of al Qaeda or one of its associated forces.”
But these assertions are contrary to recent news reports that Obama has quietly loosened rules for targeting suspected terrorists with drone strikes. The Washington Post reports that the new policy “allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known” and “marks a significant expansion of the clandestine drone war against an al Qaeda affiliate that has seized large pieces of territory in Yemen and is linked to a series of terrorist plots against the United States.”
Before the Post story, the Wall Street Journal also had a detailed report on how targets are chosen for drone strikes - and, contrary to Brennan's assertion, the Journal reported that people are targeted even if their "identities aren't always known." Now, there are one of two possibilities: the newspapers got it wrong, or Brennan isn't telling the truth. Which is it?