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Submission + - A Response to the "Drone Papers" 1

daveschroeder writes: Adam Klein writes in Lawfare: The Intercept's "Drone Papers" leaker "believes the public has a right to know how the U.S. government decides to assassinate people." Maybe so — or maybe public safety and the need for secrecy trump the public's curiosity. Unfortunately, the leaker has unilaterally decided for all of us. One person with a thumb drive again trumps the democratic process.

Tant pis; the "Drone Papers" are out there (the name suggests a massive archive; in fact, there are only four documents, one of which is a shorter version of another). So what do they tell us about how the U.S. Government is targeting terrorist leaders in Somalia and Yemen for drone strikes — or, as The Intercept would have it, "decid[ing] how to assassinate people"? Unsurprisingly, The Intercept is out to convict; its focus is on the "shortcomings and flaws" of the program, as supposedly exemplified by its ingenuous account of the life and death of al Qaeda commander Bilal el-Berjawi.

But the documents themselves are hardly as damning as the breathless tone of the reporting suggests. In fact, for those concerned about oversight and accountability in the targeting process for AUMF-based strikes, the documents should reassure rather than unsettle. The overall impression is of thorough, individualized review, at the highest levels of government, that meaningfully constrains those developing and carrying out these operations.

These slides do not suggest operators run amok, "assassinat[ing]" targets with little forethought or oversight. To the contrary, the "Drone Papers" suggest that these operations go forward only after a deliberate, individualized process. They confirm that senior political decisionmakers, including the President, review and approve each individual operation. And they reveal that operators view this review process as a significant constraint.

There may be other flaws in the program, as the accompanying articles urge — unintended victims, truncated intelligence collection, a preference for killing over capturing. But if the concern is the process for approving these strikes — "how the U.S. Government decides to assassinate people" — then the Drone Papers should reassure rather than alarm.

Submission + - Space Shuttle Endeavour's Final Journey

daveschroeder writes: "After over 296 days in space, nearly 123 million miles traveled, Space Shuttle Endeavour (OV-105) is making its final journey — on the streets of Los Angeles. The last Space Shuttle to be built, the contract for Endeavour was awarded on July 31, 1987. Endeavour first launched on May 7, 1992, launched for the last time on May 16, 2011, and landed for the final time on June 1, 2011. Endeavour then took to the skies aboard the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), completing the final ferry flight and the final flight of any kind in the Space Shuttle Program era with an aerial grand tour of southern California escorted by two NASA Dryden Flight Research Center F/A-18 aircraft on September 21, 2012. This morning around 1:30AM Pacific Time, Endeavour began another journey, this one on the ground. All Space Shuttles have traveled via road from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA, to Edwards Air Force Base, but this time a Space Shuttle is taking to the streets of Los Angeles for the journey from Los Angeles International Airport to its final home at the California Science Center. Getting the shuttle through LA surface streets is a mammoth logistical challenge as it lumbers along at 2 mph to the cheers of onlookers. Watching Endeavour make the journey is a sight to be seen! Thank you, Endeavour!"

Submission + - Pandemic bird flu research published ( 1

daveschroeder writes: "After a marathon debate over a pair of studies that show how the avian H5N1 influenza virus could become transmissible in mammals, and an unprecedented recommendation by the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to block publication, and its subsequent reversal, a study by Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin–Madison was finally and fully published today in the journal Nature. The full journal article: Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets."

Submission + - Stratfor Is a Joke, and So Is Wikileaks for Taking It Seriously (

daveschroeder writes: Max Fisher writes in The Atlantic: "The corporate research firm has branded itself as a CIA-like "global intelligence" firm, but only Julian Assange and some over-paying clients are fooled. [...] The group's reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight. [...] So why do Wikileaks and their hacker source Anonymous seem to consider Stratfor, which appears to do little more than combine banal corporate research with media-style freelance researcher arrangements, to be a cross between CIA and Illuminati? The answer is probably a combination of naivete and desperation.

Submission + - Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers (

daveschroeder writes: The recent release of classified State Department cables has often been compared to the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg, the US military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, has said he supports WikiLeaks, and sees the issues as similar. Floyd Abrams is the prominent First Amendment attorney and Constitutional law expert who represented the New York Times in the landmark New York Times Co. v. United States (403 U.S. 713 (1971)) Supreme Court case, which allowed the media to publish the Pentagon Papers without fear of government censure. Today, Abrams explains why WikiLeaks is unlike the Pentagon Papers, and how WikiLeaks is negatively impacting journalism protections: "Mr. Ellsberg himself has recently denounced the 'myth' of the 'good' Pentagon Papers as opposed to the 'bad' WikiLeaks. But the real myth is that the two disclosures are the same."

Use the Force, Luke.