Hardball | February 08, 2013
>>> drone warfare got a public airing yesterday as president obama 's pick to head the cia went before senators at his confirmation hearing. john brennan strongly defended the program of which he's been called the chief architect.
>> i think there is a misimpression on the part of some american people who believe that we take strikes to punish terrorists for past transgressions, nothing could be further from the truth. we only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there's no other alternative to taking an action that's going to mitigate that threat. so we need to make sure there's an understanding and the people that were standing up here today, i think they really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government and the care that we take and the agony that we go through to make sure that we do not have any collateral injuries or deaths.
>> well, brennan's testimony had been interrupted there you see by color pink five times by anti-war protesters called code pink . polls show for the most part those protesters out there and they're legitimate, represent a small minority of the country. most americans back using drones to carry out targeted assassinations and while senators took issue with the white house 's secrecy surrounding the program, no one voiced any objections to the drops themselves. this is going to be a hot discussion here too. cynthia tucker is a visiting professor at the university of georgia . ron reagan is an msnbc analyst. i think you're both progressives. i was driving home from philadelphia last night and i was listening to the ed show on radio, on satellite, and he took one of those polls. now, this question was hardly put together in a way that's justified one end of the answer but it came out the other end i think. do you support the policy of targeted killings of american citizens? now, i would think maybe 1% would have said yes the way this was phrased. do you support the policy of targeted killings of american citizens? 78% said yes. a progressive audience that watches and listens to ed. a progressive audience, 78% while that show is on the air. i think he was surprised by it. i was certainly surprised by it. your thinking, ron . this is a progressive audience, 4 out of 5 are saying, yeah, get those bad guys. they're turn coats . if they're americans , they're not one of us, they're one of them now. your thoughts.
>> i think most americans agree if there are individuals, mean americans , that are imnebtly planning to cause destruction and death in the united states that we ought to do something about it. we ought to interdict. the question though it seems to me is not whether we should do this at all but on whose say-so do we do it? do we do it simply on the word of somebody in the executive branch who has decided this american or some other individual needs to die and we're going to kill them or is there some judicial review ? we're a country of checks and balances. we're a country that our administration is supposed to be transparent. if this is so justifiable, why was it so secret?
>> why would you just a judge o'leary that gets called up at 3:00 and ask it's okay. why wouldn't you trust the elected officials more.
>> it's at least another stop on the way to doing it. you're not leaving it up to one individual with a kill list who is unilaterally deciding that this person needs to die. you're going through some sort of process so there's a check, there's a balance there.
>> and you think a judge would stop this and have the guts to do that if they knew -- let's imagine the conversation. cynthia you pick up on this. suppose you get a call in the middle of the night or with a few hours notice, we've got a target, a high value target in yemen. we believe this person is about to conduct an operation against one of our ships in the gulf. we got to stop them. we've got the technology, we've got them in sights. do we do it? the judge is asked yes or no. how does he become --
>> chris --
>> how does he stop this and say i of my own volition say tough nuts, i'm not going to do it.
>> i don't envision that that's the way the system would work. the people who are placed on these kill lists are on there for at least days if not weeks or months before the drone operators decide that this is the moment where we have the right intelligence to act on taking them out. so why not present that evidence to an independent review body at the moment you believe you have enough evidence to say, these people represent such a danger to the united states they need to be killed. i don't even care if that review happens after they're already dead . it's better than no review at all. you know, i'm with ron here. i don't have -- i'm a realist, and targeted killings have been part of u.s. policy for a very long time. you know, the cia tried many times to kill fidel castro . it was just unsuccessful at it.
>> well that's --
>> i'm a realist.
>> kill him, i'm not sure. but i can't deny it. i know they tried to defoliate him with his beard. i know they tried to give him hall louis na jens.
>> the poison cigar i think was meant to kill him, but the point being that i don't want any single individual, and, you know, i'm a supporter of president obama 's, but i don't want any single individual, not george w. bush , not barack obama to have the authority to say we're going to kill these people. and nor do i want it to be obama and a group of people over whom he has authority. i don't want it to be people in the military who answer to him. i want it to be people of an outside branch of government who feel the ins pen dense to disagree with the president.
>> well said. i think yesterday john brennan was grilled about various aspects of this program including the rights of americans who might be on the kill list. take a look at how he answered a question on that from senator ron wyden of oregon. let's listen.
>> do you believe that the president should provide an individual american with the opportunity to surrender before killing him?
>> any american who joins al qaeda will know full well that they have joined an organization that is at war with the united states and that has killed thousands upon thousands of individuals, many, many of them who are americans .
>> i guess this goes back to ron , to another tricky question. we'd like to believe that being born in the united states under the 14th amendment entitles you to all the rights all three of us have. you're entitled to full rights of american citizenship . at what point do you yield that up in any kind of moral way you think you're comfortable with? when do you yield it up?
>> i think if you put on the uniform, so to speak, of another team and are looking to kill americans and attack the united states of america that you've crossed a line and now, you know, you're going --
>> what about domestic terrorists in this country who tried to blow up and have blown up public facilities because they're enemies of the united states government at least. the way they look at it.
>> this raises a very interesting question when we talk about drones. if the excuse for using drones is imminent threat to american lives, which seems to be the rationale, what if that threat is coming from within the united states ? are we going to fly a drone over, you know, toledo, ohio, and target some house and send a missile --
>> i know the answer to this one.
>> no, we're not going to do this one.
>> i know the answer. we'll send in the fbi and catch the bastards, i'm sorry, that's what we'll do.
>> there is another point that's worth making here. the french philosopher desart once said when you choose for yourself you choose for all mankind. if we are okay sending drones over other countries to kill american citizens or other individuals without that country's permission, we have to acknowledge then that when this technology spreads to other countries, and it will, it's not that sophisticated, that we're okay then with other governments doing the same thing in other countries, and where does that lead exactly?
>> on the same program, both of you, we have heard the phrase -- and we have heard a reference to john paul desart. i'm very proud of our program tonight. thank you very much, ron reagan . thank you. have a nice weekend.
>>> up next, texas dv rick perry escalates that fight, kind of a tussle with california's jerry brown . i'm betting on brown in this one. and this is "hardball," the place