The Corner

Nothing Says “No Due Process” Like a Hellfire Missile

This story appeared on page A-12 of today’s Washington Post:

A New Year’s Day CIA strike in northern Pakistan killed two top al-Qaeda members long sought by the United States, including the man believed to be behind September’s deadly suicide bombing at a Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital, U.S. counterterrorism officials confirmed yesterday.

Agency officials ascertained this week that Usama al-Kini, a Kenyan national who was described as al-Qaeda’s chief of operations in Pakistan, was killed in the Jan. 1 missile strike, along with his lieutenant, identified as Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, the sources said. Both men were associated with a string of suicide attacks in Pakistan in recent months and also allegedly helped plan the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa…

Terrorism experts have cautioned that al-Qaeda has shown surprising resilience, quickly replacing leaders who are killed or captured. Still, there have been few occasions since 2001 when the group lost so many top operatives so quickly. Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and Georgetown University professor, said the agency’s tactics appear to be cutting dramatically into al-Qaeda’s top ranks with strikes deep into a lawless border region that insurgents long regarded as a sanctuary.

“It is a stunning testament of the accuracy of intelligence that the United States is obtaining,” Hoffman said. “Either we have built up an impressive network of sources that facilitates such precision targeting, or the Pakistani authorities are cooperating big-time.”

This is a very, very good thing that the U.S. government is doing, and my guess is most people hope it continues and perhaps steps up in the Obama administration, given Barack Obama’s campaign statements about Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

But I wonder: Where are the protests?  If the U.S. had arrested these guys, and made them stand up for long periods of time while being questioned, or turned the air-conditioning way down in the interrogation room, there would be an outcry about their treatment.  And yet when the U.S. blows them to bits, out of the blue, with a Hellfire missile fired from an un-manned drone controlled by Americans thousands of miles away, there’s not much complaint.  Now I’m sure the CIA took great care to make sure it had the right target in the crosshairs, but you can’t get a much better definition of “no due process” than a Hellfire missile.  Where’s the outrage?

Byron York is a former White House correspondent for National Review.

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