CBS Highlights UN Criticism of U.S. Drone Attacks; Suggests Tactic Fuels Terrorism

David Martin, CBS On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Pentagon correspondent David Martin reported on the United Nations criticizing U.S. drone attacks against terrorists: "Philip Alston is author of a new U.N. report which argues that drone strikes amount to a 'license to kill' without being held accountable, a license the U.S. would not want any other country to have."

A clip was played of Alston proclaiming: "You've got complete silence from the CIA...they should not be operating major projects which kill people directly." Martin then chimed in: "Think about it, a operation the U.S. doesn't even admit exists has killed more than 500 people."

Martin's report featured another critic of the tactic, the Brookings Institution's Peter Singer, who fretted: "It allows us to carry out acts of war without having to go through some of the debates we would have in the past."

Martin noted that though the attacks are secret, "everybody knows who to blame," followed by Singer arguing the attacks have been "very effective in creating a large amount of anger at the U.S. that may well bite us in the long term." Martin added: "Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, told investigators the drone strikes were the reason he set out to kill hundreds of innocent Americans."

In a story for 60 Minutes on March 2, 2008, Martin reported on a new non-lethal military weapon being tested but not yet deployed, explaining: "That's because, in the middle of a war, the military just can't bring itself to trust a weapon that doesn't kill."

Here is a full transcript of Martin's June 2nd Evening News report:
6:46PM EST

KATIE COURIC: No weapon against terrorists has been as effective as America's unmanned drones. One model, the Reaper, has a 66-foot wingspan and a range of over 3,600 miles. It can carry four missile and two laser-guided bombs on missions as high as 50,000 feet. But today our national security correspondent David Martin reports drones drew fire from the U.N.

DAVID MARTIN: U.S. officials claim CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have eliminated more than 500 terrorists over the past two years, while killing only 30 civilians. Impressive numbers. But there's no way to verify them because no one will officially admit the strikes are taking place.

PHILIP ALSTON: You've got complete silence from the CIA, by definition, because that's how the CIA operates, I understand that. But that's why they should not be operating major projects which kill people directly.

MARTIN: Philip Alston is author of a new U.N. report which argues that drone strikes amount to a 'license to kill' without being held accountable, a license the U.S. would not want any other country to have.

ALSTON: The rules we're setting for ourselves now are the rules that we're also setting for others later.

MARTIN: Think about it, a operation the U.S. doesn't even admit exists has killed more than 500 people.

PETER SINGER: It allows us to carry out acts of war without having to go through some of the debates we would have in the past.

MARTIN: Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute has counted 137 drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal areas. U.S. officials say those attacks have killed 16 high-ranking terrorists, most recently Al Qaeda's number three, along with hundreds of foot soldiers and trainers.

SINGER: I think they've been very effective in killing a large number of very bad guys.

MARTIN: And the strikes are increasing in intensity as a new generation drone called the Reaper, which can carry twice as many weapons, comes on line with even more sophisticated cameras.

SINGER: If it sees footprints in a field, it can backtrack those footprints and tell you where they came from.

MARTIN: The strikes are secret because neither the U.S. nor Pakistan wants to admit the CIA routinely violates Pakistani sovereignty. But everybody knows who to blame.

SINGER: They've also been very effective in creating a large amount of anger at the U.S. that may well bite us in the long term.

MARTIN: Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomber, told investigators the drone strikes were the reason he set out to kill hundreds of innocent Americans. To which U.S. officials say the purpose of the strikes is to kill the Shahzad's of this world before they ever leave Pakistan. David Martin, CBS News, the Pentagon.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC