Is the CIA's controversial drone war on Pakistani militants actually being flown out of Pakistan itself?
That's the apparent bombshell dropped Thursday by Senator Diane Feinstein, during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing. Depending on who you ask, it's either a king-sized security breach, or a ho-hum replay of the press has already reported.
Yesterday, Pakistan's former prime minister became the latest in a long line of high-ranking officials to publicly blast America, for using drone attacks on militants inside their country. On the same day, in a hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building, Sen. Feinstein "expressed surprise at Pakistani opposition to the ongoing campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes," according to the L.A. Times.
"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.
Which is news to many Pakistanis. Their President has called the strikes -- more than 40 in the past year -- "counterproductive"; their prime minister, "intolerable." Pakistan's army has practiced shooting down the drones.
Much of this has been shadow-play, part of a supposed "don't ask, don't tell" agreement between Islamabad and Washington. American officials are supposed to stay mum about the attacks, and their Pakistani only complain so much -- while sneaking peeks at the drone surveillance feeds.
But at least there was some shred of plausible deniability.
Now, Ed Morrisey predicts, "the Pakistani public will almost certainly demand an end to these Predator flights, which have been highly successful at decimating terrorist leadership in inaccessible areas of the Pakistani frontier. Without that kind of tactic available, we will have to fall back to more intrusive and potentially less effective overflights from Afghanistan... At the very least, Feinstein has just complicated the diplomatic situation for Barack Obama by an order of magnitude."
Not so, says Feinstein's office. All the Senator did was reference a March, 2008 Washington Post article, which said that "the Predator strikes [are being] launched from bases near Islamabad and Jacobabad in Pakistan." Still, a newspaper article can be publicly shrugged off; a statement from the head of the Senate's intelligence committee, not so much.
And that's a "good thing," writes David Axe. "The American people should know in which countries we, as a nation, are bombing and killing people — and which nations we’ve cajoled into hosting the bombers. If that makes it harder for the CIA and military to do their jobs, fine. It’s a small price to pay for the only form of oversight that really, truly matters: democracy."
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