A Navy X-47B drone, left, taxis in front of an F/A18 as it is prepared to be launched off the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush off the coast of Virginia, Tuesday, May 14, 2013. It was the Navy's first test flight of the unmanned aircraft off a carrier. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

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Keep drones in the air as long as terrorists target U.S.

  • May 24, 2013 - 6:20 PM



President Obama promised more transparency for the drone program, something critics have long sought. One day before his (Thursday) speech, the administration acknowledged for the first time that it has killed four U.S. citizens in strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.

The president also mentioned the possibility of a secret court that would sign off on future strikes. That’s an idea floated by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and others. We’ve said before that we’d like to hear a debate on that. However:

The United States risks losing the advantage of surprise if individual drone strikes become entangled in slow-motion bureaucracy back home. We fear U.S. warriors shrinking from what in effect are battlefield decisions because they have one eye on Congress, or judges, or some other overseer who is not their commander in chief. We don’t want drone operators hoping their targeted terrorist will stay put in Pakistan while judges in Washington debate whether it’s appropriate to fire the missile. Nor, we imagine, would the president.

Obama has said he envisions a day when the nation will no longer be on the war footing forced on this country by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. All Americans hope to see that day.

But we’re not there yet. The president alluded Thursday to many other attacks — before and after 9 / 11 — on Americans and their interests. Those assaults ebb and flow and change form. But all of them have something in common: the evil architects who plot and execute them.

That’s why the United States needs to keep those drones flying.

From an editorial in the Chicago Tribune

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