The most recent underwear bomber story is, as is usual with these stories, becoming more confusing every time some spokesman adds to it. The agent was not the “double agent” that everyone keeps calling him, he was merely an agent because we never thought he was working for them, which would have had to be the case for him to be a double agent. A double agent is more dramatic, of course, but sadly, he wasn’t one.
He was also a British citizen, working for the Saudi secret service, but he turned the bomb over to us, so it appears it’s not all that clear that even he knew who he was working for. We are crowing about the success of our “intelligence agencies,” but it’s not clear that we knew this guy existed until he walked up and handed us the bomb.
We are also, as we tend to do, trumpeting the “intelligence knowledge harvest” involved, saying that he told us where a bunch of bad guys are so that we can do what we always do when we think we know where bad guys are. He must have told us they are pretty much everywhere in Yemen, because we are raining Hellfire drone missiles on pretty much the entirety of Yemen, killing “militants, terrorists” and “insurgents” by the dozen.
How do we know that they are militants, terrorists and insurgents? Well, because they are dead. By definition a militant, terrorist or insurgent is anyone killed by American drone strikes.
Interestingly, the program is still called our “covert drone program,” even though every time we kill someone we believe to be important the government issues a news release bragging not only about the assassination, but describing the method in considerable detail. Sometimes on the same page will be one headline saying that we killed half a dozen “militants” in a drone strike, and another saying that we can’t talk about the secret drone program.
Yemen, like Pakistan, at one time was okay with our drone strikes, but is now demanding the we stop doing it with a signal lack of success, because we are not even slowing the pace of our drone strikes. Chris Hedges at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism observes, "Part of the justification for the US carrying out drone strikes without consent is their reported success.”
And part of the justification for the Bush torture program was that “it worked.” This is who we are now. We no longer commit crimes in secret and try to pretend we did not commit them. We do them right out in the open and justify them not with moral arguments but with pragmatic ones. Our actions do not need to me ethical or moral, they merely need to be effective.