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Letters: Data on drones

February 13, 2013
  • Pakistanis protest a U.S. drone strike in January in the North Waziristan region.
Pakistanis protest a U.S. drone strike in January in the North Waziristan… ( EPA )

Re "The case for drone strikes," Opinion, Feb. 5

Michael Lewis presents a distorted picture of the methodology and conclusions of a report I coauthored, "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan."

First, Lewis suggests that our report errs in adopting the civilian casualty estimates of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism rather than those of two competitors. We find the bureau most reliable because it treats source information transparently, relies on its own researchers and news reports and updates information frequently. A Columbia Law School study reached a similar conclusion.

Second, Lewis anoints drone use in Pakistan as the best of four imperfect choices to manage terrorist threats. Substantial evidence suggests this is shortsighted. A 2012 Pew poll documented increasing anti-American and anti-drone sentiment in Pakistan, likely fostering recruitment to extremist groups. In Yemen, membership in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has surged in parallel with increased drone strikes.

For Lewis, there are four options: inaction, Pakistani ground troops, U.S. invasion or drones. Fortunately, there is another: an approach bounded by law that privileges intelligence, investigation and meaningful efforts to capture suspects.

James Cavallaro

Stanford, Calif.

The writer is a professor at Stanford Law School, where he directs the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic.

Re "Senate wants a say in drone killings," Feb. 9

Senators' objections to targeting U.S. citizens reveal an overwhelming concern for due process. Any citizen who leaves his country to wage war on our troops certainly needs his constitutional rights preserved.

My proposal is for a new unit of trained process servers to track down these rogues and serve them with subpoenas to appear in court. I'm sure the Taliban would appreciate the courtesy and would no doubt comply.

Blair Ceniceros


CIA director nominee John Brennan and his questioners in the Senate focused on when it's OK to kill terrorism suspects.

If they want to reduce the number of what they consider "last resort" situations, they can analyze the grievances of many in the Middle East and correct any unjust U.S. government behavior found to have contributed to those grievances, which in turn feed hostile acts. What we find instead is a stand-your-ground attitude.

And so the president, the CIA and Congress drone on, with or without Brennan.

Joseph Maizlish

Los Angeles


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