House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., said on Sunday that unmanned drones are legitimate uses of force in Pakistan, where the United States is trying to rein in al-Qaida. They also are useful for police surveillance inside the U.S., particularly in patrolling large crowds, he said.
Since President Obama took office, roughly 300 drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan. The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the use of drones for public surveillance and along the southern U.S. border.
“When you’re in a war, and you are in war, the idea is to kill as many of the enemy as you can,” King said on CNN’s State of the Union. “In any war there’s a large amount of collateral damage.”
“I’m not saying these are easy decisions to make, but life isn't easy. War isn't easy. These drones are obviously a very effective way to do it” with a minimum of risk to U.S. lives, King said.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., who voted against the use of force in Iraq and is an outspoken critic of most wartime methodology, said the United States’ reliance on drones only irritates the rest of the world and encourages other countries to use the same tactics on us.
“It’s such a trend to dehumanize warfare with machines and computers doing the job,” she said. “This is not video games. This is real people. And this is real death and we are making real enemies.”
The bulk of Woolsey’s outrage was directed at international drone use, but she also said the use of drones inside the United States is a breach of privacy for U.S. citizens. King shot that argument down. “I think drones are a legitimate form of law enforcement. Having said that, privacy has to be expected. You don’t have an expectation of privacy when you’re out in the open. We’re talking about crowds.
King also gave credit to the Obama administration for aggressively going after al-Qaida with drones and other sharp tactics. “We have not been attacked since Sept. 11,” he noted.