Teaming up with conservatives, libertarians and liberals, at the end of last week U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., continued his fight to ensure authority over armed drones remains solely with the Department of Defense (DOD), as he brought back the Drone Reform Act (DRA) on Friday.
Yoho introduced the DRA last year to ensure the DOD and not the CIA had power over drones, though the bill went nowhere. On Friday, Yoho brought the bill back and made his case why the DOD should be the only branch of the federal government able to launch drones.
Americas weaponized drone program should not be done in secret, Yoho said. A militarized drone should not be under the jurisdiction of any agency other than the Department of Defense. The Drone Reform Act will centralize authority, increase transparency by removing the veil of secrecy, and increase congressional oversight. This is similar to a recommendation made by the 9/11 Commission in 2002 which has never been enacted.
Our top military officials have been pressing for permission to publicly defend U.S. drone strikes in order to address criticism at home and abroad. My bill will help make their requests a reality, Yoho added. Currently, certain agencies use covert strikes that cannot be discussed publicly. This cloak of secrecy enables terrorists and foreign governments to spread misinformation and false propaganda about the U.S. drone program, which creates more enemies and extremists. With greater transparency, accountability, and centralized authority, the DOD will be able to clarify and defend drone strikes by releasing statistics and public statements, as well as give testimony before Congress in open hearings. It is my fear that clandestine attacks without constitutional authorization of war do more harm than good. We have a responsibility to defend our nation. However, we should do it in the light of day with transparency and accountability. The lack of transparency with any program especially one of this magnitude is ripe for abuse.
"When the cause is just, we should not hide our attacks under a veil of secrecy and denial, Yoho said in conclusion. As a member of Congress and a concerned citizen, it is time to bring this program out from behind the curtain and into the open. We, as a nation, are better than that. In Florida, we say that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Our fight and our cause can and should withstand the light of day. This is the only way to ensure accountability.
Last year, Yoho rallied a host of co-sponsors who covered the political spectrum, including U.S. Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Rush Holt, D-N.J., Paul Broun, R-Ga., John Conyers, D-Mich., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. In the new bill, Yoho continued to get support from representatives of all stripes as he kept Amash, Conyers, Labrador, Lee, Massie and Mulvaney and reeled in U.S. Reps. John Delaney, D-Md., Alan Grayson, D-Fla., and Walter Jones, R-N.C., as original co-sponsors.
Yohos bill was sent to the Armed Services and Intelligence committees on Friday.
This has not been Yohos only effort to ensure drones are not used to spy on Americans. Last year, Yoho wrote U.S. House Homeland Security Appropriations Chairman John Carter, R-Texas, urging no funds should be set aside for warrantless drone surveillance of U.S. citizens on U.S. territory for the next fiscal year.
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