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Today’s Headlines and Commentary (Special Drones Edition)

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Lots of drones news today. The U.S. is building secret drone bases in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Read Tim Mak’s report in the Politico here, the Washington Post’s coverage by Craig Whitlock and Greg Miller here, and the Telegraph’s Mike Pflanz’ story here.

Peter Finn in the Washington Post writes about the potential for drones to become autonomous in taking lethal action:

This successful exercise in autonomous robotics could presage the future of the American way of war: a day when drones hunt, identify and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans. Imagine aerial “Terminators,” minus beefcake and time travel.

Mark Memmott responds to Finn’s column on NPR.

William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argues in the Politico that the increasing use of drones in war raises a number of questions not necessarily contemplated in warfare without drones, including this “broader, philosophical issue”:

Will waging high-tech warfare risk reducing the destruction of our enemies to an antiseptic video game in the minds of future policymakers?

In other news, speaking at the European Parliament, Eric Holder maintained the administration’s position on closing Guantanamo and said it was trying to do so before the 2012 election. Read about it at NPR, the Politico, the AP, the AFP, and Fox News.

The assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council and a former president has certainly dealt a big blow to the peace process between Afghanistan and the Taliban. Alissa Rubin at the New York Times writes of the significance of his death.

There were a number of recent cyberattacks on defense contractors in Japan, which came on the heels of a Japanese air traffic controller’s posting secret flight information, including the flight plans of Air Force One, on his blog. Hiroko Tabuchi at the Times has the story.

Released by Wikileaks was the news that Al Jazeera‘s news director modified the network’s coverage of the Iraq war in response to U.S. pressure, raising questions about its ability to report news independently. David Kirkpatrick writes at the Times as does Omar Chatriwala at Foreign Policy.

Jeffrey Gettleman at the Times reports on the awards ceremony that the Shabab in Somalia held for youth winners in a trivia contest and Koran recitation. The prizes included fully automatic assault rifles and live hand grenades.

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