For Immediate Release
CBS Pro-Drone Propaganda
60 Minutes slights critics of controversial weapons
NEW YORK - On May 10, CBS's 60 Minutes
presented a remarkably one-sided report on unmanned Air Force drones
firing missiles into Afghanistan and Iraq. Though the drones have been
criticized for killing civilians in both countries, CBS viewers heard from no critics of the weapons.
Instead, correspondent Lara Logan seemed awed by the drones from the
very start of the broadcast: "Every so often in the history of war, a
new weapon comes along that fundamentally rewrites the rules of battle.
This is a story about a revolution in unmanned aviation that is doing
just that." She described the drones as "hunting down insurgents, every
minute of every day," and as "one of the most important planes in the
United States Air Force."
Viewers were told that CBS was getting special access: "Many of the details of this weapons program are classified, but our 60 Minutes
team was given secret clearance and unprecedented access to bring you
this story." The report relied entirely on pilots and the Air Force
chief of staff.
The closest the segment came to airing any criticism at all was when
Logan asked one pilot, Lt. Col. Chris Gough, about his confidence in
the targeting of the missile attacks: "What if you get it wrong?" Logan
asked. "We don't," Gough replied, before finally admitting that it's "a
tough question.... We have the resources to make sure we're right."
Gough stressed the "clarity" of being removed from the battlefield--the
drones are piloted from a base in Nevada--which led Logan to say, "In
spite of that clarity, unmanned planes and Air Force jets are
criticized in Afghanistan for killing innocent civilians, including an
incident just this week that is under military investigation." Those
comments were accompanied primarily by footage of screaming Afghans
protesting in a street, with a brief shot of a hospitalized child.
Logan added that drone attacks in Pakistan are "blamed for even more deaths." She reported that the CIA "wouldn't talk to 60 Minutes
about their operations," so she gives the Air Force the last word on
the subject, noting that they argue the drones are "more precise than
piloted planes." Logan seemed to accept this argument: "We got a sense
of that when the Air Force let us sit with Predator pilots in Nevada
while they kept a close watch on U.S. soldiers along the
It would not have been difficult to find critics of the reliance on
drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iraq--even among those close to the
military. As the Los Angeles Times reported a week before the CBS segment aired (5/3/09),
the House Armed Services Committee had recently heard testimony from
David Kilcullen--a former adviser to General David Petraeus--who
believes the drone attacks take too many civilian lives. Kilcullen
testified that while drone attacks are suspected to have killed 14
Al-Qaeda leaders since 2006 in Pakistan, at the same time the weapons
have killed about 700 civilians--a 50:1 ratio of innocent victims to
Such perspectives were missing from the CBS report, leaving 60 Minutes to air what amounted to little more than military propaganda about controversial--and deadly--weapons.
Tell CBS that its May 10 60 Minutes
report about drone attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq should have included
critics of these weapons. Excluding such criticisms, while relying so
heavily on military footage and sources, looks more like propaganda
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