Former White House Press Secretary: Treating Drones Like a Secret Is 'Inherently Crazy'

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Robert Gibbs was told never to talk about drones, but he now says denying what actually exists undermines confidence in government.

On Sunday's episode of Up With Chris Hayes, one of the few programs on cable news worth watching, former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked if Team Obama has been sufficiently forthcoming about the lethal drone program that has targeted and killed thousands.

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"When I went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was, 'You're not even to acknowledge the drone program. You're not even to discuss that it exists,'" he answered, explaining how that made for some awkward interactions with a press corps that knew it was real. "Here's what's inherently crazy about that proposition: You're being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. So you're the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program -- pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

That's a Wizard of Oz allusion. A federal judge has previously written that Team Obama's secrecy claims remind her of Alice in Wonderland. Gibbs went on to say, "I think what the president has seen is, our denial of the existence of the program when it's obviously happening undermines people's confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes."

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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