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Yet where the morality of President Bush’s tactics chewed up years of public debate, Congress and the press seem less interested in the legitimacy of drone strikes than in the process (and secrecy) that surrounds them.

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So why are drone strikes—which have reportedly killed 2,500 in Pakistan alone—different? Why do people impute more legitimacy to killing from afar (which sometimes ensnares innocent bystanders) than interrogating up close?

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Perhaps first and foremost: evidence. Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo produced photos, and released detainees described their interrogations; ex post facto drone-strike images look like any other war photo.

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Another problem for drone critics: verifiability. It’s nearly impossible to challenge the current White House claim that civilian casualties are limited because the strikes are effective and well supervised.

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It’s also hard to argue with success: Drones decimated key Qaida militants in recent years, including Abu Yahya al-Libi in Pakistan and Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen.

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 One final difference between then and now is the way people perceive the president….  “By a certain point, virtually nothing President Bush did was going to win approval by anybody,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told CNN Sunday, explaining public support for drone strikes but not enhanced interrogation.

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