As the CIA, often in conjunction with Department of Defense (DOD) Special Operations forces, becomes more and more deeply involved in carrying out extraterritorial targeted killings both through kill/capture missions and drone-based missile strikes in a range of countries, the question of its compliance with the relevant legal standards becomes ever more urgent.
--Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary
--Leon Panetta, (former) CIA Director
Episode Two in the World on Trial series will examine the legality of the use of unmanned drones by the U.S. government to target suspected terrorists.
In recent years, the U.S. inventory of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has grown from 167 in 2002 to over 7,500 today, and drones account for approximately 30 percent of all military aircraft. The U.S. military now trains more unmanned pilots than traditional fighter pilots. At least 40 other countries, including Russia, China and Iran are developing unmanned systems technology. The reach of this technology goes well beyond military use, and spans civil law enforcement and commercial uses.
Although drones have been credited with effectively targeting suspected terrorists and dramatically lowering the risk to U.S. service members, considerable criticism has accompanied these achievements. Scholars and activists have denounced the use of drones by the U.S. government as unethical, counterproductive, and in violation of domestic and international law. Specifically, critics have argued that the use of drones by the U.S. government violates:
+ In the News
Omar Bashir, Who Watches the Drones? The Case for Independent Oversight, Foreign Affairs , Sept. 28, 2012.
John Kaag & Sarah Kreps, The Moral Hazard of Drones, N.Y. Times, July 22, 2012.
Scott Shane, The Moral Case for Drones, N.Y. Times, July 15, 2012.
Mark Mazzetti, The Drone Zone, N.Y. Times Magazine, July 6, 2012.
Christopher Swift, The Drone Blowback Fallacy, Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2012.
P.J. Crowley and Amy Gaudion, War on Terrorís Next Phase: The Legal and Strategic Consequences, The Daily Beast, June 23, 2012.
Owen Bowcott, Drone Strikes Threaten 50 years of International Law, says UN Rapporteur, The Guardian, June 21, 2012.
Ari Shapiro, Are Drones Obama's Legacy In War On Terrorism?, NPR, June 20, 2012.
Mark Mazzetti, Rise of the Predators, A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood, N.Y. Times,
Micah Zenko, Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies, (Council Special Report No. 65), Council on Foreign Relations, April 6, 2013.
International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of the Stanford Law School & Global Justice Clinic of NYU School of Law, Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan, livingunderdrones.org (blog), September, 2012.
Kimberly Dozier, White House Offers to Curtail Drone Program in Pakistan, Officials Say,
Jack Goldsmith, Fire When Ready, Foreign Policy, Mar. 19, 2012.
Scott Wilson & Jon Cohen, Poll Finds Broad Support for Obama’s Counterterrorism Policies, Wash. Post, Feb. 8, 2012. Poll available here.
Peter W. Signer, Do Drones Undermine Democracy, N.Y. Times, Jan. 21, 2012.
Philip Alston, The CIA and Targeted Killings Beyond Borders, --- Harv. Nat. Sec. J.--- (forthcoming 2012).
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, Addendum, Study on Targeted Killings, UN Doc. A/HRC/14/24/Add.6 (May 28, 2010).
Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, Washington’s Phantom War: The Effects of the U.S. Drone Program in Pakistan, Foreign AffAIRS, July-August 2011.
Charles Dunlap and David Cortright, Does U.S. Drone Use Set a New Precedent for War?,
International Law and the Use of Drones (featuring Mary Ellen O’Connell and Michael N. Schmitt),
Michael Lewis, Drones and the Boundaries of the Battlefield, --- Tex. Int’l L.J.---
Jane Mayer, The Predator War: What Are the Risks of the CIA’s Covert Drone Program?,
Map - The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2012
Letter from Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, to Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, Targeted Killings and Unmanned Combat Aircraft Systems (Drones), Dec. 7, 2010.
Rise of the Drones: Unmanned Systems and the Future of War: Hearing Before the H. Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressional Hearing, 111th Cong. 111-118 (Mar. 23, 2010).
Rise of the Drones II: Examining the Legality of Unmanned Targeting: Hearing Before the H. Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressional Hearing, 111th Cong. 111-120 (Apr. 28, 2010).
MARCH 27, 2012 COMMENTS (3)
The killing of innocent civilians is always wrong ! Killing itself has proven to be in opposition to human progress.
Unmanned platforms allow the US to conduct the same types of missions as manned aircraft. Only with unmanned, it is cheaper, safer, and at times more effective. I don't think legality should even be in question.
This is a difficult topic and I'm looking forward to the arguments on both sides of this issue. I guess I lean toward using drones when national security is at stake. It seems that too frequently drone attacks occur when it's inconvenient to work together with another nation to bring a terrorist to justice.