The increasing use in recent years of unmanned aerial vehicles, known as UAVS or drones, has spurred innovation and provoked concern. UAVs, which the U.S. Air Force now calls RPAs, or remotely piloted aircraft – a reminder that humans control them – can fly in places where the risk to a pilot would be too great to justify a manned mission. It is the use of armed UAVs to carry out what the U.S. government calls “targeted killings” on foreign soil of individuals believed to pose a serious terrorist threat to the United States that has spurred criticism, concern and debate, in the U.S. and abroad.
President Barack Obama has tried to strike a balance between protecting the secrecy of intelligence operations and assuring Congress and the public that discrete lethal attacks via UAV-launched missiles on persons inside countries like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan are legal, properly authorized and necessary to defend U.S. interests. The public still has many questions, in part, because the government has remained so tight-lipped about these operations.
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