With the emergence of ISIS in Iraq, renewed attention has been given to the use of armed drones to permit greater U.S. intelligence gathering and tactical action, without necessitating U.S. boots on the ground. This is a popular position. A CBS News/The New York Times poll released last week found that a majority of Americans (56 percent) support the use of military drones to carry out targeted attacks against militants in Iraq. Recently, we also saw the court-ordered release of the legal basis for the U.S. targeted killing of American Anwar al-Awlaki by drone strike in Yemen. While the memo provides the public with some useful information, much more is needed to get a full picture of the rationale and basis for the U.S. drone program.
A year ago, President Obama laid out a near-term vision for U.S. national-security policy that included the future direction of targeted drone strikes. Inthat speech at National Defense University, he responded directly to concerns regarding transparency of America’s drone program, pledging to increase oversight of lethal action outside the “hot-battlefield” and “review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress.” More than a year later, many remain disappointed with the administration’s lack of action on the U.S. drone program. Time has passed—technology has advanced—but America’s drone policy has not evolved.
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