Earlier this month, the Intercept released “The Drone Papers,” a series of reports that provide details on the U.S. drone program in Somalia and Yemen. The papers highlight a number of aspects regarding the United States’ use of armed drones in counterterrorism operations, including insights on the administration’s “kill lists,” the chain of command for targeting decisions and various shortfalls in intelligence. The documents represent the most substantial revelations about the U.S. drone program despite President Obama’s stated commitment to greater transparency about U.S. drone policy.
In the short term, the Drone Papers renew questions about many of the administration’s claims surrounding the lethal drone program and may help reignite calls for greater transparency and increased oversight. But it is unlikely that the documents will result in any considerable changes in the ways in which U.S. drone operations are conducted or the extent to which U.S. policy on drones is disclosed. This reality is particularly likely for two key reasons: general public support for the drone program and lack of Congressional and administrative action towards greater transparency and accountability.