Technology & Trade

Disclosing the Drone Program

Watch the event video below or click here.

Drones have become a coveted tool in militaries and armed groups around the world. Under the Obama administration, the United States’ use of armed drones considerably expanded, targeting terrorist threats and providing reconnaissance and surveillance support to military and intelligence operations in an increasing number of countries. Yet the U.S. drone program has largely been shrouded in secrecy and the administration has been reluctant to reveal substantive details about the program’s policy guidance, legal justifications for strikes, or measures of effectiveness.

For years, journalists and civil society groups have tried to persuade the administration to increase transparency around the drone program. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and New York Times have been at the forefront of efforts to get the administration to disclose information that could contribute to the accountability of the U.S. drone program, as well as inform the public debate about the use of drones, engender greater understanding of strategic and political aims of the U.S. drone program, and help assess the program’s efficacy.

Please join the Stimson Center for a discussion with Jameel Jaffer and Charlie Savage on issues surrounding the U.S. drone program. Jaffer is a former deputy legal director of the ACLU and was director of its Center for Democracy. He is the author of the recent book The Drone Memos. Charlie Savage, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a Washington correspondent for the New York Times and author of Power Wars, an inside look at Obama’s post 9-11 Presidency. Jaffer and Savage will discuss their recent books and examine the ethical, legal, and security implications of the U.S. drone program as well as its impact on current and future armed conflicts.

WHAT: A discussion on the U.S. drone program featuring author’s Jameel Jaffer and Charlie Savage.


Jameel Jaffer, Founding Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, Columbia University; Former Deputy Legal Director, ACLU; author of The Drone Memos
Jameel Jaffer is the founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the former Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU. Jaffer oversaw the ACLU’s work relating to national security for almost a decade and litigated some of the most significant cases relating to U.S. counterterrorism policy after 9/11.  He has argued cases at all levels of the federal court system, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, and has testified before Congress about a variety of topics relating to national security and civil liberties. Jaffer represented Americans killed by U.S. drone strikes and led the ACLU team that compelled the disclosure of some of the Justice Department memos relating to “targeted killing.” Jaffer’s book, The Drone Memos, was published by The New Press in November 2016.

Charlie Savage, Washington Correspondent, New York Times; author of Power Wars
Charlie Savage is a Washington correspondent for the New York Times and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He has been covering post-9/11 issues — including national security, individual rights, and the rule of law — since 2003, when he was a reporter for the Miami Herald. Later that year, he joined the Washington bureau of the Boston Globe; he then moved to the Washington bureau of the New York Times in 2008. Savage has also co-taught a seminar on national security and the Constitution at Georgetown University’s political science department. Savage’s first book, Takeover, published in 2007, chronicles the Bush-Cheney administration’s efforts to expand presidential power. His second book, Power Wars, published in 2015, is an investigative history of national-security legal policy issues in the Obama administration.

Rachel Stohl, Director, Conventional Defense Program, Stimson Center
Rachel Stohl is a senior associate with Stimson’s Managing Across Boundaries Initiative. From 2013-2014, Stohl directed the Stimson Task Force on U.S. Drone Policy and currently leads the Center’s projects on issues pertaining to the international arms trade and the U.S. drone program. Prior to joining Stimson, Stohl was an associate fellow at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, from 2009-2011. She was a Senior Analyst at the Center for Defense Information in Washington, D.C. from 1998-2009 and served as a Scoville Fellow at the British American Security Information Council in D.C. Stohl was the consultant to the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) process from 2010-2013, the UN Group of Governmental Experts on the ATT in 2008, and the UN Register for Conventional Arms in 2009. She is the co-author of two books, The International Arms Trade (Polity Press, 2009) and The Beginners Guide to the Small Arms Trade (Oneworld Publishing, 2009).

Image courtesy of Jim Sher on Flickr.


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