+ Description

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
   Executions to the United Nations

[I] can assure you that in terms of [Pakistan], [the use of drones] is very precise and is very limited in terms of collateral damage. . . . Very frankly, it's the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.

--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:
  • the international law principles of territorial integrity and state sovereignty;
  • international humanitarian law principles of distinction and proportionality;
  • international human rights laws mandating due process and the protection of human life; and
  • domestic U.S. laws governing the use of force and the prohibition on assassinations.
Episode Two will feature distinguished legal scholars arguing both sides of this sharply contested issue and present it to live juries around the world.

Funding for this episode of World on Trial is provided by the estate of Robert P. Leiby Jr., Dickinson School of Law Class of 1954.

+ 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 Terror's 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.

+ Resources

Is the U.S. Drone Program Fatally Flawed?, Intelligence Debates 2, Sept. 10, 2013.

Spencer Ackerman, U.S. Drone Strikes More Deadly to Afghan Civilians than Manned Aircraft Guardian, July 2, 2013.

U.S. President Barak Obama Speaks on the U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy, National Defense University, May 23, 2013.

U.S. Senate Committee Hearing, Targeted Killing of Terrorist Suspects Overseas, April 23, 2013.

Mark Mazzetti, Rise of the Predators, A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood, N.Y. Times,
April 6, 2013.

Micah Zenko, Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies, (Council Special Report No. 65), Council on Foreign Relations, April 6, 2013.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, (a new website, launched by a company called Pitch Interactive, documenting the scope and scale of the U.S. drone program in Pakistan).

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,
Huffington Post
, Mar. 26, 2012.

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. 

Robert Chesney, Who May Be Killed? Anwar al-Awlaki as a Case Study in the International Legal Regulation of Lethal Force (2010).

Charles Dunlap and David Cortright, Does U.S. Drone Use Set a New Precedent for War?,
PBS Newshour
(Oct. 10, 2011).

International Law and the Use of Drones (featuring Mary Ellen O’Connell and Michael N. Schmitt),
Meeting Summary of the International Law Discussion Group Meeting Held at
Chatham House (21 October 2010).

Michael Lewis, Drones and the Boundaries of the Battlefield, --- Tex. Int'l L.J.---
(forthcoming 2012).

Jane Mayer, The Predator War: What Are the Risks of the CIA’s Covert Drone Program?,
The New Yorker
, Oct. 26, 2009.

Map - The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2012
(The New American Foundation)

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.

Letter from Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, to Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, Targeted Killings by the U.S. Government,
Dec. 16, 2011.

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).

Videos available:
Rise of Drones II (Part 1)
Rise of the Drones II (Part 2)
Rise of the Drones II (Part 3)
Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century (Peter W. Singer).