The Task Force on US Drone Policy Releases its Report

By Jessica Poarch Hernandez

This morning a panel of intelligence experts released “Recommendations and Report of The Task Force on US Drone Policy” which reviews the risk and benefits of current US drone policy.

The panel made the following eight recomendations:

  1. Conduct a rigorous strategic review and cost-benefit analysis of the role of lethal UAVs in targeted counterterrorism strikes to evaluate the impact of past UAV strikes on terrorist organizations, affected communities, public opinion, litigation, defense policy and government cooperation with allies and partner nations.
  2. Improve transparency in targeted UAV strikes: as a general principle, the United States should acknowledge the use of lethal force in foreign countries both to Congress and to the American public. While secrecy may be required before and during each strike, strikes generally should be acknowledged by the United States after the fact. The president should publicly release information on: the approximate number and general location of targeted UAV strikes; the number of individuals known to have been killed and their organizational affiliations; the number and identities of any civilians known to be killed, and the approximate number of strikes carried out by the military versus the CIA. The president should also order the preparation and public release of a detailed report explaining the legal basis under domestic and international law for the United States conducting targeted killings.
  3. Transfer general responsibility for carrying out lethal UAV strikes from the CIA to the military. While rare exceptions may be warranted, as a general principle, the military should be the entity responsible for the use of lethal force outside the United States, while the CIA should focus on intelligence collection and analysis.
  4. Develop more robust oversight and accountability mechanisms for targeted strikes outside of traditional battlefields. The president should, by executive order, create a nonpartisan, independent commission to review lethal UAV policy. Members of this independent commission should be selected with a view to ensuring credibility and diversity of background. The commission should not be directly involved in the pre-strike approval process, but should be tasked with reviewing the overall policy and approval process for the use of lethal UAV strikes (both military and CIA); unclassified versions of the commission’s reports to the president and Congress should be released publicly.
  5. Foster the development of appropriate international norms for the use of lethal force outside traditional battlefields. These norms should rest upon a joint commitment to ensuring that states have the ability to respond effectively to nontraditional threats from nontraditional actors and a commitment to ensuring that the use of lethal force remains consistent with core rule of law principles and respect for fundamental human rights. Rules and practices relating to the state use of lethal force should be transparent and clear; lethal force should not be used without adequate safeguards to prevent arbitrariness and protect against error and abuse; and impartial accountability mechanisms must be available to investigate credible allegations of error and abuse, and, if appropriate, provide remedies.
  6. Assess UAV-related technological developments and likely future trends, and develop an interagency research and development strategy geared toward advancing US national security interests in a manner consistent with our values. This review should also flag any legal, ethical and strategic implications of emerging UAV-related technologies, including the possible future development of autonomous weapons systems, and lead to the development of a holistic interagency research, development and use strategy for UAVs.
  7. Review and reform UAV-related export control rules and FAA rules, with a view to minimizing unnecessary regulatory burdens on the development of the US UAV industry, while still safeguarding our national security interests and ensuring responsible UAV development and use.
  8. The FAA should accelerate its efforts to meet the requirements of the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Bill to ensure the safe integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system by Sept. 30, 2015, as required by law, but also consider whether certain commercial UAVs can be operated safely in the national airspace prior to that date, and make exemptions as permitted as a stopgap measure toward the development of a comprehensive regulatory framework for both government and privately operated UAVs.

A full copy of the report can be found at Just Securityhere.  

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