Tag Archives: Drones

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. Continue reading

OUPBlog: Drone Killings

by Jessica Poarch Hernandez

The OUPBlog recently posted a piece by Sascha-Dominik Bachmann entitled Drone Killings. Adapted from an article published in the Journal of Conflict and Security Law, this post argues that  the use of drone technology “has direct implications for the morality of armed conflict and combat” because it puts too much distance between the shooter and the target. He then goes on to argue that the U.S. Government should reevaluate its use of Drone Technology and concern itself more with the broad issue of collateral damage.

Read the post here.

[Article] The Case for Drones

by Travis Normand


The Case for Drones, by Kenneth Anderson – June 2013 – CommentaryMagazine.com

How, exactly, did drone warfare and targeted killing become key elements in America’s counterterrorism strategy? And why should we care about them as essential national-security tools for the future?

Read the rest HERE

Targeted Killings of Americans: Three Things to Know [CFR.org]

by Travis Normand

The following video and article were originally created and posted by CFR.org.  You can visit their site HERE.

As for the three points discussed by Matthew C. Waxman (in the following video), I think the first point is the most important. After all, whether or not the U.S. is at war determines if the LOAC paradigm is applicable to the situation.

Continue reading

Iran Fires on US Predator Drone: An Armed Conflict?

by Jessica Poarch

This morning, CNN reported that last Thursday (1 November 2012), Iranian fighter jets fired on a U.S. Predator drone. The Iranian government claims that the drone was fired on after it had entered Iranian airspace; however, the Pentagon’s official statement is that the drone was past the 12 nautical mile limit and was therefore over international waters when fired upon. The drone was not damaged.

With the amount of tension surrounding Iran and its nuclear program, the question of whether or not this action constitutes an armed conflict is interesting. An International Armed Conflict (IAC) is (1) a conflict between States that (2) leads to the intervention of armed forces (for more information on the types of armed conflicts, see the “LOAC Basics” tab above).

Determining whether or not an IAC could exist in this circumstance requires meeting both prongs of the definition laid out above.

(1) I think the fact that there is a conflict between the U.S. and Iran is a given, globally with issues over the Iranian nuclear program and locally over the issue of airspace. Further, (2) the intervention of armed force by Iran is also clear as the attackers were fighter jets flown by Iranian military pilots.

If we assume these two prongs are conclusively established, the question becomes whether or not we need two armed parties in order to have an armed conflict? CNN’s article calls the drone a “U.S. Air Force drone,” so for the sake of argument, we will say that this drone is considered to be a part of the U.S. military forces (thereby eliminating the other looming questions of who is driving and regulating the drone). However, if the drone is not armed and is only doing surveillance, is it considered a party to the “intervention of armed forces”?

In reality, the question of whether firing on the drone constitutes an IAC or not is moot as the armed conflict, if there was one, is now over, and its limited duration lead to no meaningful application for the rest of the LOAC. Nevertheless, as students of the law and observers of international relations, we must take note of this event, hoping that it is just another example of the growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, and not the first shots fired in America’s next major conflict in the Middle East.

Geoffrey Corn Responds to Mark Mazzetti, The Drone Zone

by Travis Normand

The following article appeared today over at LawfareBlog.com and contains Prof. Geoffrey Corn’s response to Mark Mazzetti’s recent article (The Drone Zone).   Mazzetti is a national-security correspondent for The [NY] Times and is currently writing a book about the C.I.A. since 9/11.

If you haven’t visted LawfareBlog.com, I highly recommend that you do.  It is one of the best, if not the best, sites covering all things related to the LOAC and National Security Law.  Some of the best and most knowledgeable people in this field regularly contribute at LawfareBlog.com and you are sure to enjoy it.



By Kenneth Anderson
Monday, July 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM

Geoffrey Corn, professor of law at South Texas College of Law and former JAG officer and chief of the law of war branch of the international law division of the US Army, sends in the following comment on Ken Anderson’s earlier post on Mark Mazzetti’s New York Times Magazine article, “The Drone Zone.”  Our thanks to Geoff for the contribution:

[Prof. Geoff Corn’s Response:]

It seems especially troubling that anyone would suggest that stand-off warfare somehow negates the moral challenges associated with decisions that result in the taking of human life. In fact, it is quite possible that these type of targeting modalities produce unique moral challenges for the warrior. Underestimating the impact of having to set in motion kinetic weapons that kill others is unfortunate and misleading. Death and killing are an inevitable consequence of armed hostilities. While it is tempting to suggest that stand-off capabilities make this process easier for the warrior, the fact remains that moral individuals have to make those incredibly difficult decisions and have to live with the consequences of their actions.

There’s a certain moral clarity in close combat, to be sure, where one is personally at risk – exigency provides an often clear and unambiguous moral framework for the trigger puller, kill or be killed.  But that’s not the ideal kind of moral clarity; the ideal moral clarity allows for deliberation – and that deliberation is served by lowering personal risk to oneself and one’s forces and having time.  In other words, there’s another kind of moral clarity where the trigger puller – or the commander giving the order – is not at risk, does not have to consider the bare necessity of self-survival or the survival of those under one’s command, and can think harder about the strategic and tactical, moral and legal, reasons for pulling the trigger. It makes the moral decision harder, not easier, and perhaps not as clear as that of personal risk – but it is the kind of deliberative decision-making that drones (sometimes at least) allow us and which we should prefer, all things equal.

It therefore seems to me that stand-off warfare involves its own set of complex moral challenges for the warrior. For example, the process of going to work in the morning, engaging enemy belligerent targets with deadly force, and leaving that evening to return to the normalcy of the home and family place the warrior in an environment of conflicting contexts unlike any of his or her peers in the battle-space.  (Those who endured the two years of low intensity confrontations with the Panamanian Defense Forces in the late 1980s had a small taste of this, living in Panama with their families in the same place where they routinely conducted operations to defend U.S. facilities against the PDF.)

It is a mistake to assume killing, even in war, is easy. It is not. Indeed, the challenge of training warriors to kill on order has been a major focus of military training. As Telford Taylor noted, “war does not provide a license to kill; it creates a duty to kill.” I doubt that duty is easier to reconcile with moral instincts for a stand-off drone operator than a pilot engaged in close air support.

How stand-off warfare will impact the nature of armed hostilities is obviously an important and complex issue. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, however, that in the end it still requires us to call upon members of our society – individuals with exceptional moral and ethical instincts – to “pull a trigger.” I don’t think attenuation from the target makes that decision any easier.  It may in fact make it harder.