This week the U.S. government revealed that four American citizens have been killed by drone strikes since 2009. As awful as it is to hear that American citizens are being denied due process and targeted by drones overseas, the letter from
Eric Holder, combined with other news stories of this week, actually point to some very positive changes in government operations.
Transparency is something that should always be sought when governing, and the use of drone strikes seems to be one of the areas where the Obama administration could be much more transparent. While the death of American citizens is never a positive thing, it is refreshing to see the government taking action in revealing administrative actions. In addition to this new information regarding the strikes, new figures have shown that drone strikes have become far less frequent in the last few years, dropping from 117 in 2010 to 64 in 2011, and finally, to 46 in 2012.
Personally, I am not in favor of the drones at all; their killing potential seems largely unchecked, with three out of the four American deaths not being specific targets. However, I cannot deny that drones are highly sophisticated weapons that do keep soldiers off the battlefields.
My other major criticism of the drone program is the lack of judicial influence over the decisions to launch a strike. While the president is clearly the commander in chief, as laid out by the Constitution, it is absurd to think that his rights go so far as to order the death of an American citizen without due cause as confirmed by the judicial branch.
Luckily, despite much of the president’s speech last Thursday focusing on Guantanamo Bay, he was able to mention that new regulations do need to be talked about for drones, as well as the possibility of repealing the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Act. In my opinion, both of these ideas would substantially assist the future of our executive branch.
The problem with drones is not necessarily the drones themselves, but rather, the AUMF. Many drones in the U.S.’s possession are not armed, but used for surveillance. Yet, when most people mention the term drone, they are thinking of those that drop bombs and are covered by the AUMF.
This act was passed in the days immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and gives the president the authority to use all force that the executive branch deems necessary to target individuals, countries or groups that it considers involved in the attacks.
While this wide grant of power is problematic enough on its own in that there is no judicial check on the president’s calls (even when they are for the killings of American citizens), recent times have only added to the danger by not holding the president and his cabinet responsible for the deaths of those persons not directly related to the 9/11 attacks.
As scary as the technology behind an unmanned plane that can fly for days and drop bombs from the clouds is, the real danger is in the laws, which allow said attacks to happen without being overseen.
Hopefully the future will see more strict policies on drone use that will lead to fewer and more regulated uses of the technology. It’s time to fix the drone problem by disabling the legislation that gives the machines their power.