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Category Archives: Targeted Killing: Drones

Reflections on the Chatham House Autonomy Conference

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Monday, March 3, 2014 at 5:34 PM

Chatham House recently held a conference on autonomous military technologies, the focus of which was really the current debate regarding autonomous weapon systems. Kudos to Chatham House for leaning forward in this critical area and for bringing together the right mix of people for an engaging and productive conference. The event was held under Chatham . . .
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U.N. Special Rapporteur Releases New Report on Drone Use

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Friday, February 28, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Ben Emmerson, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has released a report in the course of his investigation into the use of drones. The summary reads as follows: This is the third annual report submitted to the Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on . . .
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The Clear and Convincing Standard and Citizen Drone Strikes

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Friday, February 28, 2014 at 3:14 PM

When last we debated the Government’s legal authority to kill an American terrorist overseas, some big-ticket questions had to do with proof: exactly how much evidence would be required before executive branch officials would approve a lethal drone strike against U.S. citizen?  And what sorts of proof would suffice, in establishing a target’s stature in . . .
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What is the Point of the New Drone Targeting Rules?

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Friday, February 28, 2014 at 8:33 AM

Another tidbit from the NYT story Ben just flagged: It is unclear what Mr. Obama’s position is on whether Mr. Shami should be targeted.  American officials said that as part of the new rules ordered by Mr. Obama, the Pentagon, rather than the C.I.A., is supposed to carry out any lethal strike against an American . . .
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Who is the American the U.S. May Be Targeting Overseas?

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Friday, February 28, 2014 at 7:31 AM

The New York Times has the answer—sort of: WASHINGTON — He is known as Abdullah al-Shami, an Arabic name meaning Abdullah the Syrian. But his nom de guerre masks a reality: He was born in the United States, and the United States is now deciding whether to kill him. Mr. Shami, a militant who American . . .
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Reactions to Stories on Possible New U.S. Citizen Strike

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:18 AM

Some thoughts on this morning’s drone strike news (NYT, WSJ). The NYT says that President Obama’s announcement last May of an intention “to gradually shift drone operations from the C.I.A. to the Pentagon” was designed in part “to make them more transparent.”  The theory, I think, was that CIA strikes are covert and cannot be . . .
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U.S. Citizen Possibly Targeted for Drone Attack

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Monday, February 10, 2014 at 9:42 AM

Kimberly Dozier AP reports this morning that “[a]n American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, . . . and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year.” . . .
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Are Armed Drones Anything Strategically New?

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Strategika, a Hoover Institution online journal edited by Victor Davis Hanson, has published a symposium on whether armed drones are strategically something new, or just an incremental step forward in remote platform weapon systems.  Ben and I have a brief contribution to the issue, taken mostly from Chapter 3 of Speaking the Law, our book . . .
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A Proposal for Targeted Killing Oversight by Ex-AG Alberto Gonzales, and a Response by Steve

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 10:01 AM

Here are two quite recent papers, both of obvious interest to Lawfare readers.  The first, entitled “Drones: the Power to Kill,” was penned by former Attorney Alberto Gonzales.  Among other things, Gonzales recommends oversight procedures for targeted killings of American citizens.   The second piece is a response to Gonzales’ article, by our own Steve . . .
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Low-Intensity Conflict in Africa: French and American Uses of Force in Recent Days

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Monday, January 27, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Remember Mali?  We don’t hear much about it these days, but it still suffers from the presence of armed groups of Islamist extremists in the north, and the French military is still there and using force from time to time.  The most recent example occurred just a few days ago, when the French used both . . .
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Congressional Control of Intelligence Programs (sometimes)

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Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 7:03 PM

In the last ten days, an interesting controversy has bubbled up over congressional control of the drone program.  The quarrel, which has been both internal to the Senate and between the Congress and the Executive, raises some important issues regarding Congress’s ability to control controversial but classified programs (such as the current drone program and . . .
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Lt. Col. Matthew Atkins on “The Personal Nature of War in High Definition”

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Sunday, January 26, 2014 at 2:00 PM

I met Matthew Atkins, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, recently at the Hoover Institution, where he is currently a military fellow. Lt. Col. Atkins has worked in targeting and intelligence a fair bit. And following some conversations at Hoover, he sent me this brief essay, whose conclusions and opinions are those of the author . . .
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Eugene Robinson Gets it Wrong on Drones

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 7:53 AM

Over at the Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson has a piece decrying the morality of drone strikes—a piece that expresses with an admirable economy of words nearly every conceptual error one can make on the subject. Let’s dissect. The problems begin right at the top, where Robinson begins by conceding that “U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan . . .
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How Does the President’s Policy on Lethal Force Apply in Yemen Today?

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Long War Journal reports an airstrike on three AQAP fighters in Hadramout, Yemen, earlier today.  By LWJ’s count, this would be strike number 23 for the year (suggesting 2013 might fall short of 2012′s high of 42 strikes, but still far north of 2011′s 10 strikes).  I mention this in part because the numbers are . . .
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Readings: Christine Fair, “Drones, Spies, Terrorists and Second-Class Citizenship in Pakistan – A Review Essay”

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Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Georgetown University political scientist C. Christine Fair has been a leading voice in challenging much of the conventional wisdom about the nature of conflict in Pakistan, including the role of US drones, the Pakistani Taliban, and Pakistan’s military.  In a brief but comprehensive essay, forthcoming in the journal Small Wars and Insurgencies (25.1), she reviews . . .
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SSCI Approves Intelligence Authorization Bill for FY2014

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 8:59 PM

The legislation, which the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence yesterday approved by a 13-2 vote, can be found here.  The Committee’s press release sums up the bill and can be found here. There’s all kinds of stuff to pore over.  Among other things, the bill would provide for Senate confirmation of the Director and Inspector General . . .
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CIA Files Reply Memo in Drone FOIA Case

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Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 9:07 PM

The CIA’s efforts to deny the ACLU’s FOIA requests for records about the Agency’s involvement in drone-based targeted killings continue apace in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Agency filed a reply memorandum in favor of summary judgment  on the matter in D.D.C. on November 1. Lawfare readers may recall the March . . .
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Back to Lethal Force in Somalia: What If Anything Does the Drone Strike on Ibrahim Ali Signify?

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Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 5:38 PM

When U.S. Navy SEALs attempted the capture of an al Shabab figure in Somalia earlier this month, contemporaneous with the successful capture of an al Qaeda target in Libya, it generated a considerable amount of coverage and discussion, including speculation about what this might signify regarding the administration’s position on the use of lethal force . . .
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Gabor Rona of Human Rights First Responds…

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Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 4:08 PM

…to my revised meta-study of drone strike casualties. Ritika Singh’s updated meta-study of drone strike casualties reaches exactly the right conclusion: the more we hear from non-government sources, the more we understand the inadequacy of the US government’s disclosures and indeed, the duplicity in its claims that drone strikes are “surgical.” (Not that surgery is always so surgical). But I wish Ritika . . .
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Human Rights Watch Responds

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Saturday, October 26, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Not to be outdone by Amnesty International, which responded earlier to my post on reports by Amenesty and Human Rights Watch, Letta Taylor of Human Rights Watch writes in with the following response as well: In his posting “Thoughts on the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International Reports,” Benjamin Wittes notes that the both organizations “raise . . .
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