Washington, D.C. — With the Obama administration set to release information about casualties from drone strikes outside of war zones, as well as the text of its Presidential Policy Guidance, or PPG, concerning the use drones outside “areas of active hostility,” the Center for American Progress has released a brief offering the legal context in which the information should be evaluated. While there has been much public controversy about the strikes, the legal framework applicable to the strikes has not been very clear.
“Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has expanded the use of drone strikes targeting Al Qaeda outside Afghanistan,” said Kate Martin, CAP Senior Fellow and author of the brief. “While administration officials have frequently spoken about the rules for such strikes, they have been less than crystal clear about whether the strikes are being carried out as part of the U.S. war with Al Qaeda and whether the laws of war govern the strikes. In particular, they have not been clear about whether the standards in the PPG are intended to apply stricter rules to drone strikes outside Afghanistan than are required in the laws of war. It is important to clarify these important legal questions.”
The paper outlines the relevant questions that need to be asked regarding the legality of the drone program that have not been clearly answered. Those questions include:
- Is the drone program simply a part of the ongoing U.S. war against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces that began in Afghanistan? Or is it somehow a separate counterterrorism effort outside the law of armed conflict with particular rules and policies?
- Does the law of armed conflict apply to drone strikes that take place outside of Afghanistan?
- If so, what are the applicable rules regarding targeting combatants and civilians, and may innocent civilians be lawfully killed?
- How does the May 2013 PPG concerning the use of lethal force “outside areas of active hostilities” relate to the applicable legal requirements—especially regarding the possibility that noncombatants could be injured or killed? In what countries does the PPG apply?
- Do different legal rules apply to targeting U.S. citizens with drones?
Click here to read the paper.
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at email@example.com or 202.481.7141.