Presidential election triggered push to finish rules on drone strikes

Before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration sped up efforts to develop formal rules for the targeted killing of terrorists by drones so that they would be available if needed by a new president, reports the New York Times.

The matter is no longer quite as urgent since President Obama won a second term, officials said, but is still progressing as a way to address continuing internal uncertainty and disagreement within the administration about exactly when lethal action is justified, the story said.

In Obama's first term, the Defense Department and CIA undertook more than 300 drone strikes that have resulted in the death of about 2,500 people, the story said.

The Obama administration has split along the use of the drones for terrorist strikes with the DOD and CIA advocating for greater latitude on the strikes, and the Justice and State Departments, together with the president's counterterrorism advisor, arguing for more restraint, the story quotes officials involved in the discussions as saying.

With such a strong debate under way on the matter, Obama did not want to leave an unclear program to his successor. Completion of the rules initially was scheduled for January, but now will progress at a more leisurely pace, one official said in the story. 

Obama has publicly stated that there need to be a legal architecture in place regarding the use of drones for targeted killing of terrorists.

A draft rule book for drone strikes exists, but it remains highly classified, officials said.



About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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