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State of the Union: A Decade of Armed Drones

Drone Proliferation and Oversight
Daniel R. Brunstetter
Megan Braun

In November 2002, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone loitering over the deserts of Yemen carried out the first reported drone strike outside of Afghanistan, killing Abu Ali al-Harethi, a senior al-Qaeda leader and suspect in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. Over the course of the intervening decade, drones have become the centerpiece in U.S. counterterrorism operations, and over 400 strikes have been reported in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.1 Proponents have lauded drones as the"weapon of choice for future presidents" and"a step forward in humanitarian technology."2 Their use, however, has been the subject of ongoing controversy. Journalists report significant civilian casualties, while legal scholars challenge the legitimacy of targeted killing and political scientists and philosophers raise deep concerns about the ethics guiding U.S. policy makers. All of these critics point to the need for more transparency regarding the government's drone program to better assess its legitimacy. In 2011, two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act