Election Led To Draft of Drone Policy

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 25 2012 10:09 AM

Election Pushed White House To Start Thinking About a Rule Book for Drones

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Drone attacks have increased anger against the United States in Pakistan and other countries in the region

Photo by S S MIRZA/AFP/GettyImages

After four years in which more than 300 drone strike killed some 2,500 people, President Obama and his team thought it was finally time to develop some actual, written-down rules on when the United States could kill someone. And what led them to this conclusion? Could it have been a recognition that perhaps there was something troubling about the widening net of suspects deemed eligible for murder by the U.S. government? Not really. They were just worried somebody else was going to make the decisions. “There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,” an official tells the New York Times.

Not to worry, the policy is still being written, but now that Obama won four more years at the White House it will be “finished at a mare leisurely pace,” points out the Times. Although the administration usually presents itself as of one mind when it comes to drone policy, the truth is that there’s lots of internal debate. This is particularly true when considering that while drones were once used solely to target known terrorist leaders with clear plans to attack the United States, now strikes sometimes target groups of unidentified fighters. Partly out of concern that the United States is setting precedent for other countries on the issue, the United Nations is set to open up a unit in Geneva to investigate drone strikes early next year.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.