Concerns over the U.S. Military’s use of drone attacks in the War on Terrorism was a hot media topic last week, as a leaked Justice Department memo revealed broad authorization for the U.S. government to use drone strikes, including to kill any American citizen who are believed to be a “senior operational” leader of Al Qaeda or “an associated force.” The issue was also magnified as John O. Brennan, often described as a leader in the pro-drone wing of President Obama’s advisors, appeared before the Senate for hearings on his confirmation to be the next CIA Director.
In March of last year, Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech generally outlining and endorsing the legal justification for the use of drones to kill Americans, saying they could be justified if government officials determine the target poses “an imminent threat of violent attack.” Shortly after the election last November a striking, yet quickly pushed under the rug, report came out that the Obama administration had hastily put together a “rules of engagement” manual for a potential Romney administration as they relate to the president’s extensive use of drones strikes in countries that harbor terrorists. On Tuesday former Secretary of Defense under both Bush and Obama, Robert Gates, said he would back lawmakers’ proposal to form a special court to review the president’s use of drone strikes against Americans linked to Al Qaeda.
While many are horrified by the destructive power of drones abroad, some in the U.S. think they could be an asset for law enforcement within our own borders. Reports have emerged that police plan to use spy drones to hunt for suspected Southern California cop-killer Christopher Dorner, and the FAA has released an updated drone authorization list that reveals 81 entities that have applied for permission to fly drones in U.S. airspace. These entities include government agencies, universities, and police and sheriff’s departments.