User login

Join The Debate

Cast your vote and join the conversation.

Membership is free.

Get Started

Warning message

The subscription service is currently unavailable. Please try again later.

The U.S. Drone Program is Fatally Flawed

The BriefGet Up To Speed

Remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, have been the centerpiece of America'€™s counterterrorism toolkit since the start of the Obama presidency, and the benefits have been clear.  Their use has significantly weakened al Qaeda and the Taliban while keeping American troops out of harm'€™s way.  But critics of drone strikes argue that the short-term gains do not outweigh the long-term consequences'€”among them, radicalization of a public outraged over civilian deaths.  Is our drone program hurting, or helping, in the fight against terrorism?


This report analyzes the potentially serious consequences, both at home and abroad, of a lightly overseen drone program and makes recommendations for improving its governance.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Micah Zenko

The manner in which the United States has been using drone strikes raises questions about their strategic efficacy and unintended consequences.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Rosa Brooks

The truth is we don't know whether U.S. drone strikes have killed more terrorists or produced more terrorists. Regardless, killing terrorists is only a stopgap arrangement..

Sunday, March 31, 2013
Hassan Abbas

How drones made it easy for Americans to kill a particular person anywhere on the planet.

Friday, June 7, 2013
Fred Kaplan

Drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries is not in the U.S. national interest and mires the country in endless war.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

The critics don’t understand the reality of “drone” operations, nor do they comprehend that our adversaries are most certainly conducting an aggressive perception management campaign on this issue – a very effective one if the recent hysteria over RPA use is a measure of effectiveness.

Friday, February 15, 2013
David Deptula

Drone strikes remain a necessary instrument of counterterrorism.

Thursday, August 1, 2013
Daniel Byman

For targeted strikes of fleeting targets in low air defense threat environments, an RPA is the best platform to choose to ensure precision, persistence, flexibility, and minimize civilian casualties.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Martha McSally

Any government that shuns the available tools in defense of its people and in pursuit of justice has failed its vocation.

Thursday, August 15, 2013
Mark Tooley

They remain the best option for denying Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters havens in Pakistan.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Michael Lewis

Some moral philosophers, political scientists and weapons specialists believe armed, unmanned aircraft offer marked moral advantages over almost any other tool of warfare.

Saturday, July 14, 2012
Scott Shane

A transcript of President Obama’s speech on U.S. drone and counterterror policy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A guide to what we know and what we don’t know about the U.S. drone campaign.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Cora Currier

How should we feel about drones? Like any wartime innovation, going back to the slingshot, drones can be used badly or well.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Mark Bowden

Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder on targeted killings.

Thursday, May 23, 2013
Jonathan Masters
Drone Strike Data
Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer

Since 2002, the US has been conducting a covert program to target and kill al Qaeda commanders based in Yemen.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer

A database of information about the U.S. drone program in Pakistan collected from news reports.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

Known drone- and air-strikes in Yemen targeting al Qaeda and other militants.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

Data on U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

In response to broad dissatisfaction with the hidden bureaucracy directing lethal drone strikes, there is an interest in applying the model of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to the targeted killing of suspected terrorists, or at least of American suspects.

Friday, February 8, 2013
Scott Shane

Although senators at the Brennan hearings were rightly concerned about targeted killings operating without any judicial or congressional oversight, the proposed drone court would raise as many constitutional and legal questions as it resolved. And it would give a congressional and judicial stamp of approval to a program whose effectiveness, morality, and constitutionality are open to serious questions.

Monday, February 11, 2013
Jeffrey Rosen
DOJ White Paper

This white paper sets forth a legal framework for considering circumstances in which the U.S. government could use lethal force in a foreign country outside the area of active hostilities against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or an associated force.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969

Analysis of the leaked Justice Department memo.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Lauren Feeney interviews Vicki Divoll

Americans surveyed by NBC News/Wall Street Journal overwhelmingly support drones as weapons.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Tom Curry

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) think the U.S. government should use drones to launch airstrikes in other countries against suspected terrorists.

Monday, March 25, 2013
Alyssa Brown and Frank Newport
Additional Articles

President Obama’s plans to restrict the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Charlie Savage and Peter Baker

An escalation of drone strikes in Yemen highlights the fact that the U.S. public is still in the dark about this use of lethal force.

Saturday, August 17, 2013
Naureen Shah

By 2015, the Pentagon projects that the Air Force will need more than 2,000 drone pilots for combat air patrols operating 24 hours a day worldwide. The Air Force is already training more drone pilots — 350 last year — than fighter and bomber pilots combined.

Sunday, July 29, 2012
Elisabeth Bumiller