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The Skeptics

There are multiple reforms to the process that President Obama can either enact on his own or advocate for in the halls of Congress. He can and should declassify the full Presidential Policy Directive that establishes the rules and procedures for the targeted killing program so the American people can judge the standards for themselves. The White House should push for a statute that requires any future administration to annually disclose how many combatants outside declared warzones have been killed in drone strikes during the previous year, how many civilians were killed, where the operations took place (broadly speaking), how much the drone program costs to the U.S. taxpayer, which terrorist organizations are listed as fair game, and a public assessment from the intelligence community of the impact of drones on the capability of those terrorist groups to hold territory, plan attacks, recruit and fundraise.

All these reforms could be passed without compromising sources and methods, or tipping off America’s terrorist adversaries. Just as importantly, opening the program to more scrutiny from Congress and the American people will set an international standard for countries in the future who are beginning to deploy their own drones on the battlefield.

If the current president cannot or will not do it, the next one should.

Daniel R. DePetris is an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., a geostrategic consulting firm and a freelance researcher. He has also written for, Small Wars Journal and the Diplomat.

Image: Flickr/U.S. Navy