Being Vigilant on Drones
As the drone silently glides across the horizon, hundreds of civilians and militants alike are stalked. It surveils homes, businesses, hospitals, and schools, and reports its findings to officials safely tucked into military compounds hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the dangers of war. A drone is not susceptible to human emotions nor will it hesitate once the command to take a life is issued.
During President Barack Obama’s time in office, the United States has conducted over 300 drone strikes in Pakistan-- five times as many used during the Bush Administration. These strikes have resulted in the deaths of an estimated 3,577 persons, and out of that number, 2,693 are deemed “combatants.” Unfortunately, there is no real method for determining exactly how many of the 2,693 lives taken belonged to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban since recent reports indicate all military-aged males, typically anyone between the ages of 18 and 65, are targeted as combatants although they may be unarmed civilian bystanders.
The use of drones in warfare has not garnered much public attention in the U.S. However, the use of drones in the extrajudicial murders of Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman sparked a necessary debate over the legality of drone use—at least with respect to the targeted killing of American citizens without charge or trial.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution restricts the government from “depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Due Process is our right, as Americans, to a fair legal proceeding with an opportunity to be heard before the government seizes our life, liberty, or property. However, in the case of al-Awlaki and Abdulrahman, there was no trial where they were afforded the right to be heard before they were assassinated.
Moreover, the use of drones overseas has garnered scrutiny from the United Nations. The United Nations recently reported that a panel will investigate the rise in drone strikes by the U.S. and other nations and the related allegations of unlawful killings. The International Bill of Human Rights exists as a universal constitution providing humans, criminal or not, with fundamental rights such as the right to innocence until proven guilty. In using drones to assassinate suspected terrorists, the U.S. government clearly disregards Articles 7, 10, 11, 12 and 28 of the International Bill of Human Rights.
More recently, the suspected use of surveillance drones in the search for Christopher Dorner raised additional concerns as civilians, reporters and politicians questioned the government’s invasion of our constitutional right to privacy. Ultimately, drones may have assisted in finding Dorner, but we should not disregard the breach in privacy of Americans being eyeballed in their homes and businesses by drones. Normalizing the use of drones enables a path towards increasing government infringement on our civil liberties if left unchecked and unpressured by the public.