WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — One year after President Barack Obama vowed to create greater transparency and guidelines for drone strikes, a new bipartisan report from senior military and intelligence officials warns the “secret war” of lethal drone strikes risks putting the U.S. on a “slippery slope” toward perpetual war.
The 81-page Stimson Center report on U.S. drone policy finds that the Obama administration has not considered the “strategic value” of UAV strikes, with commentators arguing that the U.S. is using a “whack-a-mole” approach to counterterrorism. The most serious problems charged in the report on lethal unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes are the Obama administration’s ongoing lack of transparency and that similar attacks are “likely to be imitated” by other states following American precedents.
The report finds that the UAV strikes have “drawn attention from non-kinetic means of combating terrorist organization, increased anti-American sentiment, eroded norms of sovereignty in ways ultimately likely to be detrimental to U.S. interests, and created a slippery slope toward continual or widening conflict and instability.”
“A serious counterterrorism strategy needs to consider carefully, and constantly reassess the balance between kinetic action and other counterterrorism tools, and the potential unintended consequences of increased reliance on lethal UAV’s,” the report concludes. “To the best of our knowledge, however, the US executive branch has yet to engage in a serious cost-benefit analysis of target UAV strikes as a routine counterterrorism tool.”
Drone program critics cited in the report charge that the lethal UAV technology has “tempted the United States to engage in a” largely covert campaign of targeted killing” that has created a “secret war governed by secret law.”
The U.S. targeting of its own citizens is listed among a series of charges lacking transparency.
“The administration has disclosed details relating to only a handful of targeted strikes against American citizens: for the most part, the identities of those targeted and the basis for their targeting have not been disclosed,” continues the report. “Details relating to incidents that may have involved civilian casualties also have not been disclosed.”
The report warns that such covert killing by the U.S., combined with its lack of transparency on the subject, could have an internationally negative effect on rule of law – especially if states without good human rights records beg to “mimic U.S. precedents.”
The report panel included retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, a former commander of U.S. Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University, as well as a series of other former senior military and CIA officials.