NYU/Stanford Legal Report Criticizes U.S. Drone Killings


New York University and Stanford law schools have issued a new joint report challenging the legality of U.S. drone killings in Pakistan.

NYU Law’s Global Justice Clinic, collaborating with Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, has just released Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan, a hard-hitting examination of the U.S. government’s controversial use of targeted CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. You can click on the study’s title to read it and support material from the NYU law school’s website.

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This from the NYU release:

Based on nine months of research by the two clinics with the help of a U.K.-based charity and its partner organization in Pakistan, the 165-page report minces no words at the beginning of its executive summary: “In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.”

The report team conducted two research investigations in Pakistan, including more than 130 interviews with witnesses, victims, and experts along with extensive review of documents and news reporting, yielding “new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.”

The authors of the report point to evidence suggesting that strikes injure and kill significant numbers of civilians, and also argue that the constant presence of hovering drones terrorizes Pakistanis in their daily lives. The report also disputes the assertion that the strikes have a net positive effect on U.S. national security, and suggests that current drone strike practices are contrary to the rule of law and international legal standards: “We call on US policy makers to rethink current targeted killing practices.”

CFR in June reported on legal criticism of the U.S. drone program, including listing civilian deaths in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

The NYU/Stanford report also brings into question what legal and psychological effect will result in the U.S. from the constant presence of hovering drones. A June Associated Press report cited anxiety caused by the potential of drones over America. It cited a predicted 30,000 drones worldwide by 2020. Congress approved drone flights last year, and the FAA has been both studying and preparing policies on drone flights.

The question is, with drones in the hands of the military, along with federal, state, and local police forces, how can Americans be sure they won’t be armed for use against citizens. Then there are also constitutional concerns about privacy.

The American Civil Liberties Union is also looking into the domestic drone issue.