Targeted Killing: Accountability and Oversight via a Drone Accountability Regime

| March 2015
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The proposal by Allen Buchanan and Robert Keohane to set up a Drone Accountability Regime (DAR) to help ensure better compliance with the existing law for lethal use of remotely piloted air systems (RPAS) is both welcome and timely. However, it is worth pointing out that using a drone as a component of a military operation does not automatically make that military action a “targeted killing.” Indeed, it is probable that much of the public concern and condemnation of drones is actually an objection to this type of attack, seen by many people as comparable to acts of assassination on foreign soil. Targeted killing is itself not a drone-specific concern, as such strikes can be carried out by missile, helicopter gunship, sniper, or a special forces team inserted into foreign territory. However, the perceived lower political cost of employing drones means that Buchanan and Keohane are particularly concerned about (1) their use in violation of sovereignty principles; (2) that they will be overused, creating an incentive to employ force as a first response instead of as a last resort; and (3) that they will be used to target civilian leaders and thus confuse, ignore, or undermine the distinction principle. The DAR is a response to these fears.

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Category: Issue 29.1, Symposium: Toward A Drone Accountability Regime

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