Why There Needs To Be More Transparency In The Drone Program

Spencer Vida, Staff Writer

There needs to be more transparency when it comes to the U.S. drone program. Government officials and citizens need to know enough about drones to make decisions and make sure that drones are used effectively. We need to know how the American government uses drones as for people who live under them, military drones are a symbol of America’s foreign policy in the Middle East. We must portray the United States in a positive light as it affects how people in the Middle East and the rest of the world treat us.

The greater coverage of drones will help expose many faults with American drone policy. For instance, a CIA drone was reported killing three men “at a former mujahedeen base called Zhawar Kili” including a “tall man” they believe to be Bin Laden as the two others were “acting with reverence” toward him. Even though it was later proven that this man was not Bin Laden, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark said, “We’re convinced that it was an appropriate target.” She added that “We do not know yet exactly who it was” (The Nation). Also, documents from the Intercept’s drone paper show that the military labels people “enemy killed in action” even if they were not the intended target. This is made worse for men who are killed in drone strikes as the U.S. government counts them as terrorists or “unlawful enemy combatants” unless evidence emerges that proves their innocence while women and children killed in drone strikes are automatically counted as civilian deaths.

Also, drone strikes are known for producing high casualty rates. According to leak Intercept documents, one five-month period of the Operation Haymaker drone strikes led to more than 200 deaths while only 35 were the intended targets. This is not a separate incident as “At least 14,000 US airstrikes have been conducted by unmanned aircraft since 2002, killing as many as 2,200 civilians” (Business Insider).

Additionally, people living in the United States are probably not aware of the profound effects that military drones have on people who live under them. Taylor Owen, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University summarized certain aspects of the psychological impact of drones this way: “Day and night, you hear a constant buzzing in the sky. Like a lawnmower. You know that this flying robot is watching everything you do. You can always hear it. Sometimes, it fires missiles into your village. You are told the robot is targeting extremists, but its missiles have killed family, friends, and neighbours. So, your behaviour changes: you stop going out, you stop congregating in public, and you likely start hating the country that controls the flying robot” (Psychology Today). A 13-year-old drone strike survivor, Zubair Rehman, whose grandmother was killed in a drone strike, said to Congress: “I no longer love blue skies in fact I prefer gray skies the drones do not fly when the skies are gray and for a short period of time the mental tension and fear eases” (HBO). Lastly, a Yemini man named Farea Al-Muslimi told Congress: “I spend there living with an American family and I attended an American high school that was one of the best years of my life the friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and that I love. Now however, but when they think of America they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads ready to fire missiles at anytime the drone strikes are the face of America too many Yeminis” (C-Span).

Like them or hate them, drones are a commonly used tool in America’s fight in the War of Terror. Although Americans do not have to worry about drone strikes happening in the United States, in some places in the Middle East, it is a part of daily life. Drones, drone strikes, and targeting killings are becoming more controversial issues as they receive more media coverage. The government, the media, and non-governmental organizations must address the current and past problems of the drone program to show if the benefits to the drone programs outweigh the faults.



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