Obama’s drone policy at a glance

President Barack Obama defended the United States’ use of drone attacks as an important part of the U.S. counterterrorism policy on Thursday but signed new presidential policy guidelines to spell out for Congress and the public the standards that the U.S. will use before carrying out drone attacks.

The guidelines include not using strikes when the targeted people can be captured either by the U.S. or a foreign government, relying on drones only when the target poses an imminent threat and establishing standards for notifying members of Congress.

A look at the new policy:


The policy is to refrain from using lethal force “when it is feasible to capture a terrorist suspect” because the capture of a potential terrorist offers the opportunity to gather intelligence and disrupt terrorist plots. Operations to capture a terrorist suspect can only be conducted against those who may lawfully be captured by the United States and “only when the operation can be conducted in accordance with applicable law.”

Lethal force will only be used to prevent or stop attacks against Americans “and even then, only when capture is not feasible” and there are no other ways to address the threat. There must be a legal basis for using lethal force, and the U.S. will only use lethal force against a target that poses “a continuing, imminent threat to U.S. persons.”


The decisions to capture or use force against individual terrorist suspects outside the United States and areas of active hostilities are made at the most senior levels of the federal government. Senior national security officials will consider proposals to ensure that the administration’s policy standards are met, and attorneys will review and determine the legality of the proposals.

The decisions will be informed by a “broad analysis” of the target’s role in plots threatening Americans, the intelligence information the individual could provide and the potential impact on ongoing terrorism plotting.


If the U.S. considers conducting an operation against a terrorist suspect who is identified as an American, the Justice Department will perform an additional legal analysis to ensure the action is consistent with the Constitution and the laws of the United States.


These new standards and procedures do not limit the president’s authority to take action in extraordinary circumstances when doing so “is both lawful and necessary to protect the United States or its allies.”


Appropriate members of Congress will be updated regularly on the identities of any individuals against whom lethal force has been approved. Appropriate committees will be notified whenever a counterterrorism operation covered by these standards and procedures has been conducted.


Source: The White House.

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