Barack Obama hopes to leave behind settled rules on when drones can be used.
On January 23rd, 2009, just three days after his inauguration, President Barack Obama authorized his first drone strikes. The targets were two houses in the Waziristan region of Pakistan, a semi-autonomous area covered by jagged mountains. The first drone dropped a missile on top of one of the homes, searing a hole through the roof and killing five suspected al-Qaeda terrorists. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a British-based news outlet that compiles reports on drone strikes, the second hit the wrong target, killing at least five civilians.
America’s armed forces began using drones away from battlefields in 2002, under George W. Bush. After taking office President Obama scaled up the program, authorizing over 470 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. Though journalists and non-governmental organizations reported on the strikes, for years President Obama recognized that the military was using armed drones outside Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, which are considered areas of “active hostilities”. “It was the worst-kept secret in the world,” says Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation, a think-tank. It was not until 2012 that Obama acknowledged, on a social network, that this was happening.
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