Send in the drones? Recently released documents reveal how drone targets are chosen

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A document recently released by the Obama administration finally reveals how potential drone targets are chosen.

The release is a result of a recent Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and is also part of recent attempts by the Obama administration to be more transparent to the public.

“In situations of war, we have to take responsibility when we’re not acting appropriately, or where we just made mistakes even with the best of intentions, and that’s what we’re going to continue to try to do,” said President Barack Obama in a recent speech defending the ISIS drone strikes. “And what I can say with great confidence is that our operating procedures are as rigorous as they have ever been.”

As first reported by CNN, the President Policy Guidance (PPG) document states counterterrorism operations, including lethal action, “shall be discriminating and precise as reasonably possible” and says direct again against priority targets “will be taken only when there is near certainty that the individual being targeted is, in fact, the lawful target and located at the place where the action will occur.”

Before approval, a potential strike is subject to legal review by the agency in charge, and then is presented to the members of the National Security Council before review by the President. The factors that must be presented and scrutinized by this process include the goal and duration of the strike, as well as the legal basis and assets that will be used. If there is unanimous agreement by the Security Council, the leading agency can approve the strike themselves, however the President must be informed.

There must also be an annual review of individuals whom the government has authorized for potential action, and the US Justice Department must conduct an in-depth analysis to ensure the action is legal and constitutional.

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