TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Backlash from targeted killings’ aftermath: Targeted killings are often highlyunpopular among the local population in targeted countries. Civilians aremore often than not killed in these strikes, and collateral damage greatly angersthe local population. Recent analysis suggests that 250 to 320 noncombatantshave been killed since 2006, with each strike killing between a few and a dozenindividuals. 246 However, at least one drone strike in Pakistan in June 2009killed more than 60 people, most of whom were unlucky civilians. 247 Properlyassessing civilian casualties, however, remains difficult since militants targetedhave incentive to exaggerate the number of deaths for propaganda purposes.US international credibility is undermined: By pursuing terrorists in othercountries and killing them, the US undermines its global credibility as theupholder of international laws and norms. One potential consequence is thatcountries providing the US intelligence information vital to counterterrorismefforts may stop doing so if they perceive that the US will use the informationto commit extrajudicial executions. Furthermore, targeted killings may providecertain undemocratic regimes the excuse to execute political enemies inthe name of fighting terrorism.Intelligence is lost: When a high-level terrorist is killed, the knowledge he possessesabout his confederates and his organization’s future plots is also destroyed,denying intelligence services the opportunity (through interrogation, interceptionof the terrorist’s communications, etc.) to reap valuable insight from him.The War of the DronesThe US government considers missile-enabled UAVs—that is, drones—an essentialweapon in its counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, CIA Director LeonPanetta calls the program “the only game in town in terms of confronting ortrying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership.” 248 And one recent analysis bearsout Director Panetta’s faith in the program: more than half of the CIA’s “twentymost wanted ‘high-value targets’” have been killed through drone strikes. 249So convinced is the Obama Administration by the program’s efficacy that ithas increased missile strikes in the FATA dramatically since taking over fromthe Bush White House. A recent study identifies roughly 80 drone strikes inPakistan since 2006, and over 40 strikes in 2009 alone. 250In fact, DNI Blair said in February 2010 that it is permissible, with specific per-96 Trials by Fire: Counterterrorism and the Law

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