The first rule about the drones programme, is you don’t talk about the drones programme

So I suppose Obama must have missed the induction session, as he took to the net this week and told the world all about it. Or at least admitted it existed, which is a start.

President Obama made the rare public acknowledgment on Monday during an hour-long online video chat with users of the social network Google+.

Obama said that the drone strikes, which are carried out by the CIA rather than the military, were a "targeted focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists". He asserted that the strikes targeted "al-Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan."

US drone attacks have doubled overall in Pakistan during the Obama administration. Thousands of people have been killed by the strikes - civilians as well as militants. The President acknowledged that, saying that the strikes had not caused “a huge number of civilian casualties.”

Well phew, that’s alright then. Because of the security situation and difficulty in accessing the terrain it has been impossible for organisations like Amnesty to verify the number of civilian casualties caused by drones. We simply don’t know what numbers we are talking.

Available evidence, though, does seem to show that the number of strikes decreased during 2011. Which is good news, as is the public confirmation of the use of drones by the President. That is an important first step towards the transparency that is urgently needed around the drones programme.

But as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism pointed out we were quick to call for more information. What are the rules of engagement? What proper legal justification exists for these attacks?

We know that fight club exists, that’s a start – time for the big reveal. “Trust us” is not good enough.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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