Senate drone hearing kicks off Congressional debate


A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport in 2010. Drones have been a key element of the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.


Massoud Hossaini

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday heard testimony on the US military's conversional drone policy. 

The “Drone Wars: The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing” takes on the US military's controversial use of drones in targeted killings, a charged issue that recently saw a 13-hour filibuster from lawmaker Rand Paul. 

Paul was protesting the potential use of drone against suspected terrorists operating on US soil, but the American military regularly engages in such killings abroad. The policy has strained its relations with affected nations -- notably Pakistan and Afghanistan. These governments have repeatedly protested the use of drones as a violation against their sovereignty. US officials defend their use as critical to national security. 

Rights defenders have also questioned the legality of US drones killing suspected militants, given that the number of victims has sharply increased under President Barack Obama's administration. 

Pro-transparency advocates, meanwhile, accuse the US military of withholding critical information as to the number of drone strikes and their victims, particularly given reports that such attacks often take civilian victims. 

Tuesday's hearing was particularly focused on the constitutionality of drone strikes on American soil.  Speakers represented a variety of viewpoints, from pro-drone military representatives to lawyers to a Yemeni activist -- see the full list here

Watch their testimony here

[View the story "The #dronewars go to Washington" on Storify]