Friday, Aug 1, 2014 09:54 am est

United States must provide information on drone program

Posted on February 11, 2013 | by Jess Littman

There is finally good news concerning the debate over drones. The Obama administration would probably point to what they see as military successes as proof of the effectiveness of drones… However, I think the deaths of civilians and the ominous reliance on machines outweighs those victories. But now the administration may be doing something to make this technology usable without violating the rights of American citizens and civilians abroad.

After the uproar that arose when President Obama informed Congress that he had the right to kill American citizens who are members of al-Qaeda — without any of the comforts of due process and presumably through the use of drones — his administration has finally recognized the need for more oversight of the drone program.

Several senators have been complaining — as they should — about the lack of information released to them about drones. The program is infamous for its secrecy, meaning that when the public finds out that our government has killed an American citizen or a group of Pakistani children, our outrage is mingled with surprise at being consistently kept in the dark.

This may be changing, at least partially. The public will still not be aware of most of the details of the drone program, but the Obama administration is considering setting up a court to oversee the use of drones, similar to the secret court used by the American government since 1978 to oversee foreign spies.

As of now, no one in Congress or the executive administration seems to agree on exactly how this court should work, but since gridlock is the new norm in Washington, D.C., we should value the fact that our politicians are at least discussing options to make the drone program more transparent.

Because the use of drones is so technically complicated and because the program has been kept secret for so long, there is doubt as to whether a judge would be able to adequately understand cases. Therefore, most of the advocates for a drone court want the focus to be on individual targets — especially American citizens — and whether the President has reason and, more importantly, the right to kill them.

Again, this court would not make additional information about drones available to the public. It might not prevent any deaths or violence from the drone strikes if, like the court that monitors spying, it approves nearly every request from the administration. There are probably better solutions to the public outcry over our increased military reliance on drone technology — releasing more information about the administration’s use of drones for defense and stopping the killing of American citizens would be a start, but the administration is clearly not prepared to do this.

A drone court would not be a panacea, but it would be comforting if even one non-administration official — perhaps someone who was trained and paid to determine whether an action is just — were allowed such insight into the program.

This article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 11 print edition. Jessica Littman is a staff columnist. Email her at


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.