Drone Warfare

Drone Warfare and Targeted Killing

To the already complicated mix of counterterrorism as aggressive self-defense and morality in armed conflict, we must add the high technology arena of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  Many argue that the combination of modern technology and sophisticated intelligence analysis all but ensure that the UAV, or drone, policy is the most effective contemporary means to conduct operational counterterrorism.   The theory sounds compelling and convincing: what is more attractive than killing terrorists from the air with the use of sleek technology while minimizing risk to ground forces?  We are in an age where shiny technology and seemingly sophisticated intelligence gathering and analysis converge, potentially removing the human element—and humanity—from decision-making. In the context of targeted killing, few things could be more dangerous and fraught with extraordinary risk.

Computers and advanced technology are, without a doubt, essential to intelligence gathering and other important aspects of counterterrorism and armed conflict – suggesting otherwise would be folly.  But in the context of the current trend towards relaxed or flexible definitions of imminence, legitimate target and proportionality increasing reliance on technology can exacerbate rather than curtail these dangers.

Professor Amos Guiora


Legitimate Target: A Criteria-Based Approach to Targeted Killing


Guiora Op Ed Argues for Judicial Oversight of U.S. Drone Policy

Guiora Critical of Obama’s Choice of Brennan as CIA Chief in Guardian Interview

Utah Law Review Symposium to Consider the Limits of Technological Warfare

Guiora Considers U.S., Israel Drone Strike Policies in LA Times Op-Ed



Drone Policy: A Proposal Moving Forward (Jurist)

Targeted Killing: The Limits of Power (e-International Relations)

Targeted killing’s ‘flexibility’ doctrine that enables US to flout the law of war (The Guardian)

Drone strikes: What the U.S. could learn from Israel (L.A. Times [Blowback])



Targeted Killings as Active Self-Defense

Anticipatory Self-Defence and International Law – A Re-Evaluation

Determining a Legitimate Target: The Dilemma of The Decision Maker



The Drone Paradigm, warandpeacetalk.com

Civilian Use of Drones, China News Radio (CRI)

Israeli Legal Expert: Lack of Judicial Oversight in Targeted Killings a ‘Recipe for Disaster’ (PRI’s The World)

Finger on the Joystick: A Drone Expert Weighs in on American Policy (Chicago Policy Review)

Targeted Killings: Carte Blanche to Kill? (The Kojo Nnamdi Show)



Drone wars and state secrecy – how Barack Obama became a hardliner (Guardian)

“Amos Guiora knows all about the pitfalls of targeted assassinations, both in terms of legal process and the risk of killing the wrong people or causing civilian casualties. The University of Utah law professor spent many years in the Israel Defence Forces, including time as a legal adviser in the Gaza Strip where such killing strikes are common. He knows what it feels like when people weigh life-and-death decisions.

Yet Guiora – no dove on such matters – confessed he was “deeply concerned” about President Barack Obama‘s own “kill list” of terrorists and the way they are eliminated by missiles fired from robot drones around the world. He believes US policy has not tightly defined how people get on the list, leaving it open to legal and moral problems when the order to kill leaves Obama’s desk. “He is making a decision largely devoid of external review,” Guiroa told the Observer, saying the US’s apparent methodology for deciding who is a terrorist is “loosey goosey”.”

The Tortured Logic of Obama’s Drone War (The New Atlantis)

“Amos Guiora, a University of Utah law professor who was personally involved in targeted-killing decisions during service in the Israel Defense Forces, argues that “there is a fundamental difference between drone attacks as presently conducted and targeted killing, for the latter is person-specific whereas the former seems to result in not insignificant collateral damage” — a factor of immense moral import.”


Professor Wayne McCormack


U.S. Killing of U.S. Citizens

Utah Law Review Symposium to Consider the Limits of Technological Warfare

Conference Documents

Targeted Killing at a Distance: Robotics and Self-Defense