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Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are used for civilian, law enforcement, and military purposes, as well as for intelligence gathering and surveillance. This entry focuses on drones used in a military context, particularly the targeting of specific individuals identified as “legitimate targets.”

Following the attacks on U.S. territory of September 11, 2001, the United States has increasingly relied on drones when targeting suspected terrorists away from areas of active military engagement. Under President Obama, U.S. drone policy has been robust in accordance with a Department of Justice “White Paper.”

Implementation of a drone policy predicated on the rule of law suggests that decision makers define terms including legitimate target, imminence, self-defense, threat, and pre-emption. In the United States, the criteria for determining the legitimacy of a ...

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