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US to relax export restrictions on military drones




A model of a drone on display as New Yorkers gather to protest Israel's military assault in Gaza during a rally at Foley Square July 24, 2014.
A model of a drone on display as New Yorkers gather to protest Israel's military assault in Gaza during a rally at Foley Square July 24, 2014.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

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The Obama administration will allow the sale of both armed and unarmed drones to allied nations.

The announcement comes after an internal review of the U.S. drone framework and how to ensure that its standards are met as international use of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) grows. While drones have quickly proliferated our culture and economy, they are most controversial for their military applications, thus making the government’s announcement about their export significant.

To date, the U.S. has only exported armed drones to the United Kingdom as well as unarmed drones to other NATO allies like France and Italy. Drone use abroad for intelligence efforts and military strikes has rapidly increased under the Obama administration, and the technology is now widely seen as an essential part of its counterterrorism strategy across the Middle East and North Africa.

Yet drones are not without its critics. Their arguments range from philosophical objections that the use of drones to kill is wrong to practical concerns about “blowback” from the strikes. Privacy advocates are alarmed at their domestic and international use for mass surveillance. And as the U.S. prepares to export this technology, issues of accountability, transparency, and legitimacy come forth regarding the potential use of drones by foreign nations.

Should the U.S. relax its restrictions on drone exports? Where should the line for exports be between armed and unarmed drones? Will this strengthen or weaken the U.S.?

Guest:

Christopher Harmer, Senior Naval Analyst, Institute for the Study of War - described as a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization dedicated to advancing an informed understanding of U.S. military affairs.

Steve Vladeck, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law; Vladeck has testified before the House Committee on the Judiciary on the subject of presidential powers and drones.