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Drones, Remote Targeting and the Promise of Law

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, the New America Foundation, American Society of International Law, and the Arizona State University’s Center for Law, Science and Innovation hosted a conference on drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Four panels addressed a variety of topics associated with the technology, including their applications and limits as well as legal issues surrounding their use. Accounts ranged from academic to the anecdotal.

Panel I on the “The Use and Impact of Drones in South Asia,” included experiences from panelists who had seen first-hand the impact of drone technology in South Asia. Panelists Rohde and Shah offered their stories and confirmed that the drone program produced fear within Taliban ranks—the sound of drone engines hovering above was and remains haunting for civilians and insurgents. Others offered their assessment of the drone’s effectiveness in counter-insurgency and its perception within individual warzones.

Panel II, on “Drones and the Law of War,” was particularly informative, as Col. Bitzes and Charles Blanchard detailed the drone targeting and acquisition process employed by the US Air Force. Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch and William Banks rounded out the panel by emphasizing the legal framework in which violence is permissible.

Peter Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century,” spoke about the broader implications for war once altered by technology. Singer challenged the assumption that new systems could sterilize violence. Beyond this, his comments focused on the weakness of today’s public debates as they relate to science, technology, and ethics. His closing statement highlighted the value of the conference.


8:30am to 9:00am - Registration

9:00am to 9:15am - Welcome

Daniel Rothenberg
Executive Director, Center for Law and Global Affairs
Arizona State University

9:15am to 10:45am  - Panel I: The Use and Impact of Drones in South Asia (VIDEO)

Peter Bergen
Director, National Security Studies Program
New America Foundation
Author, The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between American and Al-Qaeda

Patrick Johnston
Research Fellow, International Security Program
Harvard University

Chris Rogers
Human Rights Lawyer and Field Fellow
Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict

David Rohde
Correspondent, The New York Times
Co-Author, A Rope and A Prayer: A Kidnapping from Two Sides

Pir Zubair Shah
Pakistan-based Correspondent
The New York Times

Joel Garreau
Future Tense Fellow, New America Foundation
Lincoln Professor of Law, Culture and Values, Arizona State University

10:45 am to 12:00pm - Panel II: Drones and the Law of War (VIDEO)

Col. James G. Bitzes
Legal Advisor, Combined Air Operations Center
United States Air Force

Charles Blanchard
General Counsel
United States Air Force

Tom Malinowski
Washington Director
Human Rights Watch

William Banks
Director, Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism
Syracuse University College of Law

Laura Dickinson
Professor of Law
Center for Law and Global Affairs, Arizona State University

12:00pm to 1:15pm - Lunch Discussion: The Challenge of Thinking Clearly About the Impact of Emerging Technologies  (VIDEO)

David Caron
Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California Berkeley
American Society of International Law

Featured Speaker
Peter Singer
Author, "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century"
Director, 21st Century Defense Initiative, Brookings Institution

1:15pm to 2:30pm - Panel III: Drones and Today’s Policy Challenges (VIDEO)

Thomas B. Nachbar
Professor of Law
University of Virginia School of Law

Michael Waltz
Former Special Advisor on South Asia and Counterterrorism to Vice President Dick Cheney
U.S. Army Special Forces officer (reserve component)
Vice President, Metis Solutions, LLC

Oren Gross
Director, Institute for International Legal & Security Studies
University of Minnesota Law School
Former Senior Legal Advisory Officer, Israeli Defense Forces

Orde Kittrie
Professor of Law
Arizona State University

2:30pm to 2:45pm - Break

2:45pm to 3:45pm - Panel IV: Drones and the Future of War (VIDEO)

Werner J.A. Dahm
Director, Security & Defense Systems Initiative
Arizona State University

Richard Jackson
Special Assistant for Law of War Matters
United States Army

Gary Marchant
Executive Director, Center for Law, Science & Innovation
Lincoln Professor Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics, Arizona State University

Event Time and Location

Thursday, February 24, 2011 - 8:30am - 3:45pm
New America Foundation
1899 L Street NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036

Event Photos

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A range of photos from this event are available on Flickr. Click on the icon at left to view or download the photos.