A new Washington Post-ABC New Poll asks an important question regarding the use of drones by the Obama administration.
The question: do you approve of “the use of unmanned ‘drone’ aircraft against terrorist suspects overseas?” 83 percent approve, 11 percent disapprove, 6 percent have no opinion.
The truly depressing part comes in the follow-up question: “What if those suspected terrorists are American citizens living in other countries?” 65 percent approve, 26 percent disapprove, 9 percent have no opinion.
Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) finds these results depressing as well (particularly since there is majority support even among self-proclaimed Democrats and liberals). He asks:
How many people approve of these attacks on American citizens if they understand that there’s no court judgment involved, no finding of guilt, no warrant, no nothing? Just the executive branch unilaterally deciding they need to be killed.
The domestic use of drones will likely become far more common in the next few years–a fact that may force some changes in public opinion. The FAA reauthorization bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday and currently awaiting the President’s signature (see WaPo coverage) requires the FAA:
to provide military, commercial and privately-owned drones with expanded access to U.S. airspace currently reserved for manned aircraft by Sept. 30, 2015. That means permitting unmanned drones controlled by remote operators on the ground to fly in the same airspace as airliners, cargo planes, business jets and private aircraft.
It is not hard to imagine a point in the not-so-distant future when drones will become a routine instrument of surveillance in law enforcement? For coverage on this aspect of the FAA reauthorization, see Shaun Waterman (Washington Times) and an earlier piece by Harley Geiger (Center for Democracy & Technology) that develops some of the civil libertarian concerns and argues that the FAA must develop “basic privacy and transparency rules for domestic use of drones” before issuing permits.