New report co-authored by Global Justice Clinic casts spotlight on CIA drone strikes

NYU Law’s Global Justice Clinic, collaborating with Stanford Law School’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, has released Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan, a hard-hitting examination of the U.S. government’s controversial use of targeted CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

Based on nine months of research by the two clinics with the help of a U.K.-based charity and its partner organization in Pakistan, the 165-page report minces no words at the beginning of its executive summary: “In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.”

The report team conducted two research investigations in Pakistan, including more than 130 interviews with witnesses, victims, and experts along with extensive review of documents and news reporting, yielding “new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.”

The authors of the report point to evidence suggesting that strikes injure and kill significant numbers of civilians, and also argue that the constant presence of hovering drones terrorizes Pakistanis in their daily lives. The report also disputes the assertion that the strikes have a net positive effect on U.S. national security, and suggests that current drone strike practices are contrary to the rule of law and international legal standards: “We call on US policy makers to rethink current targeted killing practices.”

Adjunct professor and research scholar Sarah Knuckey, who teaches the Global Justice Clinic, worked with her Stanford counterparts in supervising the writing of the report and serving as a final editor, and also participated in fact-finding in Pakistan. Christopher Holland (LL.M. ’12) served as a student researcher on the project. Veerle Opgenhaffen, executive director of NYU Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice; Professor Margaret Satterthwaite ’99, a CHRGJ faculty director; and Nate Wessler ’10, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, reviewed and commented on the report.

Posted on September 25, 2012