The topic of drone strikes arose during the third and final presidential debate tonight, after years of public debate and a federal lawsuit about the use of drones to target alleged enemies of the United States in other countries, including an American citizen.
The exchange was short-lived, however. When Republican candidate Mitt Romney was asked by debate moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, "What is your position on the use of drones?" he said he believed that America “should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us.”
"And it's widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes," Romney continued, "and I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends."
But perhaps because of the two candidates' seeming agreement on the issue, at least compared with several other issues that were raised in the debate, Obama never addressed the question or Romney’s answer.
And Schieffer did not ask any follow up questions about key issues surrounding the controversial use of drones, such as what the limits on such strikes should be, if any; whether they help the fight the against global terror; and how decisions should be made to send these strikes around the globe—and how public that decision-making process should be.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a legal action over access to government documents concerning the use of drones to conduct targeted killings. The group did not immediately have a response to the debate statements on its website or twitter accounts.
The Department of Justice continues to press the government's claim that it has not officially acknowledged any CIA role in the use of drones to target and kill suspected terrorists abroad.
According to a recent National Public Radio report, Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU called the targeted killing strategy "the centerpiece of the Obama administration's counterterrorism policies." When Jaffer asked the CIA about its use of drones in 2010, the agency declined to confirm whether such attacks had occurred, causing the ACLU to sue for the records under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Obama has publicly defended the use of drone strikes.
According the NPR story, Obama said during a video chat earlier this year that, “I want to make sure that people understand actually drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties....For the most part, they have been very precise—precision strikes against al-Qaida and their affiliates.”