Meet the U.N.’s New Chief Drone Investigator

January 30, 2013 | Andy Cush

Though the Obama administration’s drone program has faced widespread public criticism, it has seen surprisingly little oversight from the international community. With the launching of a new long-term investigation into the practice by United Nations Special Rappoteur Ben Emmerson, that’s about to change. Emmerson hopes to compile extensive reports on the effects–including potential civilian casualties–of 25 drone strikes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine, for the next session of the U.N.

“Let’s face it, they’re here to stay,” Emmerson told Wired’s Danger Room blog this week. “This technology, as I say, is a reality. It is cheap, both in economic terms and in the risk to the lives of the service personnel who are from the sending state.”

Because the technology is so cheap and risk-free, it can be used more frequently than manned attacks, said Emmerson, which leads to a perception that there’s “necessarily a correspondingly greater risk of civilian casualties.”

Emmerson hopes the Obama administration, especially counterterrorism aide and CIA director nominee John Brennan, will cooperate–ev. Keeping the public in the dark, he said, is not in the government’s best interests, as it “leaves the debate space wide open to those who would argue that there are routinely disproportionate civilian impacts.” “Whether that is true or not is too early to say,” he continued, “and I wouldn’t express any view on those questions without a very careful consideration of the evidence.”

(Photo: United Nations)