The public has to push lawmakers to address ethical questions about the use of drones for killing and surveillance, DFL Rep. Keith Ellison said.
Ellison has been outspoken about what he says is the need for a legal framework guiding use of unmanned drones against terrorist targets. He hosted a public forum that drew about 120 people Wednesday evening in north Minneapolis. Ellison said there are many nuances in the use of drones that need to be openly debated.
"If we weren't talking about technology, we're just soldiers on the ground walking around with M16s," Ellison said. "People who get hit by drones -- just a flash and boom, and it's all over."
Two people accompanied Ellison to answer audience questions about drone policy. Robert Naiman of the organization Just Foreign Policy told the group the government wasn't sharing enough about the program and Congress was providing poor oversight.
"Roughly how many Pakistani civilians have been killed? I think as American citizens, we're entitled to know," Naiman said.
Former CIA employee John Radsan of the National Security Forum at William Mitchell School of Law said there may be cases where the government needs to do drone surveillance.
"Think about the Mexican border -- wouldn't you rather have surveillance drones there?" Radsan asked. "Think about police departments that want it."
By a show of hands, a majority of the audience members opposed the use of drones for killing.
Ellison said his January editorial in the Washington Post received little response. Ellison's editorial said the U.S. should do more to avoid civilian casualties, and that Congress should require independent judicial review of intended targets.