A U.S. Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport. Photo: Massoud Hossaini / AFP / Getty Images

When President Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, he agreed to report to Congress by March 12 any changes to President Obama’s rules governing the U.S. use of military force and related operations. These changes began in secret last fall with the dismantling of Obama-era limits on drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional battlefields.

Why it matters: Even if the administration meets the deadline, which appears unlikely, it may not make its report public. Human rights groups consider the failure to release and explain changes to a previously public policy a dangerous step backward.

Some reported changes to existing policy:

  • Allow lethal targeting of individuals outside of armed conflict zones who do not pose an imminent threat, in violation of international law
  • Relax the “near certainty” standard that the target is present at the time of the strike, increasing risk to civilians
  • Give the CIA and U.S. military authority to carry out drone strikes without prior approval from the White House

Transparency around the use of lethal force is essential to assessing the lawfulness of military operations and providing redress for victims. This information is especially critical in light of the dramatic increase in strikes in Yemen and Somalia in 2017 and the resulting civilian casualties.

What’s next: If Trump lets the deadline pass or provides only a classified response, it will fall to Congressional leaders to hold the administration accountable to the American people. They could call for the release of a declassified statement of the policy or pass legislation requiring the administration to reveal its reasoning and authority for targeting and killing. As Congress seeks to reassert its warmaking authority, this important policy deadline is a good place to start.

Daphne Eviatar is director of the Security with Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA.

Go deeper

10 hours ago - Health

15 states broke single-day coronavirus records this week

Data: Compiled from state health departments by Axios; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

At least 15 states broke their single-day novel coronavirus infection records this week, according to state health department data reviewed by Axios.

The big picture: The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia, Axios' Andrew Withershoop and Caitlin Owens report.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 11,143,945 — Total deaths: 527,681 — Total recoveries — 6,004,593Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 2,818,588 — Total deaths: 129,584 — Total recoveries: 883,561 — Total tested: 34,213,497Map.
  3. States: Photos of America's pandemic July 4 ICU beds in Arizona's hot spot reach near capacity.
  4. Public health: U.S. coronavirus infections hit record highs for 3 straight days.
  5. Politics: Trump extends PPP application deadlineKimberly Guilfoyle tests positive.
  6. World: Mexican leaders call for tighter border control as infections rise in U.S.
  7. Sports: 31 MLB players test positive as workouts resume.
  8. 1 📽 thing: Drive-in movie theaters are making a comeback.
11 hours ago - Health

In photos: America celebrates July 4 during global pandemic

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

The U.S. has already celebrated Easter, graduations and so much more during the coronavirus pandemic, and now it can add July 4 to the list.

The state of play: Axios' Stef Kight writes public parades and fireworks displays around much of the country are being canceled to prevent mass gatherings where the virus could spread. Hot-dog contests and concerts will play to empty stands and virtual audiences — all while American pride treads an all-time low.