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U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) at an air base in the Persian Gulf region. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. use of armed drones remains controversial, in large part because of ongoing secrecy surrounding the use of lethal drone strikes outside of traditional battlefields and the lack of accountability that goes hand in hand with the absence of transparency.

Why it matters: In the first 18 months of Trump's presidency, U.S. drone policy appears to have become less restrained, transparent and accountable.

The Trump administration has:

  • Reversed course on measures designed to bring drone use out of the shadows and make it more responsible. It has expanded the possible targets of armed strikes by eliminating the requirement that the person pose an "imminent threat" and has loosened the requirement of "near certainty" that the target is present at the time of the strike to "reasonable certainty," all while refusing to confirm or deny that changes to such policies and procedures have been made.
  • Increased the frequency and geographic scope of lethal drone strikes, especially in areas where stricter rules around the use of force were previously in place. Between 2009 and 2017, President Obama authorized more than 550 strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. In his first year in office, President Trump authorized more than 80 strikes in those three countries alone.
  • Lowered the threshold for strike-decisions and broadened the role of the CIA.

What's next: The U.S. has an opportunity to be an international leader in developing policy frameworks for the transfer and use of armed drones. This is particularly important as U.S. policy and practice also impact how our allies, partners and enemies use drones. Both the administration and Congress have a role to play in ensuring that the U.S. drone program serves U.S interest and remains lawful, appropriate, accountable and transparent.

Rachel Stohl is managing director and director of the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center.

Go deeper: The Stimson Center’s Action Plan on U.S. Drone Policy

Go deeper

19 mins ago - Technology

Facebook Oversight Board overturns 4 of its 5 first cases

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook's independent Oversight Board published its first set of decisions Thursday, overturning 4 of the 5 cases it chose to review out of 20,000 cases submitted.

Why it matters: The decision to go against Facebook's conclusions in 4 out of 5 instances gives legitimacy to the Board, which is funded via a $130 million grant from Facebook.

New York AG: State severely undercounted COVID nursing home deaths

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Data from New York's public health department undercounted COVID-19-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%, according to a report released Thursday by state Attorney General Letitia James.

The big picture: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration did not include nursing home patients who died after being transferred to the hospital in its tally of over 8,500 nursing home deaths, according to the report. Data provided to the attorney general's office from 62 nursing homes "shows a significantly higher number of resident COVID-19 deaths can be identified than is reflected" in the official count.

Trading platforms curb trading on high-flying Reddit stocks

Major trading platforms including Robinhood, TDAmeritrade and Interactive Brokers are restricting — or cutting off entirely — trading on high-flying stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment.

Why it matters: It limits access to the traders that have contributed to the wild Reddit-driven activity of the past few days — a phenomenon that has gripped Wall Street and the country.