The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Law professors discuss drones

The+Global+Hawk+is+unveiled+at+Edwards+Air+Force+Base%2C+Calif.+in+2009.
Courtesy of AP
The Global Hawk is unveiled at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. in 2009.

The Global Hawk is unveiled at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. in 2009. (Courtesy of AP)

Human rights activists and law professors gathered at Karcher Auditorium at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss the legal and moral issues surrounding drone strikes.

About 60 to 70 students and faculty were present at the event put together by both the undergraduate program as well as the Dedman School of Law.

“I’m not in the law school, but this sounded like an interesting opportunity,” sophomore finance major Scott Oman said. “I want to take advantage of the panels occurring on campus, especially when on such an important subject matter.”

Assistant Professor of Law Chris Jenks moderated the panel. He asked that no direct quotes or attributions be taken in student reporting.

Before opening the lecture up to the three panelists, Jenks provided a brief summary of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, and their misconceptions among Americans.

He said that Americans’ knowledge of drone activity is increasing and there is even an app, called Dronestagram that sends a text message with a picture location every time there is an American drone strike.

The first panelist to speak was Naureen Shah, Associate Director of the Counterterrorism and Human Rights Project at Columbia Law School.

Shah said drones offer the possibility of conducting warfare in a way that is less politically costly.

Shah agreed with Jenks that there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the strikes. She also brought up the point that war should be debated and that the Obama administration should be fostering this debate so that Americans can weigh in.

Michael Lewis, a professor of law at the Claude W. Pettit College of Law at Ohio Northern University and a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, said Shah’s wishes for open debate might be impossible because the Taliban and al-Qaida could find out information.

“If we’re constantly worried about al-Qaida finding out, then how will Americans ever be further informed of future drone strikes?” sophomore Keith Harbison asked during the question and answer session. “Or will we always be unaware of them until after the strikes occur?”

Jeffrey Kahn, a law professor at SMU, did not claim to know whether the strikes were effective, because he felt his expertise lay elsewhere. He instead described the role of the Constitution in this debate and the importance of focusing on the structure and context of it.

Kahn discussed the issue of how to use laws written long before new technological advances and still apply them to concerns of modern warfare.

A main issue surrounding the topic of drones is whether remote-controlled killing takes the emotion away from it and desensitizes the drone controller.

Lewis argued that this play-station mentality is false, and that drone operators watch their victim for up to 72 hours before shooting them with a missile, giving them the chance to watch their normal life and actually become more emotionally invested.

The panel provided students and faculty with new perspectives on the issue and a well-rounded view of the topic.

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