By Samuel Burke & Ken Olshansky, CNN
For much of the world, drones represent everything that is wrong with American foreign policy. The sizable majority of Americans, on the other hand, have no problem with them.
In the latest polling, 75% of Americans approve of the use of unmanned aircrafts against terrorist suspects overseas.
In the countries that are on the receiving end of drone attacks, such as Pakistan and Yemen, there is rage. As well as significant evidence that drones have killed and injured civilians.
In Washington on Thursday, the secretive policy had its first official public airing, as Congress started confirmation hearings for John Brennan, whom President Obama has nominated by to be the next CIA director. Brennan is currently President Obama’s counterterrorism chief and the principle architect of the U.S. drone policy.
It was Brennan who first publicly admitted the existence of the drone program last year.
In a speech last year at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Brennan said, “Let me say it as simply as I can: Yes, in full accordance with the law and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the united states and to save American lives the united states government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. And i m here today because president Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts.”
Much remains secret about the drone program. Most notably is the “Kill List” – targets, including American citizens, that the President is said to personally approve.
Indeed, three Americans are known to have been killed by drones, including a 16-year-old American boy who was born in Colorado, who the son of American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
The Brennan hearings may be an accountability moment.
Leading the charge is a Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who has laid out some fundamental questions about the drone program.
“Every American has the right to know when their government believes it's allowed to kill them,” Senator Wyden said on MSNBC Thursday morning. “I don't think that, as one person said, that is too much to ask. And this idea that security and liberty are mutually exclusive, that you can have only one or the other, is something i reject.”
In the video above, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour puts Senator Wyden's questions to two experts: Mark Lowenthal, a former CIA official who approves of the U.S. drone policy; and Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Warren is one of the lawyers representing the al-Awlaki family’s case against the U.S. government.