Drones and the U.S. Courts




Rosen, Richard D.

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William Mitchell Law Review


The United States's use of drones to target leaders of Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied groups has generated considerable debate over the lawfulness of such targeted killings under international law. Assuming that using drones to target suspected terrorists and insurgents violates international law, do the actual or potential victims have remedies in U.S. courts? In other words, may prospective targets seek injunctive or declaratory relief to forestall such strikes, and do the victims of such attacks have realistic claims against the United States or its officials for personal injuries and property damage sustained in the attacks? This article explains the various hurdles to lawsuits challenging U.S. drone policy including standing, the political question doctrine, sovereign immunity, personal immunity, non-cognizable claims, and the state secrets doctrine. These hurdles present a virtually insurmountable barrier to lawsuits challenging the nation’s policy of targeted killings and reinforce the belief that this controversy must be resolved through the political process and outside the courts.



Drones, Targeted killing, Sovereign immunity, State secrets doctrine


37 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 5280