Polls find that Americans generally support President Obama's use of remote-control drones to assassinate fanatical terrorists abroad. So far, more than 300 drone attacks have killed about 2,500 people -- and have exterminated much of al-Qaida's leadership.
The CIA and Defense Department want greater freedom to launch attacks by unmanned drones, while Justice and State department officials urge more caution.
Most Americans don't realize that plenty of innocent civilians also have been slaughtered by the drone rockets that strike out of nowhere.
Started under President George W. Bush and expanded under Obama, the drone program currently isn't regulated by any rules or principles, according to a front-page New York Times article.
Many people, both inside and outside the federal government, believe more candor is needed about drone strikes. Ongoing secrecy prevents Congress and the public from fully understanding and debating the U.S. assassination strategy.
Both the Times and the American Civil Liberties Union recently sued for more information about the federal government's growing use of drones in targeted killings.
But the "government has refused even to acknowledge the existence of the drone program in Pakistan," the national newspaper reported. "The administration appears to be a long way from embracing openness."
Today, the Pentagon uses drones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and the Philippines.
While the amount of taxpayer money spent on drones is growing, it's a pittance compared to other military costs. Each F-22 fighter plane costs the government $350 million, while drones cost between $4.5 million and $15 million, according to Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 by Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse.
The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies found U.S. drone strikes killed 667 people there in 2009. Most were innocent civilians. On June 23, 2009, for example, a U.S. drone attack killed at least 80 people marching in a funeral procession.
"Air power and civilian deaths are inextricably bound together. They cannot be separated," Englehardt wrote. "It's simply the barbaric essence, the very nature of this kind of war, to kill noncombatants."
Killing civilians seems to be ignored during most debates about drones.
In his book Dying To Win, University of Chicago professor Robert Pape said some young Muslims become terrorists because they "are out for revenge, seeking to lash out against those who they believe are responsible for the deaths of family members or close friends."
No one can morally justify horrendous acts of Osama bin Laden and other terrorist chiefs. But the development of future fanatics may be spurred, not restrained, by increased drone attacks.