Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. (File photo)
Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has joined a list of lawmakers calling for the formation of a third group to check on the president’s ability to conduct drone strikes.
"I think this idea of being able to execute, in effect, an American citizen, no matter how awful, having some third party -- informing the Congress or the intelligence committees or something like that...some check on the ability of the president to do this has merit, as we look to the longer term future," Gates said on Sunday.
The comment follows lawmakers' recent proposal that a special court should evaluate US President Barack Obama's deadly drone strikes against Americans who are allied with al-Qaeda.
"It just makes me uncomfortable that the president - whoever it is - is the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all rolled into one," said Senator Angus King.
Gates added that "whether it's a panel of three judges or one judge -- something that would give the American people confidence that there was, in fact, a compelling case -- to launch an attack against an American citizen, I think just as an independent confirmation or affirmation, if you will, is something worth giving serious consideration to."
The ex-spymaster also alluded to inadequacies found in the current laws regarding drone strikes, those that would particularly empower the “future president” to disregard the rules.
This comes as the Department of Justice released last week documents explaining the circumstances when Washington can use drone strikes on an American citizen abroad.
A recent report revealed that the Pentagon’s overall spending on drones has surged from USD284 million in 2000 to nearly USD4 billion in the past fiscal year, while the number of drones owned by the Pentagon has soared “from less than 200 in 2002 to at least 7,500 now.”
There has been a major surge in US assassination drone strikes in Muslim countries in Asia and North Africa since Obama assumed US presidency in 2009. The attacks have reportedly caused thousands of civilian casualties, prompting popular outrage in targeted nations.