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Poll finds overwhelming support for drone strikes

Some members of Congress have misgivings about the use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists, but Americans surveyed in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal overwhelmingly support drones as a weapon. 

Khaled Abdullah / Reuters file

Tribesmen stand on the rubble of a building destroyed by a U.S. drone air strike, that targeted suspected al Qaeda militants in Azan of the southeastern Yemeni province of Shabwa in this file photo taken on Feb. 3, 2013.

The survey found that 66 percent of respondents favored the use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, to kill suspected members of Al Qaeda and other terrorists. Sixteen percent opposed the drone strikes, while 15 percent said they did not know enough to voice an opinion. The poll result was in line with other survey data on drone use. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey in February found a nearly identical level of support for drone use against overseas terrorists. 

The survey found that two thirds of respondents favor the use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, to kill suspected members of al Qaeda and other terrorists. 

The poll result was in line with other survey data on drone use. A Gallup survey in March found almost the identical level of support as in the NBC/WSJ poll for drone use against overseas terrorists. 

President Barack Obama announced last month that he had ordered a review of proposals “to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. “ Among the options to be considered is the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action. He didn’t commit himself to any particular option but said, “I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these and other options for increased oversight.”

Human rights groups, some former U.S. military officers, and some members of Congress have voiced concern over the Obama administration’s strategy of using drone strikes in places such as Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, and over the potential that the strategy is alienating people in those countries and inadvertently creating support for jihadists.

NBC's Chuck Todd joins Andrea Mitchell Reports to discuss the latest NBC News/ WSJ poll and the changes to President Barack Obama's national security team.

“I am worried we have lost the moral high ground,” retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Senate panel in April. 

There has been a separate strain of criticism of drone strikes, with members of Congress expressing fear that drones could be used within the United States to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans. 

Since Americans have a right to privacy, police and other government officials should not be able to “see them in their hot tubs,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., during a filibuster he staged on March 6 to highlight his concerns about drones. “We should be fighting against this surveillance state.” 

Paul and others also worry that a president might order a drone to be used to kill American citizens inside the United States who are alleged terrorists. “They should not just drop a Hellfire missile on your café experience,” declared Paul during his filibuster.  

In the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense spending bill which is being debated and amended Wednesday by the House Armed Services Committee, there is a provision which would require the Secretary of Defense to promptly submit to the congressional defense committees notice in writing of any lethal strikes outside the United States after they occur.

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