I F advance reports prove correct President Obama will have outlined a new policy on the use of drones by the time these words are read. He has been under considerable pressure for some time to reveal the scope of drone activities and generally to put them them in a similar category to other offensive weapons.

He is expected to achieve this by moving responsibiliy for drones from the CIA to the Pentagon, the Department of Defense; this will be more than a symbolic shift -- the Pentagon comes under Congressional survey for most of its operational activities, unlike the CIA.

President Obama has been unduly secretive about the US drone programme. The advantages for the US of being able at no risk to its own forces to take-out “high value” terrorists and other targets with remotely controlled unamanned aircraft are obvious; but the down side has been doubts about the precise degree of accuracy achieved and the risk of “collateral” casualties.

Figures released by the Bureau of Investigate Journalism show that since 2002 between 2'541 and 3'533 deaths have resulted from drone attacks in Pakistan and between 240 and 347 in Yemen. There have also been difficulties between Islamabad and Washington over how many drone attacks are notified to the Pakistan government.

It is past time that drone operations are taken out of the legal shadow they have enjoyed until now.