George W. Bush vastly accelerated the drone strikes during the final year of his presidency. A list of the high-ranking victims of the drones was provided to Pakistan in 2009. Obama has broadened these attacks to include targets seeking to destabilize Pakistani civilian government and the attacks of 14 and 16 February 2009 were against training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud
. On 25 February 2009 Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, indicated the strikes will continue. On 4 March 2009 The Washington Times reported that the drones were targeting Baitullah Mehsud. Obama was reported in March 2009 as considering expanding these strikes to include Balochistan.
On 25 March 2010 US State Department legal advisor Harold Koh stated that the drone strikes were legal because of the right to self-defense. According to Koh, the US is involved in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their affiliates
and therefore may use force consistent with self-defense under international law.
Former CIA officials state that the agency uses a careful screening process in making decisions on which individuals to kill via drone strikes
. The process, carried out at the agency's counterterrorist center, involves up to 10 lawyers who write briefs justifying the targeting of specific individuals. According to the former officials, if the briefs' arguments are weak, the request to target the individual is denied.