The Obama administration tried to push through the codification of rules on using armed drone aircraft to assassinate suspected terrorists to hand over if Mitt Romney won the US election, officials have revealed to the New York Times.

There is currently no legal framework for the use of drone attacks, and their use is a source of disagreement between the CIA and the US Departments of Defense, Justice and State. Some military advisers believe they should be used routinely to prevent terrorist attacks on the US, not just during conflicts in which the US is participating or when US interests are at risk.

Currently, CIA-led lethal drone operations are classified and carried out without the involvement of legislators.

In the run-up to the election, President Obama said that the US Congress should pass a bill to codify their use, but so far legislators have not been involved in drawing up the rulebook.

Since President Obama came to office, the CIA has ordered more than 300 drone strikes in which around 2,500 people have been killed. Human rights lobbyists believe that the strikes countermand international laws governing rules of engagement.

Whether there is an international effort to update current laws or whether the US chooses to drive its own codification measures first, some commentators have suggested that, free of the pressure to deliver a rulebook to a new administration, President Obama’s re-election may delay efforts to finally codify when and how armed drone strikes should be used.