February 25, 2013

Another View: Sen. King asks right question about court role in drone policy

If the government can receive judicial authority to plant a wiretap, why not for a deadly attack?

Los Angeles Times

The idea that the federal courts should play some role in deciding whether the government may kill U.S. citizens abroad allied with al-Qaida has suddenly gained traction in Washington.

During confirmation hearings for John Brennan, President Obama's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chair of the Intelligence Committee, said she would be considering legislation to establish a court to "review the conduct" of U.S. drone strikes.

Brennan himself, asked by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, whether a court should scrutinize a decision to target a U.S. citizen for death, said the idea was "certainly worthy of discussion."

Virtually all of the thousands of people killed by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen (some of them innocent bystanders) have been foreigners, so they wouldn't benefit from any such legislation. As far as we know, only one U.S. citizen has been deliberately killed by his own government: Anwar Awlaki, who was targeted in a drone attack in Yemen in 2011 that also killed al-Qaida propagandist Samir Khan, another U.S. citizen. According to the government, the New Mexico-born Awlaki had taken on an "operational" role with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and posed a threat to Americans.

Judicial review isn't a foregone conclusion. Many members of Congress are likely to oppose it, and Obama made no mention of the idea in his State of the Union address.

He did, however, promise to work with Congress to ensure that "our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances."

Whether the targeted killing of an American, even with judicial review, would meet that test is debatable, but it would be an improvement.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)