Of Drone Wars And Star Chambers

From today’s NYT, on the now-public discussion of creating a court to oversee the assassination-by-drone program:

Even if they are glad Mr. Awlaki is dead, many Americans are uneasy that a president can use secret evidence to label a citizen a terrorist and order his execution without a trial or judge’s ruling. Hence the idea of court oversight for targeted killing, which on Thursday, unexpectedly, got serious discussion from senators and Mr. Brennan.

Given the FISA court model’s failure to prevent industrial-scale surveillance of Americans, you’d think some people in Washington would at least try to be more creative, but no:

But if the court’s jurisdiction extended to every foreign terrorism suspect, even some proponents believe, it might infringe on the president’s constitutional role as commander in chief. Senator King, for instance, said he thought the court would pass constitutional muster only if it were limited to cases involving American citizens.

With such limits, however, a drone court would not address many of the most pressing concerns, including decisions on which foreign militants should be targeted; how to avoid civilian deaths; and how to provide more public information about strike rules and procedures.

All of which only underscores yet again the very real limits of our “kill first, ask questions later” counterterrorism policies…and the fact that assassination was banned as an option by President Reagan has conveniently been table as a topic of discussion.

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