Is there ever a good reason to allow the killing of American citizens without due process?
Congressional intelligence committee members are going to find out today how the Justice Department has rationalized the killing of Americans by drone strike without due process. The Obama administration has authorized the release of a classified report that goes into detail about how DoJ arrived at their controversial conclusions on not only drone strikes, but rendition and certain "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a committee member who had pressed the administration to provide the opinion, left open the possibility he might still try to block Brennan's nomination. He said turning over the opinion was a good first step.
"I'm committed to making sure that we get all the facts," Wyden said on NBC's "Today" show. "Early this morning, I'm going to be going in to read the opinion. We'll go from there."
Wyden said "there are still substantial questions" about how the administration justifies and plans drone strikes. "The Founding Fathers thought the president should have significant power in the national security arena. But there have to be checks and balances," Wyden said. "You can't just skirt those checks and balances if you think it's inconvenient."
An unclassified memo leaked this week says it is legal for the government to kill U.S. citizens abroad if it believes they are senior al-Qaida leaders continually engaged in operations aimed at killing Americans, even if there is no evidence of a specific imminent attack.
That unclassified memo is based on classified advice from the Office of Legal Counsel that is being made available to the intelligence committees' members, the official said. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the decision and requested anonymity.
You wouldn't hesitate to kill a fellow American if you were facing him on a battlefield. Nor would you halt the battle and ask if he's received due process before shooting him.There were a few instances in World War II where German American citizens, fighting for the Nazis were killed by American troops. Nobody was concerned then about whether the enemy's constitutional rights had been respected.
But drone strikes are a different matter. So classified is the information upon which any kill order would be based that it would be extremely difficult to reveal it in any legal proceeding. As a practical matter, due process may be short circuited. But questions about whether there should be other checks on the power of the president to order the targeted killing of an American citizen should be asked and Congress should have input into the matter.
The report will be delivered just hours before hearings on the nomination of John Brennan to be CIA chief get underway. There will no doubt be some pointed questions asked of Mr. Brennan about his role in carrying out these controversial programs.