January 1, 2013  

Targeted-killing secrets

To the White House for refusing to explain the legal underpinnings to its targeted killing program.

In early January, a federal judge became the latest expert to pronounce herself flummoxed by the apparent contradictions between the administration’s actions and U.S. and international law. The White House refused to release the legal opinion upon which it bases its decisions to kill suspected terrorists, among them American citizens, in countries where the U.S. is not formally at war. There may be valid reasons for keeping legal opinions secret, but as the first nation to carry out such a program on so great a scale, the U.S. is establishing international precedent. That behooves the White House to explain — to American citizens, the global community and its allies — the legal argument and reasoning behind this campaign.

With confirmation hearings ahead for John Brennan, Obama’s nomination for next CIA director and an advocate for targeted killings, the Senate has a golden opportunity to press for answers.