Drones: 10 Thoughts

By EDITORIAL  |  February 20, 2013

10. Many find it difficult to worry about the death by drone of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen living in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was, after all, the brains behind the failed underwear-bomber plot. In cold-blooded terms, what is scary about his White House–ordered assassination is not so much his death, but that the same reasoning used to order al-Awlaki's killing could be used to order the death of an American citizen at home without a trial. Brennan failed to give a clear answer on this question. Neither Brennan nor any other prospective CIA chief should be approved without doing so, as Senator Rand Paul has justly maintained. Legal scholars have quite rightly focused on the fact that of the many flaws in the government's reasoning, the most significant revolves around how "imminent threat" is defined — because it is the idea of imminence that gives the government the alleged authority to kill Americans at home or abroad. That's what the drone controversy is all about. And however you look at it, it's mighty scary. Nobody elects a president to be judge, jury, and executioner.

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