As a nation we conduct military operations using drones as a part of the war on terror, a practice which has aroused criticism because of the lack of any meaningful oversight by the other branches of the federal government.
While Vicki Divoll was being interviewed by Bill Moyers last night, she mentioned the fact that in the case of targeted drone use to kill Anwar al-Aulaqi, a US citizen by birth and Al-Qaeda member, there would have been more judicial process involved in the decision to tap the man’s cell phone than in the decision to end his life. This fact is both irrational, and morally shocking, but it also immediately suggests a solution.
Why do we not have a statute creating a court analogous to the existing United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court which can provide analogous judicial review in a manner that does not compromise national security by undue public disclosures in the case of drone use in anti-terror operations? If this is politically unpalatable because of the sole function of the court would be itself unpalatable, the simplest solution is to confer this function on the FISC itself. Not only would such an approach be more rational, and more moral than our current one, but it would provide a response to common criticisms of the practice. If the exigencies of the war on terror do not permit us to stop this practice altogether, let us at least subject it to the rule of law, and meaningful but secure judicial review.
If Democrats in Congress as well as the White House cannot come together on this, as a part of the President’s attempt to create a legacy of taming the excesses of the previous administration while respecting the needs of national security, what should we infer?