President Obama and the targeted killing of U.S. citizens

In general, I’m a fan of President Obama’s drone targeted-killing program. In fact, it may be the only important program initiated by Obama that I like.

I’m troubled, however, by the application of the program to U.S. citizens, i.e., the killing, outside of the battlefield, of Americans suspected of being terrorists. This concern mirrors my position regarding Bush administration terrorist detention policy. I believed that U.S. citizens should receive more process than Jose Padilla, for example, did.

For me, American citizenship is a big deal. That’s why I don’t favor granting a pathway to it for folks who enter this country illegally.

To be sure, if an American citizen becomes a terrorist, the government has the right to take extreme measures in response. But this leaves open the questions of how one decides whether the citizen is a terrorist and who makes the decision.

In the case of detention, there are plenty of opportunities to make a solid determination as to the true status of the supposed terrorist. That’s not likely to the be the case when we’re talking about a targeted killing. On the other hand, being killed is lot worse than being detained and interrogated.

I would like to see more information about the critieria used by the executive to determine who makes the “kill lists.” The “White Paper” released by the White House doesn’t provide this. And, regardless of the criteria used, I would like to see some checks and balances when it comes to the executive’s decisions to kill U.S. citizens.


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