Holder’s Drone Memo: More Questions Than Answers

In advance of the President’s counterterrorism speech today at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. – where it’s anticipated he will lay out new restrictions for America’s drone programs - Attorney General Eric Holder released a 5-page memo disclosing that, since 2009, America has assassinated four of its own citizens in “counterterrorism operations” - more specifically, via drone strike.

Unfortunately, the memo’s admissions create more questions than answers.

1) The memo asserts that targeting and killing of citizens can only happen outside the U.S., tacitly readdressing the concerns Senator Rand Paul addressed in his 13 hour filibuster. But the right to due process is not contingent on geography; like it or not, these rights extend to citizens overseas. The fundamental assertion in the memo is, as Spencer Ackerman points out, that “Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaeda without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.”

After Obama’s Speech, Many Questions on Drones Still Unanswered

President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University yesterday was arguably one of the most important – and most consequential – of his Presidency. His nine pages of remarks on counterterrorism operations specifically focused on drone policy and the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and seemed to signal a shift (of some sort) to end the War on Terror against specific groups, but to continue a war against radicalized ideology.

I’ll discuss GTMO in a later post. On drone policy, President Obama addressed many of the questions I posed yesterday in my post at United Liberty; but addressing is not the same as answering. Many of those questions remain unanswered; worse yet, I’m afraid this is the best we will get on drone policy.

To be fair, Obama is in the unenviable position of making actual life-and-death decisions on national security. Mistakes will be made, and his challenge is to minimize mistakes. In his own words:

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