“While the speech is a gesture towards additional transparency, it is ultimately a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact. Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power.”
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to enforce its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about the targeted killing program, but the Justice Department and the CIA have responded to the request by saying they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any records.
“The government has told the courts that its targeted killing program is so secret that even its existence can’t be acknowledged, but that proposition can no longer be taken seriously. If the attorney general can discuss the targeted killing program at a law school, then the administration can surely release the legal memos it uses to justify its claimed killing authority, and also defend its legal justifications in court,” Shamsi said. “The targeted killing program raises profound legal and moral questions that should be subjected to public debate, and constitutional questions that should be considered by the judiciary.”