As Ed Krayewski noted yesterday, not everybody was impressed by President Obama's national security speech, in which he vowed to make himself be extra specially careful when raining death from the sky on suspected terrorists (and collaterally damaged civilians), including American citizens, with drones. Sen. Rand Paul may have been the pithiest, when he remarked, "I still have concerns over whether flash cards and PowerPoint presentations represent due process." At greater length, the American Civil Liberties Union also expresses some doubts that "Presidential Policy Guidance," whatever in hell that is, is the same as due process.
To the extent the speech signals an end to signature strikes, recognizes the need for congressional oversight, and restricts the use of drones to threats against the American people, the developments on targeted killings are promising. Yet the president still claims broad authority to carry out targeted killings far from any battlefield, and there is still insufficient transparency. We continue to disagree fundamentally with the idea that due process requirements can be satisfied without any form of judicial oversight by regular federal courts.
President Obama tells us, "I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen—with a drone, or with a shotgun—without due process," but his idea of "due process" still seems to involve little more than a concerned expression. After all, in the same speech he fretted that court oversight of drone use "raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority" in a way that just unilaterally choosing asassination targets somehow doesn't, and that even "an independent oversight board in the executive branch … may introduce a layer of bureaucracy."
Oh, and the ACLU isn't too impressed by Obama's vow to, eventually, transfer Guantanamo detainees elesewhere, either. While applauding the promise, Romero notes, "While the president expressed appropriate concern about indefinite detention, he offered no clear plan for ending this unconstitutional policy for those who have not been tried or cleared for release."