Debating the ethics of Obama's 'kill list'

June 1, 2012

Steve Bynum

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A string of Obama administration officials have made speeches justifying the administration’s use of targeted killings and drone strikes. Now journalists are getting more information about the process.

A recent New York Times article detailed President Obama’s counter terrorism program. Dozens of current and former advisors in the process help place terrorist suspects on the president’s “kill list.” The Times followed up its expose with an editorial op-ed titled "Too Much Power for a President":

Mr. Obama has demonstrated that he can be thoughtful and farsighted, but, like all occupants of the Oval Office, he is a politician, subject to the pressures of re-election. No one in that position should be able to unilaterally order the killing of American citizens or foreigners located far from a battlefield — depriving Americans of their due-process rights — without the consent of someone outside his political inner circle...A unilateral campaign of death is untenable. To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list.

Doug Cassel is a human rights attorney, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame and Worldview's human rights contributor. He'll dissect the legal and ethical aspects of the policy and whether we should feel better or worse about what's been revealed.