Judge on Drone Secrecy: "Emperor Has No Clothes"

| Fri Sep. 21, 2012 11:30 AM EDT

The Obama administration has argued that the CIA technically has not acknowledged the existence of its targeted killing program—despite the administration having bragged about it publicly on many occasions. The federal judges hearing oral arguments in an ACLU lawsuit seeking information on the program didn't seem to buy that explanation, according to the Washington Post:

But Judge Merrick Garland cited a speech this year by President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, in which Brennan said the government targets terrorists with drones, and uses the "full range" of the government's intelligence capabilities.

"Isn't that an official acknowledgment that the CIA is involved with the drone program?" asked Garland, an appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general, said Brennan's statement wasn't sufficient to tie the drone program to the CIA because the intelligence community has 17 agencies.

Garland said that the government was asking the court to say "the emperor has clothes, even when the emperor’s boss" says the emperor doesn’t have clothes.

As we learned with the Affordable Care Act, however, oral arguments aren't always indicative of how judges will rule. But the ACLU, which is seeking information on who can be targeted and when, does have logic on their side: It makes no sense for the administration to seek political credit for the targeted killing program while officially not acknowledging its existence.