Former CIA Legal Adviser Hits Obama Over Targeted Killing

| Thu Jan. 17, 2013 5:36 PM EST

Vicki Divoll, a former staffer for the Senate intelligence committee and legal adviser to the CIA, excoriated the Obama administration for its secrecy on targeted killing in an op-ed for the New York Times Wednesday [emphasis added]:

While Mr. Obama has criticized his predecessor, he has also worried about his successors. Last fall, when the election’s outcome was still in doubt, Mr. Obama talked about drone strikes in general and said Congress and the courts should in some manner “rein in” presidents by putting a "legal architecture in place." His comments seemed to reflect concern that future presidents should perhaps not wield alone such awesome and unchecked power over life and death—of anyone, not just Americans. Oddly, under current law, Congress and the courts are involved when presidents eavesdrop on Americans, detain them or harshly interrogate them—but not when they kill them.

It is not just the most recent president, this one and the next whom we need to worry about when it comes to improper exercise of power. It is every president. Mr. Obama should declassify and release, to Congress, the press and the public, documents that set forth the detailed constitutional and statutory analysis he relies on for targeting and killing American citizens.

Congress has occasionally criticized the administration for its secrecy on targeted killing, and it's made rhetorical demands that the White House release a legal analysis for why it believes it has the authority to kill American terrorism suspects abroad. But every time a group of legislators actually attempts to compel the administration to come clean with its legal analysis, they're kneecapped by their colleagues

Divoli's op-ed highlights one of the key paradoxes of the Obama administration: That many Democrats who were harshly critical of Bush's record on civil liberties have largely given Obama a pass when it comes to secrecy and executive power.

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