Killings -- Wall Street, Main Street, everywhere -- are becoming the headline concerns of most Americans. None should be of more concern than the ones Obama's nominee for head man at the CIA, John Brennan, has defended.
What distinguishes this administration, at least in this respect, from the preceding administration?
What is troubling to many Americans—what Brennan must be asked about in any confirmation hearings—is where this battlefield, this war, and this killing authority begin and end. Brennan has helped construct and justify the Administration’s claim that it can kill people, including American citizens, abroad on its own authority, even when those people are not in countries with which we are at war. His speech in April was a sort of catechism, culminating in “targeted strikes are wise.” We have done it in Pakistan and Yemen; could we do it in London or Paris? How about in New Jersey, the subject of a number of jokes at Brennan’s introduction? (Brennan is a native; Obama referred to “that unique combination of smarts and strength that he claims comes from growing up in New Jersey. “)
To judge only from Obama’s introduction, one would think that Brennan had been the bulwark against extrajudicial actions. “There’s another reason I value John so much,” Obama said. “And that is his integrity and his commitment to the values that define us as Americans. He has worked to embed our efforts in a strong legal framework. He understands we are a nation of laws. In moments of debate and decision, he asks the tough question and he insists on high and rigorous standards.” What Obama meant by this, it seems, from reporting in the Times and Washington Post, is that Brennan is deeply engrossed in designing an internal process for deciding who to kill. He wants to make sure that people in the White House think hard about it—which may feel like due process, but isn’t. He also wants to make it so that anyone can do it—any President, any counterterrorism adviser—not just ones who are as thoughtful and clever as he and Obama. In an interview with the Post, Brennan described this “disposition matrix” as a “playbook.” But codifying and keeping in tune with our laws and values are not the same thing, as much as one is mistaken for the other. One can go down a long checklist and still be breaking the law, just as one can order up a memo from the office of legal counsel and still be a torturer. ...Amy Davidson, New Yorker