VIDEO: Presidential Power and the Targeted Killing Debate

The Obama administration’s strained defense of its targeted killing program is continuing to make people think long and hard about the government’s asserted authority to mark an American for death without any judicial oversight whatsoever.

Today the first hour of NPR’s On Point was devoted to this issue, along with the general expansion of authority claimed by the executive branch since 9/11. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero debated Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith, who worked in George W. Bush’s Justice Department. You can listen here.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s New York Times editorial page took apart the key points made by Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech defending the targeted killing program, with a special emphasis on the lack of a role for the courts:

“Mr. Holder argued in his speech that judicial process and due process guaranteed by the Constitution ‘are not one and the same.’ This is a straw man. The judiciary has the power to say what the Constitution means and make sure the elected branches apply it properly. The executive acting in secret as the police, prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner is the antithesis of due process.”

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer made some of the same points in a panel discussion on Al Jazeera English:

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The Times editorial also noted that the secrecy surrounding the targeted killing program limits meaningful accountability and proper public debate. That’s why the ACLU is currently litigating Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for records about the program.

Despite numerous mentions of these activities by public officials, the CIA maintains that it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the program. On Thursday, we’re filing a brief in the DC appeals court to challenge that wrongheaded position, which mocks the idea of a government accountable to the people.

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