At John Brennan's Senate confirmation hearing, the candidate for CIA director should be asked about the killing of Americans, civilian victims of drone strikes, extraordinary renditions, and torture. Do those actions make us safer? Are they consistent with US laws and values?
Last night President Obama reversed course and agreed to share previously withheld and classified Justice Department legal memos with the Senate committee that is tasked with questioning Mr. Obama’s CIA director-nominee John Brennan at his Senate confirmation hearing today. Those memos, as well as a Justice Department “white paper” leaked earlier this week, shed light on America’s semisecret and expanding drone program and the targeted killing of Americans suspected of Al Qaeda involvement.
And the release of these documents couldn’t be more critical or timely: In his current capacity as head of counterterrorism, Mr. Brennan is the architect of America’s drone and targeted killing program.
Words such as "torture," "extraordinary rendition," and "targeted killing" weren’t part of the 1940s and 50s policy vocabulary (at least not publicly) because those actions were then considered unacceptable and un-American. Yet by degrees they seem to have become both more acceptable and official policy. Too much of the debate on those subjects has focused on whether these actions work (i.e. eliminate perceived enemies), not whether they are right from a legal and moral perspective.
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