The poker-faced Times reports:
Debating a Court to Vet Drone Strikes
Since 1978, a secret court in Washington has approved national security eavesdropping on American soil — operations that for decades had been conducted based on presidential authority alone.
Now, in response to broad dissatisfaction with the hidden bureaucracy directing lethal drone strikes, there is an interest in applying the model of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court — created by Congress so that surveillance had to be justified to a federal judge — to the targeted killing of suspected terrorists.
… Many Americans are uneasy that a president can use secret evidence to label a citizen a terrorist and order his execution without a trial or judge’s ruling. Hence the idea of court oversight for targeted killing.
“Uneasy” is good, isn’t it? We need to raise our comfort level with this stuff. And having some drone in a robe mumble a benediction in bad Latin — nihilo obstanti, dronendi fiant — over this week’s kill list from Obie’s bloody desk would presumably be just the thing to do it. Oh, well, a judge signed off on it? What a relief. That’s all right, then.
And that’s only for ‘citizens’, of course. For the lesser breeds without the Law, it’s always open season. Obie can kill as many of them as he wants. The more the better, in fact. Too many of those non-citizens out there as it is.
Being sarcastic about this stuff feels so feeble it hardly seems worth doing. It reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s wonderful remark that he stopped writing political satire when Henry Kissinger got the Nobel peace prize.
Oh and about that Secret Snooper court, the shining example of judicial oversight:
Eleven judges from around the country sit on the court, but one is on duty at a time, hearing cases in a special high-security courtroom added to Washington’s federal courthouse in 2009. In 2011, according to the most recent statistics, the court approved 1,745 orders for electronic surveillance or physical searches, rejecting none outright but altering 30.
Oversight is really the right word, isn’t it, though perhaps not in the intended sense.
One wonders what sort of ‘alterations’ the FISA court makes, and what analogous ones the drone court might require. Blow the guy up on Tuesday, not Monday? Use a different explosive? Make sure his kids are in school when you pull the trigger? Wouldn’t want to traumatize the little tykes. As the Mafia boss genially observes in The Godfather, “We are not Communists, after all.”
Liberals really eat this stuff up, don’t they? It’s all about process. Snuffing towelheads, for any reason or none at all, is fine as long as you fill in all the right forms.