31 May The Very Mild Fallout from the NYT Expose on US Drone Strikes
Will there be a serious legal blowback to the NYT’s article on US Drone Strike war, detailing President Obama’s personal involvement in the “kill list”? The Iranian propaganda machine is already revving up its engines, but is there going to be a more serious legal and moral reaction akin to the Bush Administration’s war on terror interrogation and surveillance policies?
To be sure, there have been some severe criticisms from the international law academy. Most notably, Prof. Mary Ellen O’Connell of Notre Dame has been the leading academic international law critic of the policy outside of Afghanistan and Iraq. Glenn Greenawald has been consistently critical in his public writings, and the libertarian right is beginning to stir as well. But I somehow doubt professors will sign letters seeking to disinvite the President from visits to their universities, etc. in the same way they did against President Bush.
For the most part, the commentary on the NYT piece has been largely political and not legal. Conservatives like my friend John Yoo are concerned that the policy is being micromanaged from the White House, and hence it is unlikely to be very effective. Leading human rights groups like Human Rights First have been measured, raising questions about the policy’s execution but not taking a wholesale critical approach.
All of this discussion is old news to Opinio Juris readers, who have followed the legal issues related to drone strikes (mostly by Ken and Kevin) for years. But the article, and the relatively mild fallout, suggests to me that the legal framework for the US war on terrorism is becoming increasingly solid. I don’t see any evidence that the President will back off his current approach, and if he is not re-elected, just wait for the inevitable flood of “Even President Obama authorized this…” statements that will emanate from a Romney Administration.